The smell–vaguely hospital. Like greasy vats of stew.
In the dining room, women with bright lipstick and powdered, downy faces. Necklaces that spell out, in rhinestones, Dolores. Or, sometimes, Betty. Earrings as large as poker chips.
Men with big bellies and large-framed plastic glasses. Booming voices asking how tall I am, joking that they were tall once, too.
Hollow eyes that see what is waiting a year or two out. Eyes that are accepting or afraid or some combination of the two.
Pot roast swimming in thick gravy. Hard rolls. Green Jello studded with pears.
The hum of a mini fridge in our room. Fake, dusty eucalyptus decorating the wall. Pressboard furniture. Thin strings to pull in case of emergency.
But then, red tiled roofs, bright blue swimming pools, rusty green hills rolling and peaking in the near distance. The coast not far with its huge tumbling surf, gray battleship coming into harbor. Poppies along the roadside just starting to bloom.
No having to evacuate this time. No burning embers framing a smokey highway like in 2007. No wall of flames over the hillside, coming at us. Drizzle, instead.
Escalades everywhere. The constant rush of traffic.
It's okay for a while.
But I could never live here.