In Marilyn’s Shadow

In Marilyn’s Shadow

In Marilyn’s Shadow 768 960 Heidi Seaborn

~Brentwood in the Mid-1990s, after Maggie Nelson

Above me helicopters buzzed the constant cerulean sky, as OJ and his friend drove to Brentwood in the white Bronco, their shadows flickering. In May 1994, we had moved into a little house on Shetland Lane gaudy with bougainvillea and hibiscus. Nicole had lived at the far end of Shetland before moving to the townhouse where she would die beside a white oleander.

People arrived from New Zealand and Arizona to hold prayer vigils under the fiery bottle brush tree in front of Nicole’s old house, the one on Shetland Lane. At the other end—a cul-de-sac where our children rode tricycles.

Beyond the cul-de-sac’s dead-end—a wooded hill and beyond that, Marilyn Monroe’s home. The one she died in, on Fifth Helena. Sometimes, I would walk with my children, pushing the baby’s stroller, the long way, to 12304 Fifth Helena. The olive tree that must have hovered above Marilyn’s head now fully grown, reaching over the white brick wall, reminding me of Federico García Lorca’s death, how he was shot against a wall in the shade of an olive tree. I’d always say a little prayer there, not knowing why.

For a long time, blue-uniformed police guarded OJ’s house. Walking the children to the church preschool, we’d pass the murder scene, hidden by the white oleander, cordoned by yellow tape.

When our neighbor testified at the OJ trial, the tabloid press ridiculed her for saying,
“I know when they had the argument because OJ parked his car in front of our house under the jacaranda. It was in bloom. And I remember as he drove off angrily, the blue violet petals scattering.”

I witnessed the jacaranda bloom every April, and before climate change briefly again in the fall. The children and I would drive this one street in Beverly Hills that was lined with jacaranda. We’d roll the windows down, catch their flutter in our fingers, and sing “What if God was One of Us” loudly, off tune.

In 1996, when I took a talent agency job making a bit more money, we moved North of Sunset, up the hill onto Tigertail. We had an arbor of electric blue morning glory and hydrangea that burst baby blue around our teeming pool. It was always summer. I ripped up the carpet, installed cobalt floors. Beyond the arbor, over the back fence, an old woman who taught acting to Marilyn Monroe was slowly dying in her white shuttered house. I didn’t think to pray for her.

On a full moon, I’d cast coins into the pool. Gleaming like stars on the black surface as the children dove—sleek, golden bodies and hair bleached the color of the blooming magnolia at the pool’s edge. The night air stirred with lemon and chlorine as they gathered their treasure, dripping off to bed.

Years later, after a reversal of fortune, we found ourselves in the garden of a sapphire blue house in Marrakesh and I longed for the oasis of our old home in Marilyn’s shadow with its cobalt floors when the children were little and lived like fish and police patrolled from the sky.

If you fly over L.A. in an airplane, it looks like this: fragments of turquoise sea glass like fingerprints upon a landscape of sand, carved by streets shiny with cars like beetles or mirrors shisha-stitched into a dress. Its hem, a flounce of white sand and waves before everything falls away into the blue, blue ocean. Distance is an aphrodisiac.

Header photograph © Liz Baronofsky.

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