One Day at a Time
It was an absolutely perfect June day as the sun came up over the city, and Coco Barrington watched it from her Bolinas deck. She sat looking at pink and orange streak across the sky as she drank a cup of steaming Chinese tea, stretched out on an ancient, faded broken deck chair she had bought at a yard sale. A weatherworn wooden statue of Quan Yin observed the scene peacefully. Quan Yin was the goddess of compassion, and the statue had been a treasured gift. Under the benevolent gaze of Quan Yin, the pretty auburn-haired young woman sat in the golden light of the sunrise, as the early summer sun shot copper lights through her long wavy hair, which hung nearly to her waist. She was wearing an old flannel nightgown with barely discernible hearts on it, and her feet were bare. The house she lived in sat on a plateau in Bolinas, overlooking the ocean and narrow beach below. This was exactly where Coco wanted to be. She had lived here for four years. This tiny forgotten farm and beach community, less than an hour north of San Francisco, suited her perfectly at twenty-eight.
Calling her home a house was generous. It was barely more than a cottage, and her mother and sister referred to it as a hovel or, on better days, a shack. It was incomprehensible to either of them why Coco would want to live there—or how she would even tolerate it. It was their worst nightmare come true, even for her. Her mother had tried wheedling, insulting, criticizing, and even bribing her to come back to what they referred to as “civilization” in L.A. Nothing about her mother's life, or the way she had grown up, seemed “civilized” to Coco. In her opinion, everything about it was a fraud. The people, the way they lived, the goals they aspired to, the houses they lived in, and the face-lifts on every woman she knew in L.A. It all seemed artificial to her. Her life in Bolinas was simple and real. It was uncomplicated and sincere, just like Coco herself. She hated anything fake. Not that her mother was “fake.” She was polished and had an image she was careful to maintain. Her mother had been a best-selling romance novelist for the past thirty years. What she wrote wasn't fraudulent, it simply wasn't deep, but there was a vast following for her work. She wrote under the name Florence Flowers, a nom de plume from her own mother's maiden name, and she had enjoyed immense success. She was sixty-two years old and had lived a storybook life, married to Coco's father, Bernard “Buzz” Barrington, the most important literary and dramatic agent in L.A. until his death four years before. He had been sixteen years older than her mother and was still going strong when he died of a sudden stroke. He had been one of the most powerful men in the business, and had babied and protected his wife through all thirty-six years of their marriage. He had encouraged and shepherded her career. Coco always wondered if her mother would have made it as a writer in the early days without her father's help. Her mother never asked herself the same question and didn't for an instant doubt the merit of her work, or her myriad opinions about everything in life. She made no bones about the fact that Coco was a disappointment to her, and didn't hesitate to call her a dropout, a hippie, and a flake.
Coco's equally successful sister Jane's assessment of her was loftier, though not kinder: Jane referred to Coco as a “chronic un-derachiever.” She pointed out to her younger sister that she had had every possible opportunity growing up, every chance to make a success of her life, and thus far had thrown it all away. She reminded her regularly that it wasn't too late to turn the boat around, but as long as she continued to live in a shack in Bolinas like a beach bum, her life would be a mess.
Her life didn't feel like a mess to Coco. She supported herself, was respectable, she didn't do drugs and never had, other than the occasional joint with friends in college, and even that had been rare, which was remarkable at that age. She wasn't a burden on her family, had never been evicted, promiscuous, pregnant, or in jail. She didn't criticize her sister's lifestyle, and had no desire to; nor