There was a small thickening of something in my throat as held down ‘backspace’ and deleted the sentences I just wrote.
And it wasn’t phlegm, even though I do feel myself fighting back the early signs of snot and sickness from Getting Back To College germs. It was like a ballooning of dry air made up of distance and memory, expanding right there in my throat to suffocate me. I had to backspace, to reverse it.
I regret deleting it now because I want to show you what it had been. It went something like this:
“So here, I am, sitting in a café in downtown Santa Cruz. It’s called “Lulu’s” and there’s no way to doubt this or second guess myself—it’s written on all the cups. Some Bon Hiver song is cooing throughout the soft bustle of student’s studying on a Saturday and the crew of young barista girls moving behind the counter sporadically and loudly steaming milk, grinding coffee, and calling out orders. Two be-spectacled Mexican girls sit across the table discussing child development (but they keep returning to talking about Tyler’s text messages, who really should stop sending one-word responses. He’s 26, he needs to really grow up and act his age). The heavily-pierced African-American woman who had a grad-school-like focus on her huge stack of highlighted papers had intimated me since I sat down, but she was the one who piped in with a kind “You need a code” when I hollered to the universe “Erm, um…hey, is there wifi?” A woman with an Russian(?) accent just said “Wow, that smells so good it’s distracting!” about the chicken burrito I was eating, and I wasn’t really sure what to do except smile and laugh. I thought about offering her a bite but thought that might be weird. I let out a lame “I think they sell more.” For the thousandth time since getting here, I’m overwhelmed. I understand the conversations I’m eavesdropping on. I’m not the foreigner. I’m eating a burrito.
Toto, we’re not in France anymore.
So why did I rashly delete all that? I think it’s because it very much stung. My throat and chest swelled uncomfortably as I sat with the period at the end of “not in France anymore.” I instinctly moved fast to erase that feeling. I smashed backspace mercilessly and unnecessarily, as one kills an ant. I held it down for too long, just to be sure it was over, dead. Then I restarted by talking about my throat, just as you read.
If only these sad hipster songs would stop raining down from the ceiling. Have you noticed how many sing about “home?” You think a lot of people sing about lovers and stuff, but “home” is like the favorite topic of bearded little indie bands based out of Portland, I fucking swear. And more than anything I’m confused. I don’t feel not at home. I just desire to see another one for just another day.
But enough of that. I came to this café to do exactly what I had done in France with cafés—sit, refocus, and write. It’s been a while. And there’s been so much that has happened since I got home, there’s only one way to deal with it even a few aspects of it all. Out of habit, I think I’ll rehash it, if even just for myself.
I think I’ll
So here, we go—These Are The Things That Have Happened To Me Since I Got Back From Europe:
- Christmas came. Larissa got me a yoga mat and Annika got me a hands-free bookstand. I cried about both.
- Richard drives to my grandma’s house on Christmas Day just to see me. I sorta cry then, too.
- I wish I could spend more time with my grandparents. We spend a lot of time talking about it all.
- Annika and I get stoked about leaving for Snowglobe
- Annika and I plan literally nothing about going to Snowglobe except for the idea to leave at 5am to make the 10 hour roadtrip to Tahoe
- This plan gets foiled because Annika goes out partying and gets home at 7am and passes out on the couch
- Also this plan gets foiled because I forgot that Annika’s dropping me off in Santa Cruz after, so I have to pack everything I want for my final 2 quarters that morning
- We leave at 8 am for Tahoe.
- I end up driving, which is funny because I haven’t been driving for over a year and I’m really very bad at it.
- Annika sleeps through the whole thing except to wake up and demand my shirt
- I give her my shirt. She wears it for the next 4 days. (In fact, the bitch is probably still wearing it. Can you send that up please?)
- We make it to SF to stay the night with Genevieve and her family.
- Genevieve gives us her bed for the night, then sends us off the following morning with a trashbag filled with real warm clothes, 2 mugs of coffee, and hard-boiled eggs. The kindness and hospitality astounds me. It’s one of those times I’m speechless.
- We stuff the hard-boiled eggs in our coat pockets and continue the last 3 hours on our way to Tahoe.
- We arrive and meet Irene, who offered us a corner in her hotel room for the night.
- Annika and I go to Snowglobe and do crazy things.
- Annika and I go into town after Snowglobe and do crazy things.
- Annika and I fall asleep on the floor of hotel room and I make the mistake of changing into pajamas.
- I freeze to death, and Annika wakes up ready to head to Snowglobe Day 2 just as she is.
- I’m jealous of this.
- The clothes Genevieve lent us save our lives.
- Annika and I go hang out in the Safeway parking lot because we don’t know what to do without a home.
- Annika and I drink tea in Safeway because we don’t know what to do without a home.
- Katrina eats last Cliffbar, feels bad about it.
- Annika and I go to Snowglobe Day 2 and do crazy things.
- Annika and I finish Snowglobe Day 2 and it’s snowing.
- Annika and I realize we have to sleep in the car.
- We find this really funny.
- Annika and I realize we’ll probably die if we do this.
- Annika and I don’t have a single phone charger.
- We find this really funny.
- Annika puts tire chains on our car at midnight in the dark, because we obviously can’t stay.
- Annika and I drive down the mountain at midnight in the snow and go 5 mph.
- We don’t find this funny. It’s very quite in the car.
- Annika pulls over once we’re passed the ice and tries to take off tire chains (you’ll ruin your tires if you drive with them on like that).
- Annika comes back in and can’t move her fingers from the cold and wet. We can’t get tire chains off.
- Annika begs me to try taking off tire chains.
- I start to cry and can’t manage it. I can’t see and my hands start to freeze, too.
- Annika asks me to get back in car.
- Annika lays in wet dirt under car to get tire chains off.
- I stand outside in socks so that the darkness isn’t so scary.
- Annika asks me to stop whimpering, says it’s distracting.
- Annika gets tire chains off and we drive for a couple hours until we get to a hotel.
- We lay our seats down and fall asleep in the car outside the hotel.
- We wake up to laugh about our Snapchat stories.
- We wake up and go to McDonald’s to use the bathroom. We buy coffee.
- We realize we haven’t slept for more than a couple hours since before we left home.
- We get delusional and find everything funny.
- We find the dried dirt on our clothes very funny.
- We think how sore we are is very funny.
- We think the remnants of our face jewels are funny.
- We arrive in Santa Cruz.
- I realize I have nowhere to go in Santa Cruz because I don’t move into my house for another 2 days.
- We find this really funny.
- We’re still wearing out Day 1 Snowglobe outfits, covered in dirt.
- Everything is funny.
- I think to call Alyssa, who’s hopefully awake and willing to take me in.
- Alyssa’s in town, and Annika drops me off.
- Alyssa opens the door, provides me coffee, gives me a towel for a shower, and lends me her bed to nap.
- For the second time this weekend, I’m speechless at the hospitality of my friends.
- I drink more coffee, I shower, I nap.
- I miss Annika.
- I call Larissa and talk to her for several hours.
- I pass the next couple of days with Alyssa.
- I move into my new home.
- I fall in love with my sweet housemates.
- I start school.
- I start my job again. I have to relearn how to do my job again.
- I wait for this one chick to get back to me about a bed.
- I find the fact that I still don’t have a bed very funny.
- I go to a coffee shop to write about it all.
- I get emotional when I examine how different this café is from the ones in France.
- I write about that, and arrive at some bullet points.
…and so we arrive, I believe, fairly updated on my life in America. I think it’s safe to say the overall experience has been…
a very strange joke to me at this point.
I find everything—the good and the bad– very funny. Except for the fact that I find myself missing my sisters, missing France, missing a bed, sorta sad. It’s what itches my throat, what burns my eyes.
But all that could be the lack of sleep contributing.
I’ll let you know when I get a bed. In the meantime, I’ll sit here chuckling at how I probably locked someone in the gym last night when I shut down for my first closing shift. And then feeling bad about chucking about it, and resisting the temptation to bike up to campus and asking Richard to show me how to use keys for the millionth time.
I see an exciting next couple of weeks ahead. Something very comedic and tragic is brewing, I feel it. Here, in this new home–this new story– that I’m building.
College, Round 2.