Holly’s eyes opened at ten. Too late to go the 10:00am yoga class, she lingered for an hour and half on various interruptions of social media, and at half past eleven, she decided to take a slow-paced, leisurely stroll downtown to a familiar studio: wooden floors, and large glass windows. Her muscles woke up slowly from too many days without use, and connecting to her breath felt distracting, difficult. Stored in the hips are deep emotions, so ending the class in half-pigeon only made her think of him. Thoughts of him were slowly becoming unwanted, tinged with the reality of expiration and no sure renewal.
Smiles from a release of endorphins, and happy goodbyes from the instructor, followed by an apple and caffeine: it was already 1 in the afternoon. Holly mistakenly told the cashier “good morning” with a smile, which startled her. “God, I hope it’s not morning anymore, I started my shift in the morning, and I’m off in a couple hours. There is laughter at the mistake, joy in learning.
At nearly two Holly arrived back to her home with the plan to take a shower and get ready for the next day and half trip she had planned. Walking from her bus stop, she overhead talk of politics, loud opinions, and she was reminded of where she lived: so far to the left, any right inclinations were met with incredulous questions and accusations. Holly was afraid that Nazis were in the streets of Charlottesville just the other week. She was afraid that the “alt-left” was reacting with such violence. She was afraid that someone was killed amidst the clash and ruckus and violence. She was afraid of where America stood. She was afraid America was repeating the past they fought so hard against just eighty years earlier.
She let a shower wash clean her sweat and fear, noting in the back of her mind that bathing is such a temporary solution to a perpetual dirtying. Jo and Holly both planned to go to Sunnyvale, Jo to drop things off at her mother’s home, Holly to see her cousins, including their daughter, for them to tell them of her travels, of the two weeks of magic. Avery and Andrew were her cousin’s names. Their daughter, Lucy.
At 4:00pm Holly meet Jo, and Jo’s last night was still fresh on her tired mind. She and James hooked up. No sex, she said, but “other things”, she told Holly in detail the events of her night leading up to such an ending, and her story lasted all the way from Holly’s home to the library on nearly the other side of campus, Holly was going to pick up a new book she reserved online. Holly was excited for Jo, but couldn’t decide if Jo was excited too, so Holly asked Jo questions accordingly to gage her reaction to the events. There is talk of potential relationship, because James likes her, but she doesn’t seem too sure. Holly doesn’t push her.
On the bus ride to BART, Holly told Jo of her plan to trade in/up her bike to get something better. Drop down handlebars, light frame, tall enough for her large size. Jo let Holly’s excitement, excite her too. Holly also told Jo she found a $25 Amazon gift card, so she bought a hammock. Just like that. Adventure from the summer still lingered in Holly’s blood, and she didn’t want to let any friction of responsibility slow her down just yet.[i]
Of course, and especially since Holly and Jo hadn’t discussed the intense way the Spring semester ended last year yet, that is how they spent their BART ride. Jo showed Holly the leaps and strides made in the wrong direction – towards severing her friendship with Olive, the person at the epicenter of this last May’s crisis. There is miscommunication, misunderstanding, misspeaking. Jo was insensitive, intolerant, and a bit rude. And after hearing of how the feud went down, Holly did not think that Jo had handled what had happened to her like an adult. She hid behind childish fear, and hid behind the wishes of her own mother as reason for severing the friendship with Olive, and for abandoning her friend. The word abandon did not sit well with Jo, Holly remembered, so she didn’t use that word exactly.
Jo was the one abandoned by her father before she was old enough to understand why. Perhaps for this reason, running and hiding away was so easy for her, even if she’ll never admit that herself. But, Indeed, she was accused of abandoning her friend in her ultimate time of need, after her friend just had to confess all the horror and terror of a relationship she thought was well in the past. Jo’s reaction to the series of events that happened were almost inappropriately selfish. Holly’s opinion of the way Jo handled everything – from the excessive amount of stuff she brought to Holly’s house when she lived there for two weeks, to going behind Olive’s back and finding a new home to live without her – was not a good one. This could have been an opportunity for solidifying a friendship – being there for a friend in her time of need – but instead, she ushered in a gap, a rift, that will probably never be mended. In Holly’s own head, she was afraid of what would happen in the future when she need Jo to be there for her, even if it’s not ‘convenient’ for her? Yes, Holly’s opinion of Jo was not as high as it was before the whole trauma happened.
Holly let Jo give her justifications on the BART ride over, but nothing she showed her or told her surprised Holly. She knew her well. But Holly let her talk –it’s what she needed, and when Holly’s opinion was asked for on the matter, she was honest, but not harsh. “I think you were insensitive” are the words Holly used. Not a false sentiment, although it could be argued that by not revealing more of how she really felt, Holly was being dishonest. But her opinion didn’t change what happened, or the way Jo acted, or the fact that now, indeed, a friendship is severed, one that was nestled amongst a tight-knit whole group. Well, now there is a gap in this group, and Holly feared the potential ramifications of such a gap.
Jo told her that she appreciated her honesty, and there are no hard feelings. She smiled and hugged Holly goodbye as she entered her Lyft to go to her cousin’s house, and the ride with this stranger was the palette cleanser she need from such heavy topics. So Holly told the driver she had just come back from Hungary, and he told her he has never been to Europe. He reminded Holly of her Uncle, and when he tells me he is from Southern California, she almost considered asking him if he knows Eric, but decided against it.
Andrew opened the door and there are smiles as a greeting. Hugs. Avery and Lucy are in the nursery with the day-care teacher, Geranny[ii]. Lucy was now crawling, and could walk if she braced herself, hair dark and curly and coming in full. Everything she could touch or hold ended up in her mouth, and although she was more comfortable with the familiar faces, she did eventually warm up to Holly. Still, her presence was odd. Avery did not fully take on the motherly role that Hall women fall into, and the lack of a romantic bond made Lucy seem less baby, and more, just, well, Human. Holly continued to envision what sort of person Lucy would grow up to be.
However, Andrew loved being a father. It was just clear in the way he treated Lucy: so familiar, with such affection. They told me that she was already so much more like him than like Avery: she liked randomness, to be surprised, to be playful. Avery was a bit sad she didn’t have a Netflix buddy, and was surprised at the way she had literally grown Lucy, been closer to her than anyone will be in her life, and still, she came out more like Andrew.
But their family dynamic was solid, and it was nice to see everyone after months apart. They played a game on their television – Andrew was always discovering new games of all sorts, being an active adult gamer himself. They filled in the blanks to prompts like complete the subtitles or come up with a news headline, given a certain picture. Another friend of theirs, Hugh, showed up, and then so did the pizzas that were ordered. Heather brought in some sweet, delicious wine, and the night was fun. Soon, Geranny had to go, and the game grew repetitive and dull, so they fell into their own conversations. Holly told Avery of the summer of magic, feeling the story itself grow repetitive and dull. Avery cautioned her against going to visit him.
“What you had was fun, and short, and that’s totally okay. It doesn’t have to be anything more than that. Your goodbyes can be the last ones. Plus, you don’t know who he is, or how he’ll act when he is in his comfort zone.” Avery tells Holly that her fear comes from her own personal experiences of a once-summer-romance which she pushed too hard. The advice sits down deep within Holly: Avery is wise, and so often, correct in her fears. She has never steered Holly wrong, so she listen to her prediction. But such advice saddened her, and soon, she excused myself to go use the restroom to recalibrate away and hopefully come back to a change in topic, creeping quietly down the hallway, as to mind the now-sleeping Lucia.
The night pushed on, drew to a close, and Holly slept on the couch, only to wake up in the morning to a squealing, happy, baby girl. The topics of conversation include Holly’s cousins’ imminent trip to Australia[iii], and the other half of her trip abroad that Avery was interested about, namely, the quarreling with her mother in Madrid. Andrew gave me some insight on possibly continuing in academia[iv]. Coffee and bagels, then browsing for books, then shoe shopping, and at 11:15am, they dropped Holly off at the Caltrain station, which didn’t show up for another forty minutes. She took out the book which she checked out from the library, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and immersed herself into his romantic account of a fresh, new America on the brink of a war not so dissimilar to the civil unrest it feels like we are experiencing in America at this point in time.
A mother and her new, young, curious son sit beside Holly, simply waiting for the train to come. Not to board the train, but just to experience the wonder of the bell ringing, the grand wheeled cornerstone of modernity approach, the conductor call out the stop. Their pure intentions were admirable, and she couldn’t help but be happily distracted at their joy. And when the train did finally arrive, the young boy was so struck by awe, Holly found myself looking and smiling at his mother, who smiled back at her.
She continued reading her book as she sat across from a young couple on the train. They were a different breed of people than her, reminded her of the type of jock or cheerleader her brother might be friends with. But nonetheless, their conversation, if not totally interesting, was loud enough that it, too, did distract Holly a bit from Whitman’s poems. They gossiped about the pictures of people they see on their social media. “Holly just doesn’t talk to me anymore,” the guy says. I smile, and they see that, so I pretend that my book is what amused me, not the fact that his story used my name. “I tried, like, confronting her about it. I sent her a message saying hey! we don’t really talk anymore, what’s up with that? And her response was just ha-ha.”
“What the heck?” the girl next to him responds.
“Yeah, I don’t know. I tried a couple other times but she’d only ever send one word replies, so I stopped sending messages.”
“Good!” and they continued to scroll down their social media feeds, and Holly continued to read Leaves of Grass, and this time Whitman was the one who made her smile[v]. To look for someone, nay, to find someone in nearly every verse, nook, cranny, is a dangerous thing when no promised future exists. But the present thoughts of him felt harmless enough, and WW’s vivid descriptions of the living that people were doing amused Holly, and soon enough the couple across from her began to speak again.
Commenting on the tech company the train passed by, the guy exclaimed “Hey! I used that program a lot this summer for my internship!”
“Oh really? What is it?”
“Sort of like a cloud-based software, the whole company used it.”
“How was your internship? Didn’t you work with Brad?”
“You know, he’s in a long-distance relationship? The internship was good, but he was all caught up in his girlfriend the whole time, it felt like.”
“Where is she from?”
Of fucking course, she is. There are thousands and hundreds of cities she, this random long distance girlfriend, could have been from, and she’s from Chicago, the windy city, the same city he goes to school, that Holly had casually checked prices for flights at least twice now. “In Berkeley or Chicago!” his las words before he shut the taxi door, a response to her “see ya!” after their last kiss goodbye. She smiled, shook her head, and turned the page[vi].
And they spoke more, and she listened more, the word Chicago ringing in her ears, and the train pulled into Millbrae, where she departed to switch to BART. And she didn’t continue to read on the new train; she hardly did anything at all, except sit and let her mind replay happy memories. And she departed at Balboa Park, walked down the familiar Ocean Avenue, and thought this was my street just over a year ago now. But it is now just an old friend, and her visit was brief. She pick up the reprinted receipt, as needed to exchange her bike, and then sat in the Fog Lifter Café to write, kill time before her dinner plans at 5:00pm.
[i]Berkeley is so hypocritical. It nearly sickens me listening to the loud bass of the frat next door, the chanting of party sayings inside. Frat boys care not for social justice, unless that social justice is determined by their own decisions of exclusion and inclusion. I am thankful for earplugs.
[ii] Odd name. She ended up forgetting it a bit later and made a fool of herself later in the night when she asked who Jeremy was.
[iii]They are truly going to scope out if they might want to live there.
[iv] The sad truth of academia is, that the more you learn, you realize the less you really know. And she felt as if she really, truly, just knew absolutely nothing sometimes.
[v] “Which of the young men does she like the best?
Ah, the homeliest of them is beautiful to her.” – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
[vi] ‘The suns I see, and the suns I cannot see, are in their place.’ – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass