The next day, Holly’s friend Jonah, who she met almost a year ago in a junior transfer, and was one of the most hilariously entertaining people she knew, traveled over an hour to Berkeley, all the way from Fremont, just so the two could catch up. Holly could tell Jonah about him, and her summer, and the two could fill each other in on their lives after the summer months spent apart. And from the moment they spotted each other from across Center Street in Downtown Berkeley, they were already laughing; Holly had her phone up and recording their reunion.
After strolling through the sunny afternoon, grabbing a light lunch in North Berkeley, and then ordering some coffee downtown, Holly showed Jonah her new home. She gave him a similar tour to the one she received when she was first touring the place: the communal kitchen, the study areas, and the roof. After ending the tour with a peek at her room, Holly asked Jonah what his plans for the rest of the day were.
“Honestly I just need to kill time until this birthday dinner at 9 o’clock tonight.”
“What were you going to do after lunch if you didn’t come see my home?”
“Probably just go hang out in a café.”
“Until 9pm?!” Holly asked incredulously. It was only around 3:30 in the afternoon, so there was no way that Holly would allow him to go sit on his own for so long.
“Well, I was thinking about trading in my bike.…”
“Today?” he asked, somewhat shocked.
“I… had a wonderful bike in Budapest, and coming back and riding my one here only made me realize I needed something a little bigger, you know, since I’m so tall. Would you want to come to a bike store with me and see what we can do?”
So they went. And because they were walking, and the tires on Holly’s current bike were flat, they walked together almost three miles to the new bike store. The walk felt nice to Holly, but the laughter erupting from their conversation only served as a reminder of the tightness in her abs from Friday morning’s yoga, and how she really ought to go again[i].
When the duo arrived at the bike store, the first woman to greet them was wearing a green tank top which did not effectively cover the bottom of her round, protruding stomach. It wasn’t quite have a muffin top – it looked a bit too sculpted to call it that. It honestly looked like she might be a bit pregnant. Holly doubted a baby was the cause of the size currently, though maybe from sometime in the past, as the hair on her head was tied back, and blossoming with gray hairs.
“How can I, uh, help you today?” she asked, her voice loud, and confident, and superior.
“I’m looking to trade in my bike for a better one. Maybe something bigger.” Holly said, attempting to match levels in the way she spoke. Holly stood in front of Jonah, as he certainly felt as if this was her fight to fight. To avoid confrontation.
The woman looked at Holly’s bike for a few moments, inspecting the pedals, the quality of the chain, the amount of cobwebs accumulated after only three months without use.
“I don’t know how much we’re going to be able to give you for that…” she looked between Holly and Jonah. “But, uh, Ronnie inside can evaluate it when he’s done working with the project he has.”
“How long do you think that’s going to take?”
“Maybe thirty minutes.”
“Enough time to try out some of the bikes!”
“Sure!” trying to match enthusiasm. “Do you know what you’re looking for?”
“Something I can take to the hills. Preferably the drop-down handlebars. Also something under five hundred dollars or so…”
“Hm…” The woman looked again between Holly and Jonah for a few moments, clearly picking up on Holly’s obviously novice answers. “What size would you say you are?”
“Maybe 56, or 58. I’m not sure.” If Holly did know one thing about bikes, it was a rough estimate of the way they’re sized. Of course, she hadn’t the slightest clue about how those sizes were picked, only that she knew what the sizes were.
After taking a few bikes out for test rides, Ronnie came out, and said they could offer $100 for the bike she brought. Holly was absolutely delighted to hear this, as this is the exact number she estimated she would get anyway, after doing some calculating online in the previous few days. Although it wasn’t her favorite color, a royal blue that would no doubt stand out when she rode down the streets, Holly settled on a $450 KHS, 16 speed. With the $100 store credit from her bike, that number went down to $350. Not a bad deal for the bike, she supposed.
So Holly and Jonah walked the three miles back with her new purchase, stopping at one moment to take pictures, and another moment at a Starbucks so Jonah could use the restroom. And excited about her new find, she bid him adieu, as it was nearing 6:30 and the party host said he could come over early, and directed him to the nearest store to buy a card for the party. Holly laid in bed, planning her bike ride for the following day on her phone.
There was much excitement on different outlets of social media about the imminent eclipse occurring, and at some point Holly read a horoscope which asserted that this eclipse would be similar to a new year, a fresh start for her. While she usually read astrological predictions with a grain of salt, the idea of a fresh start always sounded nice. That is, until you’ve begun one. She purchased a bean and cheese burrito from La Burrita, and read and wrote until May, her roommate, came back after exploring a bit.
The third roommate had not arrived yet.
On move in day, May’s aunt claimed the mysterious third to the room was an exchange student from Japan. And the idea of somebody from abroad idea excited Holly. Yet, the burrito lulled her into a early evening siesta, and eventually into a deep night’s sleep.
She woke up just after 9:00am, and went to Strada Café for a banana and some caffeine. Then up to the roof she went, where she met a beautiful girl with a pixi haircut.
She and Holly connected quickly, talking into the brisk, eclipsed morning about the hypocrisy of Berkeley; and Holly even was so bold as to invite her to perhaps come with her one Friday to a slam poetry even in Oakland. The girl with the pixi haircut had a very earthy, wholesome vibe, almost like a fairy, and Holly really wished to continue talking to her, to keep hanging out with her. She told Holly of a sporadic trip she took to France, which extended to Belgium and the Netherlands, and Holly enjoyed watching the passion in her eyes as she spoke.
It was too cloudy to really see the eclipse, yet meeting someone new felt refreshing. Renewing. Especially someone so new an mysterious. But soon, after an hour of back and forth, and thirty minutes after the alleged eclipse was supposed to end, Holly said goodbye to the pixi haircut girl, and readied herself for her first ride on her new bike[ii].
Is repetition dangerous, or helpful? What can be classified as repetition? How do we consider one repetitive action to be good while another is deemed to be bad? Why are so many good things so temporary? So fated to fade?
She felt full of anxiety. So much, in theory, to be done. People to see, places to go. Unsure of how to go about it all. Secrets, unnecessary. Not the worst problem to have, to be pulled in so many different directions by so many different people.
After leaving the wonderful girl on the roof the morning of the eclipse, Holly biked fifteen miles around the more wooded areas between Orinda and Lafayette. Although she didn’t get a chance to set up my new hammock, which had arrived in the mail, the tiredness in mind and body forced her to take a Monday afternoon nap almost the second she arrived back in her room. Perhaps she should have showered before she fell asleep, but rather, she slept covered in sweat and showered after.
Upon exiting the bathroom, there was the third roommate.
Xing was her name, an ABC girl, not a foreign exchange student like Holly had been anticipating. A sophomore. And to meet someone only dressed in a towel is indeed an usual way to meet someone, but Holly would come to find out this person she was meeting was an unusual person.
Xing acted very casually. She spent very little time unpacking the very little she had, and within hours, she was actually clipping her toenails on her new bed and loudly slurping some sort of iced slushy in a from a small pouch quite loudly. Holly decided quietly and promptly to herself that she liked May better.
Tuesday morning started with more yoga, looser than the previous class; Holly felt her muscles say a warmer hello to the moves than they did the other morning.
She and Jo decided to hike up the Fire Trails in the early afternoon, named so for the way they made your lungs feel like they’ve caught fire after you’re through climbing up the steep inclines. Holly felt timid when Jo brought up once again the crisis that started in May with her ‘old friend,’ Olive.
Olive, who had invited Holly to a surprise birthday on Friday. Olive, who did not tell Jo about such party. Friday the same night that Elisé was coming into town.
…Elisé was originally his friend from their foreign-exchange boarding school in New Mexico. She came to visit him in Budapest over the summer, and so Holly met her the day a large group went to the Széchenyi baths. The day after he and Holly had shared their fist kiss.
Elisé had no clue that he and Holly ever kissed, or were ever more than just friends. Holly asked Olive’s permission if Elisé could attend the party on Friday. Olive said she could, yet seemingly, slightly, reluctantly. Perhaps it was a bit odd to invite somebody that the group had never met, especially all while somebody that they all knew quite intimately was barred from the event entirely.
After Ancient Philosophy on Friday afternoon, Holly met up with Elisé at Lake Merritt to walk around and enjoy the view, as Holly had never been to the lake during the day. She confessed to Elisé the riff in the friend group, the drama between Jo and Olive, and the uncertainty she felt in my actions of attending the birthday celebration at all.
And Elisé offered an alternative: there was a beer tasting somewhere in the city she heard of, that she had free tickets to. Holly considered this option[iii], but insisted she had to at least make an appearance at the birthday party – Holly had already promised. So at a quarter till six, the two of us headed to Olive’s home for the gathering. Léa and Celeste also showed up, and a good time was had by all: pasta on pasta on pasta for a main dish, then cake and ice cream for dessert.
Holly understood that it would be correct to say that Jo and Olive used to be friends, since Jo was not invited to Sophia’s birthday celebration. And she supposed that it wasn’t particularly nice of her not to tell Jo about the fact that the celebration was happening, or that she wasn’t invited… but she wasn’t. And this is just how the series of events took place.
Elisé and Holly went to the celebration, then left at 8:25pm to see the Jericho comedy improv show that was free that evening, deciding against venturing all the way into the city for something that would potentially fail. Serendipitously, the two run into Jo and her friend, Helene, who also arrived a bit late, and were forced to stand in the back. Holly felt the guilt inside her, especially after just leaving the event that Jo had no clue about, but covered up such guilt with introductions.
“Elisé, this is Jo…Jo, Elisé”
The show isn’t completely terrible: definitely awkward at moments, but some themes replayed in a very randomly aligned sort of way. Laughs are had. Holly could feel Elisé;s desire to be social and talk to new people in the way she laughed towards strangers, making eye contact with others for a shared sense of validation. But Elisé learned, in even this micro-setting, that people at Berkeley, for some reason, just don’t warm up to strangers and the unknown very easily.
After the show, one of the performers, Jack, talked to Jo about how they now live across the street from one another. Holly anticipated that such conversation would blossom into something more at a later point in time, but Jo did not invite him to join us that evening.
Instead, Elisé bought us a couple bottles of wine and the four of us headed to Holly’s roof to eat curry and drink wine and chat about life. And on the walk over, Holly didn’t quite know how to tell Jo that Elisé had no idea the involvement between him and her, so her only attempt to convey such a message was to squee Jo’s arm tightly when his name was brought up. And thankfully, Jo’s response indicated she understood, even if the recovery was a bit rough.
Yet, Elisé didn’t seem to seriously question Jo’s odd speech behavior when stories of him came up, and Elisé never said anything to Holly afterward, either.
They walked to Holly’s roof, which was was cold, but the Indian curry food was good, and the conversation was lively. Constructive. Elisé bid us adieu at a bit past 11, as she had a long trip back to San Francisco ahead of her, so Holly walked her to the bus stop for her to depart.
It was a wonderful night.
Misplaced anxiety is only harmful when the fears never go as far to manifest themselves.
Something inside of Holly wished that Elisé would suggest she send a picture of two of them from the lake to him, but no such suggestion was ever made.
And although Elisé made her way once again onto Holly’s Instagram, this is an outlet that he will cannot see.
And after saying goodbye to Elisé, Holly realized that now it’s been a month since the presentations, since the night of massages, of pasta and rainbows, of secretly sneaking out to his house, riding her bike there, falling asleep in his arms.
Indeed, it is the 26th of August.
[i] My lips are kiss deprived:
Those lips I bit so easily, so gently,
Now smiling and vibrating with words I cannot share, cannot hear,
I’m curious, what those lips have laughed at,
How those lips have pulled back into a smile I cannot witness
What words, what thoughts, have passed through those lips?
Those lips I stared at, that I told myself not to forget,
Now they’re too far to see, to admire, to taste, to bite, to kiss
I’m curious, does he think of my lips?
(Our last together morning he told me he’d miss them)
How often does he think of me?
Certainly not as often as I think of him.
What thoughts does he think back to?
Oh… those lips.
[ii] And oh, how lovely she was.
Like Hozier’s lyrics, I fall in love with someone new, every day.
Is to be liberal, then, to be poor?
She said the word edit tonight and I think to edit is to cut out the parts you fell in love with too much.
Ah, to be inspired such as to write a poem.
[iii] For some reason, I had anticipated something of this nature might occur. So I searched through my small bag of memorabilia, and found the fake ID I hadn’t touched in months. Originally, my purchase came with two, but I felt a bit spooked after one of them was taken away at a bar one night, during the anti-Trump riots in San Francisco, so I hadn’t ever really touched the second.