I had a long to-do list for this weekend, just like all the other weekends. I was going to visit the meditation center in the city, have brunch with Annie, take my car in to get serviced, pick up my dry cleaning, do laundry, clean my apartment, attend a birthday dinner on Saturday night, go to church, file my taxes, and study.
I left work Friday evening and it was still light out, windy but bright. I picked out a bouquet of flowers, choosing each one carefully: freesias bright as the summer sun, roses with just a hint of pink, clusters of small purple flowers that I later recognized as lilacs. It took me awhile to select them and even longer to arrange them in the vase, but the final result made me very happy. The tangle of fragrances filled my apartment all weekend.
After I got home, I took a long bath. The candles were lit, Pandora was set to jazz, and I had my Kindle in my hands the whole time. I loved seeing the steam raising from my skin every time I moved; I could feel tension leaving me. After that, I decided rather anticlimactically to throw my to-do list out the window.
For the rest of the weekend, I skipped all social events and mandatory chores. I made a collage of clippings from interior design catalogs over my living room wall. I went through all the mail that had collected in the corner of my desk. I read “A Game of Thrones” hungrily. I swept the patio outside my apartment and re-potted a bonsai tree. I slept in. I approached each task as if I had all the time in the world.
On Sunday evening, I finally stepped outside of my apartment and met with Jason for dinner in Berkeley. We walked around campus after and so much has changed, I barely recognized Dwinelle’s halls. Jason took the long way driving us back, through Ashby then the 80-W. As the freeway turned and Emeryville presented itself to us, I suddenly thought of the countless times I had passed through this route, before I ever knew what Emeryville was.
I thought of the boy who would always come to the same room I was in during those study sessions in Dwinelle. I thought of all those times I rode shotgun in his car as he took us to the city. I was a first year back then, a few months in Berkeley and I couldn’t tell you the name of the bridge that linked San Francisco to the East Bay. Yet I remember the first time he drove us down Ashby to take 80-W. As we turned right then left, merging onto the freeway, the sky suddenly opened up. It was early evening and the sun was just setting behind the city. I saw the row of Watergate apartments reflected in the bay, the sky streaked with pink and purple. I could just make out the outline of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, and I saw the shimmering lights of cars atop the Bay Bridge before I even knew what it was.
That was more than six years ago; Emeryville has been my home for two years now. Still, every time the I-80 turns and the sky opens itself in front of me, presenting the bay and Emeryville and San Francisco in the distance, I think of the boy who had shown me its beauty for the first time all those years ago.