I am listening to: The Cure, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Carole King
What I’m pairing my coffee with: Serendipity, Los Angeles
See You Later
For two summers I lived at Harvard. Living in the “square” was a real treat. I basically lived in a historic bubble protected by security and my favorite places were less than a mile or subway stop away. Bonus: Every other week the same homeless guy would profess his love and propose to me with a blue milk ring.
It was approximately 11:37 PM, August 2014. I was packing my belongings as I was moving out in the morning. My phone rang.
Joe: Hey. I read your book in an hour. Where are you?
Me: Wait, what? I’m packing. I’m moving out tomorrow. YOU are helping me move in the morning. Remember?
Joe: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I read like 3 books today. I just finished yours.
(What’s new? Joe reads like 3 books every day. It takes me a week to read a Nylon magazine.)
Me: What are you doing now? Come down stairs?
Joe was a recent Harvard graduate who worked in one of the houses. I saw many aspects in Joe that I saw in myself.
I walked across the courtyard between our two houses. I could hear music blasting down the street from an off campus party. He came shuffling towards me with no shoes, basketball shorts, wild red hair and a pack of Marlboro Reds in hand. He took a seat on one cement bench, I sat on the other. We both sat Indian style. The fluorescent lighting from above made our faces look blue and green. My eyes drifted to a bush in the distance that was speckled with red Solo cups. The cups looked like ripe apples shining in the leaves.
Me: Hey you’re up late.
He threw his hands in the air.
Joe: I can’t believe it! Fuck. I know a published author. I know you and I know your life. It’s so weird.
Me: You’re at Harvard. There are plenty of published authors who write books that actually make sense. It’s not THAT cool, but thank you.
Here’s the thing. Joe doesn’t really care that he went to Harvard. He doesn’t care what people think of him nor his accomplishments. He had told me that he knows people want him to care, and it made him care even less.
Joe: Whatever. You did a lot. You moved away. You started over and-
Me: Joe… let’s recap okay. You moved from Buffalo to Boston. Just you and your suitcases in a storm without your parents. It’s the same thing except you were much younger.
We ended up talking for an hour and a half. We had talked a lot that summer, but this last conversation wrapped our friendship up with a nice bow. I told him I was going to write about him someday and he said he didn’t want to know because he wanted to wait until another book came out. Good thing he deleted his Facebook. On the way back to my room I stepped in beer vomit. I was wearing my white Vans (BaCk aT iT aGaIn). I shook my foot. It was too dark to tell the magnitude of damage. I scanned my surroundings and saw no one. When I made it to the courtyard my nostrils were flooded with a fresh spring smell. By playing detective I realized some student thought it would be funny to make a laundry detergent trail from the beginning of the courtyard to the end of the building. Regardless, I found this to be a perfect opportunity to rub my shoe in the detergent. I went upstairs to my room threw the soapy sneaker in the shower and turned it on. I forgot about it and it was the last thing I took with me when I moved out. It still smelled like stale beer.
The following day, Joe and I moved my stuff to my new apartment. My frustrations of moving in the New England heat led me to throwing my bags of bedding and towels out the window. I missed a squirrel by an inch and felt really bad about it. I missed a student by an inch and did not feel bad about it.
All summer, the same crew of people that I worked with ate lunch together. That day after I moved we all had lunch at Larry’s condo in Cambridge. Larry is a past Harvard employee that has since retired. He is an enigma filled with light. Everyone knows him and everyone likes him. Dick was a building manager, and we already know where Joe came from. That day lunch turned into, snacks, snacks turned into wine, that turned into dinner. At some point I was silent and I evaluated my surroundings. I realized how important these conversations were to me. We were four different generations of people, with four different perspectives that I never got tired of hearing. Sadly, I knew these talks were about to be over. Larry was moving back to Mexico, Joe to Brooklyn, and Dick would still be at Harvard, but no longer a skip and a jump from my office. I felt like time had gone by too fast and I had taken these conversations for granted. I didn’t process them enough or write the substance down.
The past two weeks had made me develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of my surroundings and the people I was in contact with. I went home and wrote my thoughts in my notebook which I used to write this piece. Later that night I went through one of my memory boxes. I touched all of the items inside. My mother’s picture, her high school graduation invitation, a card from my first boyfriend, a love letter from my most recent relationship, graduate school acceptance letters, movie ticket stubs from films that changed my life, and chunks of sea glass. I closed the box. I put a suitcase in the corner. I closed my doors. I closed my eyes. That night I dreamed that I was on a white sand beach working on my Mac Book.