Observations from the edge

On the last day of summer, I see a woman reading Murakami on the train, a reminder that I should finish the Murakami novel I’ve been attempting to read for more than six years. We both disembark at the Downtown Berkeley station. The brick rotunda is closed for renovation, and will soon be destroyed to be replaced by a sterile glass canopy, so I take the stairs up to Shattuck, emerging kitty corner to the Half-Price Books.

I make my way through campus. The woman with the Murakami collection disappears up ahead. I have nowhere to be; the chill permeates my clothes. An off-leash poodle frolics in the grass, keeping a cautious eye on his master. The VSLB is just as I remember it – a monolith on the edge of the hill. I skirt the edge of MLK plaza, up the side path to Sather Gate, through the gateway to the plaza between Dwinelle and Wheeler. Here, I once watched what seemed to be thousands of people stream down the hill. It’s empty.

Brief post – 16

A couple of days ago I went to my old community college to put up tutoring flyers. I forgot that the office closes at 2pm, and I think I got there at 3pm, so it was a waste of time. I decided I’d go to the Borders bookstore at the mall to read for a few hours instead of heading home immediately.

The bus service in this town is very bad. I think I must have waited half an hour for the bus to come, and then there were so many people on the bus that I got the last open seat. Interesting fact: no one likes to sit next to you on public transportation here or in Los Angeles, whereas in the Bay Area, sharing public transportation space is welcomed and not stigmatized.

The last person to get on the bus after me was a girl whom I should have given my seat to, but didn’t. I felt bad for a moment but rationalized it by thinking that the transfer station was only a mile away. In retrospect, it was a good idea to stay in my seat. She was standing in front of me, by the front door, and right next to her, a Latina girl, maybe three or four years old, was playing with her purse. The Latina kept looking at this girl, who happened to be Asian, and smiling, and I swear to you, the older girl smiled back and it was like that extra bit of goodwill you need once a day. I could look at that smile all day.

I sat there for the remainder of the ride, looking at the two while they interacted. The little girl kept asking questions and shyly smiling at the older girl, and the older girl kept giving her these huge grins of the whitest teeth I have ever seen. I sat there mesmerized for the whole seven minutes. It just made me happy to see someone interact with a child in that way, by being open and kind, and most of all by smiling. I really wanted to talk to her, but then I got off the bus and walked past her on the way to the bookstore. Coward!

In my last post, I talked about how I don’t ever talk to anyone I find attractive. I ended up standing outside the bookstore for a good five to ten minutes, deliberating whether or not to go back and talk to this girl. It’s hot, I’m standing on the sidewalk, turning both ways and walking one way before turning around and walking the other way, and finally I decide to go back and get on the same bus she’s going to get on, because it will take me home.

Turned out the bus wasn’t there on time because, as usual, it was late. I actually walked past her again, because I was such a nervous wreck, and went to the bathroom at the station before walking back and starting up a conversation.

Turns out she’s also an immigrant, from Vietnam, and her name is Duan (pronounced Juan, as in Don Juan, as in the Lord Byron satiric poem, the title of which is pronounced with an emphasized J), and she’s only been here for a couple of years. We talked for about five minutes, and I asked about school and tried to keep up a conversation. In the end, the bus came, and right when she was about to head off, I asked her how old she was. I had this strange feeling in the back of my head, you know, like I needed to make sure. She’s sixteen.

I felt really awkward for a moment right there. Awkward and really old. This isn’t about getting laid though. I saw some sort of goodness in this girl when she was talking to the little one on the bus and it struck me that she’s so young and perfectly idealistic and not jaded. I needed to talk to someone like that for a moment. I think we lose our sense of idealism and romanticism, and although I still have those to some extent, I hadn’t seen much of those qualities in anyone around me for so long. I don’t want to believe that idealism disappears once you grow older.

I doubt I’ll see her again, and that’s fine. I’m sure she’ll make somebody really happy in the future. It’s one of those things I think about a lot – does age matter? You see people fifteen, twenty years apart in age, and you wonder, how? But here we are, nine year difference. Here I am, thinking about someone who is younger than anyone I’ve ever dated, someone who is still in high school, taking college courses, probably on the way to a great school, a great future, a lot of good things. I wonder what it would be like to be in a relationship with someone at this stage in her life.

It’s a strange thing, I thought to myself. I’d be 30, she’d be 21. But how would that play out in the meantime, in the five years it takes to get there? People go through extreme changes during this time. I wonder how that relationship would play out. Don’t you? In some ways I know I would feel left out when she’d go off to college or whatever, but I also think about the idea of being there for someone during that time. It doesn’t make sense. It’s all stuck in my head and I haven’t slept for thirty one hours and somehow I’m still making some meager amount of sense. This was supposed to be a short entry.

What am I trying to get across here? That I’m a Humbert Humbert, salivating over some nymphet but unwilling to see her transition into a fully fledged reality? Or maybe I’m just seeing the beauty in someone who hasn’t yet been damaged, a small piece of life.

I found ya!

Just once

I’d like to look my age. Just once. I’m sure looking like I’m an 18 year old will benefit me in the long run, but at the moment, it’s not so wonderful.

You ever have moments when you don’t know why someone is looking at you? I have those moments all the time. It’s as if the person is mocking me and I wish he or she would just stop. Sure, I lost a lot of weight so I look a bit younger, but stop it. Or at least say something, tell me what’s going on in your mind that you need to keep staring.

Yeah, I get nervous when people look at me. I’m just not certain what it is they’re looking at. Could be my big nose, my not quite blonde longish hair, my really thin forearms and wrists, the liver spots appearing on the backs of my hands. I used to worry about those, thinking they were cancer, but in the end, I figure they’re just signs that my immune system took a beating when I didn’t eat anything for a couple of months.

I feel very strange about not seeing any women my age around this town. They’re all either in their early early twenties and late teens, or else in their thirties. I haven’t felt a legitimate connection with any of these people. I wonder where all the people my age are. I can’t relate to all the apathy and superfluous attitude established here.