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.
Still haunted by your absence, I enter the city prepared. On campus I forget you. I do not look for you or go to your apartment. I do not even remember you: the unbound knot of your spine, our awkward first trip to the city, photographs of your mouth on my body.
I do not walk the five blocks to see you. I forget about the distance.
In the city, we do not speak of you, your present absence. We forget. We drink wine and compliment each other. I do not dream of you. You do not approach me.
I see no one. All are names and blank faces striding past into the darkness.
I am one of a group which boards the train at the station and miraculously moves as one through the tunnels. We surprise each other upon arrival, for we are unintended.
I board the plane with Proust. Outside, the runway lights imitate a flower or the curvature of your profile, two intersecting lines of brightness reflected into my eyes.
I remember you. I let you go. I let myself go into the darkness of the world, the unending horizon.
From downtown Oakland, the Pittsburg Bay Point and Richmond trains leave in tandem at night. After reaching MacArthur, the lines diverge, the Richmond heading North through Berkeley, the Pittsburg Bay Point heading Northwest through Rockridge and the Caldecott Tunnel. I forget the number of times I caught the last train from the city, alone and sober, or drunk with Chris. We’d board the Pittsburg train at the Embarcadero, catching our breath from running to get to the platform before 12:25, when the last train left the station. Sometimes we missed it, like the time we ended up taking the overnight bus over the bay bridge, hanging out on the corner of Broadway and 12th for half an hour, waiting for a connection that didn’t end up saving us any time. A couple of cops had been patrolling the neighborhood, chasing off hookers and being berated by a homeless man.
When I first moved to Oakland, I tended to take the BART more often than the bus. I lived just under a mile away from MacArthur, on 34th and Market. Cal was about four miles away, and I walked there once, taking Telegraph, because the buses weren’t running on schedule. When I did take the train though, a half hour bus ride turned into a picturesque ten minute BART ride. The distance between MacArthur and Downtown Berkeley is covered by a section of elevated track between MacArthur and Ashby, from which you can see San Francisco and the Golden Gate to the left, and the Berkeley Hills to the right.
At Ashby, the train descends into the tunnel, a steep descent that feels more like a controlled fall into darkness. We are now just three minutes and one stop away from disembarking at our destination.