My guide had an interview. Some intensely Berkeley-sounding interview...

January 16th, 2016, 3pm

My guide had an interview. Some intensely Berkeley-sounding interview: with a high-achieving, world-travelled, meeting-the-world-again-after-his-accident professor. Out of my league. I helped her pick out her formal wear, offering unhelpful comments about the age-old ponytail versus bun debate as I sprawled out on the bottom bunk in her tiny dorm room, staring at the bottom edges of her roommate’s fitted sheet. My hair kept yanking Polaroids off clothespins when I moved too close to the wall. Ended up on the floor instead, leaning on my backpack.

She meant for me to hang out with her roommates, I think, but she knew me, so she didn’t really mean it. Said it for the benefit of the picture-plastered walls. I followed her outside, helped her get into the first Uber of her life, then with the rain sticking my hood to my head, followed the puddles into Berkeley. She always said she didn’t feel comfortable on those more-often-than-not rain soaked streets, but the hobos and the catcalls seemed minimally frightening. Negated by the rain. Driven inside but brightly colored umbrellas.

A used bookstore called me first, Moe’s, red print on white with the faded smell of old ink and a kind lady that let me keep my backpack on, trusting me not to steal the words she sold. Fingers on spines and footsteps muffled by carpet. Ended up with a book with God in the title but about Humans instead, with a thinly written poem in Spanish written on the inside cover. The guy at the register gave me a discount for the writing — funny, because I bought it for the writing. Notes in Spanish in a book about India written in English.

In my backpack it goes, and I make it about two steps before an herbal shop wanders over next. I let myself in, a little bell rings, the gypsies behind the counter with unreadable ocean eyes staring at the very-not-gypsy in their midst. I buy a chai tea that requires intense preparation but smells like a market I’ve never been to. The gypsies smile behind their ocean eyes when I leave.

Shoes soaked and frightened my recently bought story might suffer the same, I end up in a coffee shop at the corner of a busy intersection after meeting a hobo with an affinity for orange cats. Glass walls all around, with a wrap-around table and stools to watch the passerby. A cappuccino in a big white bowl mug and a God book and all sorts of lives skipping past me on a rainy street. A little child with a polka-dotted umbrella life, an old woman with an older dog life, a photographer that I look up at just as he is lowering his camera from the glass life. And me, in the glass, a reflected alone but not lonely reading college student life. Coffee and beanie wrapped, with book in hand.

And I decide that Berkeley feels warm even in the rain, like an ill-fitting glove that I could snuggle up in better than one that fits properly.

And that she should have gone with that ponytail.

Terra, Galway and David Wade said thanks.

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Sonja Daebelliehn

A sticky sweet personality ebbing in the flow of the smooth coolness of California natives. The calendar claims nineteen but the heart claims three and the soul eighty-two.

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