I think it’s really almost impossible to appreciate something fully while you’re experiencing it. We all do our best to focus and be present, but most of the time we find ourselves longing for something so mundane we never would have recognized it as something to remember at the time: rain plinking on a skylight, the bus stop under the maple tree, the little boutique around the corner that we never went into because it looked so expensive. Even though I more or less make it my life’s mission to notice these things and be grateful for them on a daily basis, so many of them still slip through the cracks. The beauty of it, though, is that these little experiences can be relived and appreciated anew one thousand times in our minds and our memories. And that is exactly what I found myself doing last weekend when we were in Berkeley. We traipsed all over our old neighborhood, stopping by our old apartments, places we went on dates and held hands and talked about our future. It was such highly concentrated sweetness.
I have always loved maps, because I like to spatialize anything and everything, including time, and I felt like we were walking on one this weekend, tracing the routes our feet followed for so many years. One of my favorite concepts from Russian literary theory is the chronotope; it comes from the Greek words chronos (time) and topos (space), and it basically means, you guessed it: time-space. Eric actually made one for me for our two-year anniversary, and it just about broke my heart. It was a personalized google map of everywhere we’d been together, with little markers for places we’d traveled, our favorite breakfast spots, the restaurants where we’d splurged on birthday dinners. He also added pictures right at the intersections where they’d been taken. It was just about the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. And this weekend we got to live it all again. So, without further ado, here is a little mapping of our neighborhood, of our lives and our love.
We lived in Rockridge, close to the Berkeley-Oakland border. It is the most delectably walkable neighborhood, and we adored it. They’ve now made this highly referential display at the BART station where we used to hop trains into the city. I’m clutching a book of California poetry by one of my old professors, Robert Hass, the former poet laureate of the United States, and also a bright red Oakland t-shirt featuring the very charming dinosaur-shaped port cranes. Quintessential East Bay purchases!
This is also right where I used to catch my daily bus in to campus to teach Russian and fetch endless books from the library. The ride down College Avenue was always slow as molasses, but it was a pretty one. Everyone’s relationship with the bus is complex: you curse all the collected hours you spend waiting for it, and, perhaps, the not exactly floral scent of its interior, but when you’re running late or it’s raining, how majestic it is to see its headlights coming down the street! I say this with all sincerity, even though there was, I kid you not, a Facebook group of Berkeley students called “Waiting for the 51 is like Waiting for Godot.” Good times.
This was my little library around the corner from my house. In the spring it is covered with wisteria blossoms, and it’s a little like heaven on earth. So beautiful, so fragrant. I used to wait here for the bus before they split my line, but long after that I would stroll by almost every afternoon on my neighborhood walks, popping my head in to see what was new.
And this was my home for four years. Not much to look at from the front, but such incredible morning light and all the storage space you could dream of. When I walked up these steps, tears filled my eyes, but I told Eric I wasn’t crying because I was sad, but because we just had so many happy times here.
And this was Eric’s home before we got married. I loved this building: elegant hardwood floors, big windows, vestigial Murphy bed structures. It’s almost 100 years old, and it’s aged so gracefully. Eric and I spent so many laughter-filled evenings cooking dinner here, and after one of them, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I said yes before he could get the ring out of his pocket! And I still say yes, every day. It’s hundreds of miles away from us, and yet this building, and the love that filled it, are in my heart all the time.