And then there I was, at 24th and Telegraph, in my high heels, with my hand bag, and with business on the brain. I had been hoofing it around town for work (because I got a new job, which is why my writing here has been sporadic), and I found myself standing outside of the café where I used to hang out when I was 17.
The first time I went there, I had sat on the 43 bus and disembarked on a rough curb in Oakland. It had been raining that day, and I walked inside the café. I had read about it in the East Bay Express, that it was where the artists in Oakland hang out. I sat inside, I ate a tuna sandwich, and I watched the rain while intermittently reading a magazine.
As I stood outside of that café, now at the ripe old age of 30, I could feel the sinking sensation that characterizes the regret of the passage of time. It’s not the same café it was in 2004, nor has it been for many years. The façade is the same, but inside, the people and the dreams they dream are starkly different.
I wound up hanging out at that café many times over the years. That café is the last vestige of the art parties where I used to hang out, something that was dubbed Art Murmur and later became First Fridays, which is now an unrecognizable beast when compared to the starry eyed meandering that characterized those first events.
So many things have happened that have changed this city. Nothing is exactly the same anymore, although the streets have the same name. The bus routes have changed numbers. Many of the people are gone. As I stood outside that café, I realized that my friend with whom I had gone to all those early teenage art parties – she was dead. She had died in the fire. That was almost a year ago.
And how many other people were gone, too. I have lost friends to many things: distance, fires, drugs, general moral conflict. Who else in this city still walks down this street after thirteen years? And what are they doing now.
I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection of the large glass windows. I am certainly different. Having lost so much to the forces of economics has changed me, as I stand here, in my high heels and my nice dress. Assimilating. I know that so many of my old friends have stayed the same, and I wonder which is worse. Or if time is the worst thing of all.
I hurry down the block, trying not to dally. I have work to do. I have money to make. I have new dreams to pursue, dreams which have been molded by the fact that my old dreams have died in the dust, thirsty and wilting. I have had to find new dreams, which are so different from the dreams I used to have. My new dreams, this new me – am I hurrying away from the scene of the crime because I do not want to see the self that I have failed to be? Or is it because I am still the exact same person, in a completely different world, and the chaos of that idea is too much for me sit with right now.