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Returning to the desert: Lancaster, California

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Edrick Sabalburo/Staff


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OCTOBER 18, 2017

The midpoint of the semester is a good time for a visit back home. Berkeley can be overwhelming sometimes, and, for those of us lucky enough to not live too far away, it can be a relaxing way to spend your time. Here’s a quick outline of my “getaway” weekend in my hometown: Lancaster, California.


5:47 p.m. — I get on the plane and begin to worry. It is the first time I am coming home since the start of college. Two months have gone by since I last saw my family, and although it is too short of a timespan for any of us to have changed all that much, it is long enough that I feel like I am a visitor in my own hometown.

6:05 p.m. — I am airborne. I have been flying since I was a little kid, and I am not afraid of air travel, but something always compels me to watch the runway slip out from under me — as if it will look different this time.

6:50 p.m. — I land.

7:01 p.m. — I see my parents smiling at me as I make my way to the baggage carousel. I try not to run toward them, lest I betray my excitement. My dad says he doesn’t like my new haircut.

7:10 p.m. — I spend the car ride home telling my parents everything about the last 60 days — at least, everything that they would approve of. They talk to me differently now. Their tone is less parental.

8:02 p.m. — I begin to recognize where I am. The Krispy Kreme and Chick-fil-A tell me that I am getting close. The lights shine more brightly against the darkened autumn sky than they did when I left. Maybe it’s just me.

9:15 p.m. — I walk upstairs to my room to find that everything is suspiciously cleaner than when I left.

9:32 p.m. — My brother arrives. I tackle him in the hallway. We spend the night debriefing each other on what has transpired since mid-August. There’s so much I want to tell him, but everything gets jumbled around the inside of my skull in my excitement.


10:14 a.m. — I wake up for my birthday breakfast of Filipino food featuring correctly cooked eggs (unlike the “eggs” served at Crossroads). My brother is already in school, but my parents and I talk some more. I spend most of my day doing homework, because the grind never stops.

5:18 p.m. — I am at my girlfriend’s door. She doesn’t know that I’m in town for the weekend. I have roses and chocolate, and I shake when I ring her doorbell. She takes her time to open the door, but when she finally does, I tell her, “Merry Christmas.” The look on her face is priceless.

5:56 p.m. — We are back at my house. There’s a party. People slowly trickle in. Every time the door opens, there’s a scream as mini-reunions take place over the course of a few hours. I get to see both my friends still in high school and those who graduated with me. And, for a few hours, nostalgia takes hold of me. I missed this.

12:57 a.m. — By now, everyone has left. “I’ll see you soon,” I tell them each in turn as I embrace them and open the door for them.


9:32 a.m. — I get to watch “Survivor” with my family — our favorite show. We rant about which competitors we like and theorize who will get voted out this week.

4:43 p.m. — I leave for my best friend’s house. When I get there, three of us are gathered around a table playing our favorite card game. We help my best friend’s sister decide what color to paint her toes for her homecoming dance.

6:12 p.m. — We take one last selfie, which will just have to hold us over until Christmas. I leave.

6:41 p.m. — I’m at my girlfriend’s house again. We drive to the movies, screaming “Hamilton” lyrics along the way. Despite the fact that neither of us likes horror movies, we watch “It,” because it was the longest movie in the theater, and it gave us the most time together. It’s not enough.

10:07 p.m. — We get back to her house.

10:29 p.m. — I tell her I have to leave. She gives me a jar of peanut butter and one last kiss.


12:18 p.m. — We get to the airport. I remember move-in day when I had to say my goodbyes to my family. I remember feeling my stomach contract into a dense ball of tension. I wonder if I’ll feel it again today. I convince myself that it’s a one-time thing.

12:30 p.m. — I discover that it’s not a one-time thing. I feel it again, though I notice that it is much more subdued than before. They walk to the point beyond which they cannot enter and tell me they will wait there.

12:35 p.m. — I turn around, and they’re gone.

2:14 p.m. — My floormate texts me to ask me where I am. Saying I’m on my way “back” would imply that school is the place from which I leave, my origin (but is that not the definition of home, the place I just left?)

2:19 p.m. — I’m airborne. I watch the runway slip beneath me. I don’t quite know where I belong.

3:07 p.m. — I land, and I sigh the way I usually do when I walk into my house after a long day.

4:31 p.m. — My friend is waiting at the BART station. She is smiling, and I think that maybe it’s possible to have two homes. Because maybe home is not a geographical distinction but a quality of the faces around you.

5:02 p.m. — I am back in my dorm. My friends ask me, “How’s home?” and I reply with a smile.  


Contact Edrick Sabalburo at [email protected].

OCTOBER 17, 2017