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Walking home

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MAY 10, 2018

“Hey so where do we order?” “This isn’t what I asked for!” “Are you guys still open?”

Work always ends at 6:53. The machine registers the time as 7:00, and we’re usually done cleaning by a quarter till anyway. I change from my work shirt into my stained Cal hoodie and say goodbye to everyone for the last time. Just to decompress from the long shift, I plug in my headphones.

“Axis: Bold as Love“ by Jimi Hendrix starts, reminding me of all the different colors and emotions I am feeling. When daylight saving time ends, the campus seems brighter than normal. Not just the light, but the colors themselves pop; the grass is, in fact, greener. I’m not sneering at the ground like Jimi, but I definitely am jealous. To the left of me is Morgan Hall. I heard a rumor that they study squirrels in that old nutrition building. I’m not sure if it’s true, but the mere thought of exhausted graduate students studying squirrels amuses me. I can’t tell you how many times those furry little bastards tried sneaking into my backpack for food. I reach VLSB lawn, where someone always seems to have their dog. It amazes me to think students might own a dog and work at the same time. When do they breathe? Is this moment on the glade that breath? I wish I had a companion to play with in the grass.

After Jimi Hendrix, “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA adds to “Bold as Love’s” color purple. The song was featured in “Black Panther,” where purple appears prominently, reminding me of dusk as I walk home. The first stop on my trip is between Dwinelle and VLSB. Behind me, the plum blossoms are falling. Left is the Campanile chiming its bells at 7:00 and to the right is the sunset. Cheesy — I know — but it times up perfectly and I can’t help but take a moment to appreciate the imagery. The light is so intense I can’t quite see the Golden Gate through the trees, but I like to imagine I can. On the steps of Sproul Hall, the Taiko team practices with intense uniformity. But you can always tell who the new member is, or which one doesn’t make practice consistently. Their arm stalls at the top of its swing for just a split second. I would stop my music to listen, but I can feel the vibrations on my feet.  

Next in the queue is “Telegraph Ave.” by Childish Gambino, obviously. I pause at the cross between Bancroft and Telegraph. Every other time I stand at this “T” intersection, there’s a different group of people arguing for a different position on the Israel and Palestine debate, but always the same Christian man telling me I’m going to hell for my education. As I wait for the light to turn, I look west up Bancroft and notice a car is stopped. My wait is automatically over and I just walk. I don’t feel wrong for jaywalking and I sure as hell don’t feel guilty for my “sin” of being a Cal student. I’m just trying to pass all the red lights and the stop signs.

As I stroll down Telegraph Avenue, I stop outside Fat Slice, which always has a homeless man sitting outside — the one I know is named Thomas. He doesn’t remember my name, but I can’t forget his. This is probably how people at club meetings feel when they meet me; I can never remember names. Thomas is special, though. He asks if I have food, and since I work at a café, I do. So, I offer him what I have — and, just like my roommates — Thomas doesn’t like tuna fish sandwiches. Sometimes I don’t see him, and I wonder if he’s OK.

I depart from Telegraph by taking a left on Dwight. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day plays (I remember hearing it at the end of every homecoming dance) and the scene changes from consumerist to communist. Not Marxist communist, but hippie commune-communist, since People’s Park houses an inordinate number of homeless people. They, too, have music playing, and I can even hear them laughing. I take a right on the street I call mine and pass through five locked doors to reach Apartment 111. Opening the door, my roommates ask how work was. I respond, “It was fine. The walk home was nice, though.” My college years have gone so fast.

Joseph Tomlin won third place in our Goodbye to All That essay contest. He is an aspiring writer and film enthusiast. He is a graduating with a bachelor's in American Studies.

MAY 10, 2018