The semester has begun, and I’m already in love with my Groundings in Creative Nonfiction class. The reading list is a marvel within itself. A class of incredible writers to surround myself with doesn’t hurt, either.
Our first assignment was so much fun I decided to share! This piece was meant to be short, which made it perfect for a story that in reality, only took 13 minutes.
And so, here is a moment in time that captures my habit of running late, packing more than possible into a few minutes, and surrounding myself with things I love. My song choice is at the end. It’s one that I listened to on repeat that summer. It reminds me of riding the train to my second job at a food truck park.
The Uber dropped me off beneath the shadow of Transamerica. I stepped out feeling old, established in my career. In reality, I was twenty-one and my feet were sweating in fake-leather flats. My legs shivered—now bare after finding a run up the back of my tights mid-meeting. My laptop invisible behind layers of bumper stickers on the case. Those stickers becoming glowingly apparent in projector light as I made my first presentation in front of an audience of venture capitalists. I see a dress that was too short, and a boyfriend I spent too much time texting.
My day had been spent sweating in back of a WeWork while a panel of financial advisors argued about Bitcoin. I’d been hauling folding chairs, rearranging pastry platters, and passing out Lyft code flyers to aspiring female entrepreneurs all day.
I glanced at my almost-broken watch. 5:47. I needed to be seated beside my boss at 6pm for the closing dinner. The warm October sun called to me in dreamy, just out of reach way that California always holds. A salty breeze curled off the bay into the hilly streets. I couldn’t bear the idea of opening my laptop one more time.
And so began a frenzied power walk, determined to borrow this time for myself before diving back into the role of eager and budding professional. “Girlboss” with grit and hustle.
First, City Lights bookstore. I inhaled the preserved paper smell deep into my throat, feeling the holy ground. The walls spindled into the sky with shelves of books. My hands tingled for the weight of a novel to hold them down. The checkout line was too long to even consider purchasing anything. So absorbed was I that upon checking my watch, I realized it was 5:51.
It was Friday, and the city was electric. The garage door of a wine bar rolled open, letting out soft music and sparkles of fine glassware on the heavy wooden bar. I read the wine bar’s menu dreamily, vowing to return and buy a bottle whereas, if I tried that day, my card would have definitely been declined. A patio nearby was built into the 45-degree slope of the street, filling slowly with taco-lovers. From the crosswalk, it created the illusion that they all sat atop each other.
I wandered a block or two towards dinner. On the way there, a boutique’s doors propped open, each delicate t-shirt hanging equally spaced from the others. The mannequins wore polished dresses and muted pinks. I ached for that sophistication. Making a lap around the shop’s glossy white floor, I let my hands float across stacks of perfectly pressed linen.
5:57. Gelato. When I stepped into the boutique, their line was out their door. Now, only one jittery, tourist couple stood in front of the glass case. I stepped inside, inhaling the eggy waffle cone smell. I asked for a popsicle stick sample—dark chocolate.
5:59. Shit. I sprint out of the store and zig between Ubers on a crosswalk, zag past a long line outside a pizzeria. There, I see it. Our company’s logo displayed on sandwich board perched atop the hilly sidewalk. I smoothed my dress, straightened my ponytail, and marched towards the door, thumbing the damp popsicle stick in my pocket.