Reflections on a Saturday Afternoon

The sun rose over the trees, like a bubble of lava growing into the sky. Long grey shadows from the stately row of eucalyptus trees stretched down the quiet street of Sabado Tarde, slowly spreading like spilt grey paint. The air was silent, except the rhythmic breath of the ocean, and the distant grinding sound of somebody waxing their board.

I cleared my throat, and a mourning dove frantically flapped away from the low hanging power lines outside of our run down bungalow. I slipped on my damp flip flops and leaned against the wooden fence that surrounded our front yard.

In one week, we’d all be gone from this place, scattered back to our different California origins. I thought about the past year.

I thought of our landlord who lived the next street over. Mr. Pratt was no different from the other Isla Vista landlords, capitalizing on the wealthy parents of entitled children each month, except that his brown disheveled hair draping across his large forehead like a mop gave him the appearance of one of the local homeless as he swerved his old Bianchi road bike through the streets. Perhaps he could never quite accept the fact that he had gone through a socioeconomic metamorphosis, having bought this beachside house at precisely the right time, leaving his earthy co-op friends behind. He had dutifully come the 1st of the month at 8am to collect his last check, as he always did. I doubted I would ever see him again.

The sound of metal clanked and a guy in a hoodie walked a beach cruiser past the house. The first of the morning risers from the beach parties last night. There would be several of them during the last month before students went home. A last hurrah of a no-rules neighborhood before they succumbed to the rules of the outside world for three months. No, I hadn’t actually spent much time partying, relatively speaking. Oh, yes, there was the first months of arriving in which I had regretted my choice to come in the summer before my roommates did, and while no drinking or debauchery occurred then, I seemed to have been saving it up for when they did arrive.

I thought it ironic that here, a place that had parties four days of the week, I met my own loneliness. I thought that I could escape it by transplanting myself sixty miles from home. I had literally come to the end of the earth, and there was nowhere to go.  

A runner jogged past the row of trees, abruptly stopping to tie his shoe in the gravel.
It reminded me of the mornings I would wake myself early, and begin my long runs on the misty beach. I hated it. But I had to. It was my master, and in its hands self-acceptance. Victory, relief and despair were faithfully waiting to meet me at every run, for I knew the appetite for the addiction of exercise would wake me up the next day, famished, waiting to be fed.

The runner impatiently finished his shoe and cut through the trees to the grass fields. It reminded me of the disgusting abandoned beige couch I triumphantly discovered on a warm September afternoon as I walked to Devereux Beach. I would look perfect in our front yard, just like all the other house on the main street of Del Playa. I had been seduced by the laid back attitude of the neighborhood, and hadn’t yet realized that having a couch as landscaping was a faux pas to normal human beings.

My legs began to grow tired of standing, and I felt it was time to go back inside. Wasn’t I the same person who arrived a year earlier? Why had I come here? Was this a waste of time and money, and maybe even self-respect? I suddenly realized that the most valuable things weren’t sociology or chemistry class, but the unique experiences that college enabled me to have. College itself had actually been the crash course in life, the classes being the background music. The difficult experiences had been the furnace, bringing up the dross of my weaknesses, and revealing the purity of my character. Yes, I am one of the “lucky” ones who actually uses her degree in real life, but I find that it was the experiences that actually educated me.


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