Part II of That One Time I Took 3 Days Off of Work And Sprinted Up For Santa Cruz (aka I recommend you first reading the post below this, but you do you, boo boo)
“Yes, yes, do get back to your art,” he ushered, and we hugged tightly and quickly, as genuine acquaintances do. I turned to walk back to the wooden table where my laptop sat open. Then I heard, “And also—”
I turned to look back at I Forgot What His Name Was But He Had Once Been in A Literature Course of Mine. We were standing in the center-most space of one of my favorite Santa Cruz coffeeshops, covered in the sunshine that bore in from the completely-windowed left side. He stood there, still the middle, holding his coffee and 2 books…looking untouched by time, as if we both could be heading for the bus station to sit in Humanities for section together.
He smiled softly. “Welcome home.”
I smiled, and I felt—more than saw—how he knew I melted at his words. I Forgot What His Name Was But He Had Once Been in A Literature Course of Mine had volunteered once in discussion that he was a recovering alcoholic, and in frequent attendance of AA. I had a feeling his understanding eyes had been picked up somewhere along the journey; they watched me kindly now. His ice blue eyes sent “Welcome home” with all the meaning that his small smile held.
No one had put it that way since I’d arrived in Santa Cruz that weekend. They had said “Katrina, you’re in town!” I got “You’re back!” “I missed you!” “What are you doing here?” and even “Why?”…but I had never gotten “Welcome home.” Everyone was indicating that I belonged there and yet was somehow a stranger… and yet I didn’t felt like I belonged, and I didn’t feel like a stranger, either.
But someone had said “Welcome home”, someone had recognized all my This without any “you” or “I”. I was completely absent, and yet completely present in the well-wish. It was the perfect celebration of simple.
And that’s when it happened. The break from Friday evening’s ache—
It was even a zoom past Friday evening’s search for “zest”—
I fell straight into home. Straight into the word I hadn’t even known I had been looking for.
I mustered up all the depth one could apply to a quick smile and a “thank you” and took the momentum of the realization back to the table. My lattee had grown somewhat cold in the quick exchange of the Verve run-in, and yet I smiled as the luke warm temperature slipped down, running in time to the chorus in my head of welcome home, welcome home, welcome home.
It made sense to me now, why I felt so betrayed from the lack of change and yet from the lack of recognition of the city. It had been like I’d gone to my childhood home and walked around, inspecting it, all on my own. Like I’d spent the day answering the ringing phone and responding to several “Wow, you’re here!”s… and then we’d chat and I’d hang up, and go back to inspecting and aloning.
What had been missing was my mother at the door, saying “Welcome back, my love!” to ease me into realizing…it was okay to be here and still be going places.
I had needed to return here.
I had needed to return to Verve, to type.
I needed to type because I needed to express myself.
I needed to express myself because I felt a lot of…
Oh god, you’re all gonna hate me. You’re gonna think I’m so cheesy, so Katrina, but…
I needed to talk about all the Love I felt upon returning.
I needed to type about how every inhale of the ocean breeze here brought me a new memory of a dear moment I loved someone in Santa Cruz.
I can’t help it! I miss You! All the Yous I’ve ever loved!
Remember that one time You flew to Santa Cruz to surprise me, when you were supposed to fly to another state? You’d only met me twice.
Remember when we wrote letters back and forth to each other for 5 months, every day? We’d never even met, except the one time I drew a heart in the bus window for You before running off.
Remember when You bought me two of every flavor of Anderson’s soup on the shelf? I had 36 soups for far too long.
Remember when You stole me away from work to take me on a hike and a picnic? I wasn’t as in to you as I should have been.
Remember how you stole the keys to the only car in the lot to pick me up from that sketchy house? You and I had only been study partners then, even I’m surprised I’d asked for your help.
Remember when you drove your motorcycle at 3am to pick me up in the pouring rain? I wasn’t even single, then—you had no chance. You did it anyway.
Remember when You carried me after I passed out in the meadow?
Remember when Your music was playing in every coffeeshop I tried to study in? As a matter of fact, it’s playing in Verve right now.
Remember that one time You and I skipped along a Westcliff the whole way home? I thought I was going to bump my head on the sky.
Every turn in Santa Cruz bombarded me with memories—good and bad—of all the growing up I did. I couldn’t look, smell, listen, or move without touching a moment affected by my heartstrings.
Because, like our childhood homes, that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the Love we either got or didn’t get…
In that one place we spent a mini episode of forever. Because growth occurs where love is manifested and rejected; either way, it defines you.
I sat there, the metal seat warmed by the sunshine. I wish I could give You each a lifetime.
I wish I could spend a quick forever waking You up every morning with coffee. I wish I could play your music, I wish I could go to your every show. I wish I could live in the wood cabin You dream of, I wish I could give you the children you dreamt of having. I wish I could make You laugh for eternity, in the way I know You deserve. I wish I could watch You work until the day I die, I wish I could be in your photographs until I’m in the corner of your favorite photo as a mess of wrinkles and You can say “forever” as you look at it. I wish I could applaud your distances, I wish I could be bussing the tables to your dreams. I wish, I wish, I wish… I wish there was enough Me’s for all the You’s.
But there is not enough of me.
And there are far too many Yous.
But what I found on this trip was a place to feel all this affection— a safe place to Love with all the longing I have…and not hurt anyone by it.
A bubble of memories, a shelled freedom to breathe You in. The ocean breeze, the green grass, the wood of the the trees….
In a place I can cry, smirk, sigh, smile the way I need to. With You as company, just not in sight.
The way we all cry about the things we need to, I suppose, when we all finally go home. The place we can say all the things we need to say, without fear of being wrong or judged. I used to think it was wrong to feel this much.
By the time I looked up from my typing, I Forgot What His Name Was But He Had Once Been In a Literature Course of Mine had already finished his coffee and left, potentially back to his work place.
I smiled into my cold coffee, placed the wide mug down on its white china saucer with a resonating ‘clink’ of finality, and proceeded to type so.