Lately I’ve been remembering the obvious: that there are multiple dimensions, here in this universe, and time is one of them. That we are not just moving in space but also in time. I am not just on this Southwest flight from Chicago-Midway to San Francisco, sitting next to a large man who has taken over my left armrest while I rest my head against the cool plastic of the wall near the window and wait for my Jack Daniels with ginger ale to arrive. But time is moving too, forward every second.
I went to San Francisco last weekend and stayed with my friend Alex. I met her in Guatemala at the writing workshop I took in February. She’s a British-Jamaican woman (maybe 60?) who speaks such breathless and British-accented enthusiasm that everything sounds like an adventure. Everything is fantastic. Fantastic! Her house overlooks the bay, so I woke up to sparkling water and hazy hills. My friend Becky — also from the writing workshop — showed up that afternoon, and we worked through Alex’s book of personality tests and gossiped and sipped milky sweet tea. That night I met up with Justin, a friend from my first-ever out-of-college job, when I worked at a nonprofit in Washington DC. We played tabletop shuffleboard at Sausalito’s only “working class bar” and drank through two pitchers, and pretty soon I was positive I was born to play shuffleboard, if for no other reason than the magic of watching heavy metal disks hover on crystals of salt.
The next day I took the bus to Glide, a non-denominational church that is also an entertainment supercomplex for the soul. (Very sort of San Francisco, Alex said.) It was Easter morning, and the line snaked around the block, the most diverse crowd I’d ever seen waiting for any anything. Black, white, hipster, homeless, pastel frocks and lacy hats, big sunglasses and bright sneakers, wisecracking with brunch friends, calming new babies. Justin and his girlfriend Katie joined me in line. Every few minutes I’d look around for Raluca, who was meeting me here too.
Raluca was my mentor teacher during the dusty, pained summer I spent in L.A., teaching ESL middle school, during Summer Institute (aka the insane bootcamp meant to prepare new corps members for Teach for America). Justin, Katie and I had found cramped seats in the muggy balcony by the time Raluca arrived. Just as the jazz/gospel/funk/loud-crazy of the band and choir began, I saw Raluca pick her way down the crowded aisle to us, long white-blonde hair flowing behind her, she was already dancing.
After the service Raluca and I wandered through a sunny farmer’s market, snacking on sweet dates from a paper bag and catching up. And at the airport that night, a whirlwind trip gone by, I had time to think about all of this for a second, this time-place mashup that had just happened: Alex and Becky from the blissed-out lake where I woke with the sun and wrote all day. Justin from the chaos of being 23 and at my first (disfunctional) job. Raluca from the sleepless summer of teaching. The blue carpet (Presidential Blue) in my office in D.C., the pinkish choking dust of the school in L.A; the zillion stone steps through the lush garden to Becky’s little treehouse. How the choir hit that last high note, the crowd murmered and hushed, and we all crunched in closer on the wooden pews, to sit down.