Wednesday, April 9, 2008

magical memories - that's what friends are for

I spent my college years at the University of California at Berkeley, otherwise known as "Cal". I met a lot of people during my college years. But the relationships I remember the best and most involve four girls.

At the time that I went to Cal, they were terribly short on dorm rooms, and freshman year, I applied for but did not get into the Cal dorms. Not knowing the area, I wasn't too thrilled about having to find an apartment, so I was glad to get a letter saying that a college down the freeway in Oakland had an empty dorm building that Cal was renting, so I applied and got into there. The first year, I took a city bus between the other college and Cal's campus. It was a little weird because I lived with a bunch of Cal students but we weren't living on Cal property, so unless you had a car, you were somewhat isolated from the nightlife on campus. The express bus only ran until about 6:30pm, and if you wanted to catch a bus after that, it went the long way, through downtown Oakland, which wasn't necessarily the best ride.

I ended up discovering that I rather liked living there, and it was easy to get in because most people either wanted to live in on-campus dorms or apartments, so I didn't have to worry about where I was going to live, and I decided to stay at that college for my entire four years at Cal. I either took the bus or hitched a ride with friends until I got a car junior year.

I talked to some of the people who lived in my dorms, but I didn't necessarily have a lot of friends. Yeah, I know, big surprise. I spent a lot of my time hanging out with people in my major. But my junior year in college, I met four girls who I would end up becoming very close to.

K and J were roommates, unknown to each other before they came to Cal. K was from Oregon, and J was from Sacramento, and they just hit it off incredibly well. M(o), who was from Southern California, had a roommate of her own, and M(a) was from the Bay Area and had her own room. I had a roommate the first semester of my freshman year but decided I didn't want to deal with that anymore, so subsequent years, I paid extra to have a single room. I became good friends with the girls, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with them, in groups and individually. There was many a night when one or two would stop by my room to say hi, and we'd end up not doing homework but just chatting. There was a common lounge with a TV, which was controlled either by whomever was in the lounge first or majority rule, whichever was more vocal. Sometimes, we decided we didn't want to deal with that, so they'd come to my room, and we'd watch the little TV that I had.

My strongest memory, though, is of the five of us sitting against the wall in the hallway outside my room, and we sat there for hours one night, laughing, joking, talking. I don't think I'd ever had a group of friends like that before, and in this setting, it wasn't about being kids anymore. We were adults now, on our own to some degree. There were ups and downs, and we were supportive of each other, but mostly, we just really had a good time together.

The following year, when I was a senior, I stayed at the dorm, but the four of them decided to move into a house together, so I would stop by and visit them there.

By the time 1989 rolled around, I was back in Southern California and working. I didn't have a radio on at work, and internet access at work wasn't as prevalent as it is now. Late in the day, I got a phone call from a friend who asked me, "Didn't you used to have friends in the Bay Area?" to which I responded, "What do you mean, 'didn't I used to'?" She then told me about the earthquake that had just occurred, which would come to be called the Loma Prieta earthquake, registering a 7.1 on the Richter Scale, destroying a large portion of the Nimitz Freeway when the double-decker freeway collapsed and even causing one section of the Bay Bridge to fall from the top deck to the bottom deck. I hung up with her and managed to get a hold of my friends, who were still living in the house together. Everyone turned out to be ok, so I was thankful for that. The parents of one of the girls had driven across the Bay Bridge about an hour prior, so it was frightening to think about what could have happened.

We kept in touch over the years, and I saw some of them periodically.

K got married, and I flew out to Washington, D.C. to attend her wedding. She later moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and had two kids. I've not met the kids, but she and her husband did graciously come out to L.A. for my wedding.

J graduated from Cal and invited me up, so I went and had a great time. Her parents threw a dinner at a local Korean restaurant, so that was my first introduction to Korean food, which I loved, and her parents and sister were the nicest people. She later got married, and I went up to Berkeley for that and then some time after that, I returned for her baby shower, postponed until after the baby was born due to complications in her pregnancy, so I was actually then able to see the baby. She and her husband later had another daughter. J and her husband also came to my wedding.

M(o) came back to Southern California after she graduated, and I saw her once or twice, but we lost touch, so I didn't invite her to my wedding.

M(a) and I remained in touch for some time. Out of the four girls, she was the one I was closest too. She was two years older than the other girls, so she was closest to my age, and she had dealt with a lot more in her life. We had a lot more in common, even dealing with some of the same problems, so we talked a lot. Her then-boyfriend lived in Los Angeles, so when she would come down to visit him, we'd usually get together for a little while. She eventually married someone else, and I went up to San Francisco for her wedding and paid another visit some time later, when her little boy was about 9 months old. Cutest little thing. Now that I think about it, he looked a lot like a current friend's nephew. She had two other children after that. She was supposed to come to my wedding, but a family emergency prevented that. We have since lost touch.

I don't know what's going on with M(o) and M(a) anymore, and my contact with K and J is solely by way of Christmas cards with catch-up letters. We're all busy with our lives, but I'll never forget the friendships that I shared with each of them during that one short year.

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