Drifting through this old college town on the spokes of a rented bike. I cycle through Sunday conversations revolving around morning after regrets. Boys call out beer pong formations on afternoon lawns. Girls dance around fire pits and fences and anywhere there’s music. Drunks voice their insobriety in mumbles and spill their beer on porches or over each other. College entertains them all with impassable time and the feeling that the real world will never come.
Isle Vista has chosen a new architectural outfit in the years I’ve been away. Modern apartments and renovation came with their bulldozer’s and crushed the old scene into compact, space-friendly buildings wiped clean of the destructive decades of collegiate debauchery their predecessors endured. As if a face lift will remove the blotches of a party town the college tries so desperately to disown.
The two-story cop station seems eerily quiet on this summer day. The streets hold themselves together with tree tops and seaside breezes, new sidewalks put in place to help wanderers find their way home without having to navigate the bumps and potholes on the black asphalt. That house where my summer fling use to live makes me think of the cliff we stood on years ago, clothes in the dirt or lost over the edge where the waves crashed below. The moon was perfect then, a sensational back drop for kisses in the dark, casting enough shadow to hide the parts we didn’t want to show to the world. What a feeling, lost in the arms of a girl who has eyes only for you, tickling toes in summer bed sheets, a fantastic intertwining of words, playing with the sounds only a creaking bed can make.
The couches crumbling on the street remind me of a wonderful poster I purchased after graduation.
In a lifetime long past, I could have been that man. The girl’s face becomes interchangeable: black-haired Irish beauty from the summer of 06′; the girl who etched her name on my hand in South Hall with a red marker; the brunette with molten lava lips who fired up my winter nights with perpetually pulsating desire. And what ever came of those girls? A chip mark on a bedpost. A clever line in a story. A picture hiding in the box of things I try not to forget.
In the talk show of this memory I interview my former self, and ask him why he didn’t try harder in school, or why he chose English as a major, or why he let the girl walk away when all he wanted was for her to stay. He doesn’t answer the way I want him too…funny how even memories will turn on you after a time.
The old bike tunnel into campus seems familiar, lined with flyers, stickers and signs asking skateboarders not to jeopardize the flow of the bike path. Then campus opens up brilliantly, somewhat subdued by summer break, basking there in the August sunshine, bike path winding in between new and old buildings waiting for the rush of Fall quarter. Memories run rampant on this bike ride, a cavalcade of thoughts pressing into my heels as I urge the bike forward, over hills and flatlands and near the ocean on the south side of campus, where the marine biology center watches the waves rise and fall into sunrises and sunsets.
Progressively, I find sadness creep into my thought process. When I attended school here, I was living an unregulated life, streaming beer cans and late nights together, somehow managing to graduate without pushing myself to join projects and clubs that would have bolstered me into a brighter career post graduation. If I could go back and do it all again, I would have pestered more professors with questions, and written more profound papers, and would have taken it all more seriously, since I understand now how very difficult the journey into employment is. I’d have that lengthy conversation with myself, and would explain how unemployment feels like you’re a dog on a treadmill with a career dangling on a string slightly out of reach; like you’re walking barefoot on the blazing asphalt of employment so that at the end of the day all you are is a disgruntled foot. Maybe I could have inspired my former self to shoot for the moon, or to invest myself in limitless motivation so I could ride that momentum into a productive career I could be proud of.
Instead, I have faltered over unemployment bumps, buried myself under the decrepit dirt of internships and dissipating opportunities, and constantly question the meaning of life, and the ways I can captain this life ship on to a more promising course. It’s not all pessimism with me. I promise. It’s just easy to lose myself in thoughts of what could have been. I’m working on changing that mentality, to be sure. Until then, I’ll keep peddling on this rented bike, looking at the price tag I can’t afford, hoping that one day the spokes of this disgruntled life will turn into the expensive rims of a speeding car that can finally catch up with the horizon of possibility.