Pacific golden-plover in the sand, I sit on the shore of Lake Anza and laugh. Playing cards with Aidan on a rock and pretending that the birds we see sing in A minor, we debate on whether or not we want to swim when the signs warn us of toxic algae in the water. The heart of the matter is in the beating strobe of a pulse in our veins, the wine that we drink on the grassy knoll a few meters away.
Aidan tells me to write about birds, and I think of the times that we walk around the water and find a stellers jay (apparently they’re quite common here). He shows me what they look like through $130 binoculars. When we run down the street holding hands, we giggle and skip, childlike—but the second that someone rounds the corner, he says, “Oh no, I can’t” and promptly drops my hand in some feigned disgust. I laugh, walk over to my partner, and continue to hold hands with a warm body and its chuckle.
The pacific-golden plover in the sand still sits there some days in the wintertime, so I wonder if the time that (I thought) I saw it in the summer was a fluke. I ask to drive up to see it every once in a while and am disappointed when I never lay eyes on the specific frame of the bird. Small, somewhat unassuming. When there’s a flock of them, I try to join in some naive sense of the word friend and then end up on the edge of the beach, too nervous to scare away their trepidatious little bodies.
Driving to Lake Anza is, indubitably, hard. The roads are windy, the wind is loud, the car seems to choke on the uphill climb. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to fly, and then I remember that I am unfortunately not a plover and cannot (to my dismay) grow feathers at some point of development, feel the down on my shoulders, and then aerodynamically glide across the overhead space. I look through the sunroof, envious.
I don’t particularly like driving, and so especially on trips to Lake Anza, I ask my partner to drive me, and Aidan asks if he can come along. He can, of course, and I clear the backseat so that he can find plants at estate sales and rub their dirt all over the velour. The three of us laugh as we walk around the lake, sometimes invite a few other friends and laugh even harder. We buckle in and cram our lanky limbs into a five-seater and head off in the morning sun, returning at noontime with full hearts and inebriated tongues.
Stars in the nighttime seem especially apparent on Aidan’s balcony, and sometimes I think that living in a co-op is somewhat akin to the plover that I dream to be, to hold. We all migrate from here and there (many of us also from Asia, by happenstance), and we somehow end up here. “End” might be a wrong moniker for our states—everything feels so transitory, and I cannot count the number of Amtrak trips I’ve taken back home. I haven’t been home since school started, and I wonder how my pacific mother and my plover father are dealing with my golden sister. Harmoniously, we chirp into the distance and hope that we hear a response. Mom and Dad call every once in a while, and we talk about going back to Indonesia in the abstract. We dance in the light of another moon, and another month passes, and we dance again.
Aidan tells me that I should stay for Thanksgiving, says that he and the rest of my housemates will cook a vegan feast and, though I’m not vegan, I must admit that I appreciate the smell of warm spice and maybe even a slice of pumpkin pie. They talk about stuffing and mac ‘n’ cheese. They talk about cookies, caramel, an endless stream of lattes.
Lake Anza at this time of the year (fall) is more serene than it was that one summer afternoon when we were playing cards, and I think of that specific jaunt as being particularly fruitful—not simply because we ate a lot of blackberries during our picnic.
We try to leave the house as little as possible now, save for an occasional walk. I remember one summer afternoon when I was home, taking Mom on a walk and having her extoll the step count to me, saying we were walking too much, and I thought about the three-hour walk I took to Grizzly Peak and laugh a little bit, thinking of the Berkeley fog becoming particularly aggressive in the coming months. The view from up there feels like the upward bound of scenic landscapes.
But the house—relatively self-contained, we even get groceries delivered to our door. Aidan and I spend most of our days in the living room studying. Every once in a while, he’ll take a quick break to play the piano or the guitar, and I laugh when he makes mistakes. When I notice them, at least, which doesn’t happen particularly often. I live, eat, study, breathe, play, sing, scream, talk in the confines of however many walls line the perimeter of this co-op.
Every once in a while, we take a weekend. The other weekend we went to Half Moon Bay and took a walk on the shoreline. I kept wishing that I would see that pacific-golden plover again. I never did that day, but the memory of it chirping in the distance was enough to make me think about the hard stop between summer and fall.
The summer is driving, the summer is sitting in cars and texting Aidan and having him say that we need to go to Mount Diablo or the Asian grocery store so that he can buy some good kimchi. Fall feels more like a sedentary quiet kind of sweetness in the mouth, like a scoop of ice cream in a mug, maybe with an espresso shot in the evening when we’re feeling frisky.
Mom and Dad say that they miss me, but I haven’t talked to them since Dad told me that my great-uncle died. I have a car now, so maybe I might turn down Aidan’s offer for a Thanksgiving and instead drive back. I remember that car though; golden sister and I would use it every day when we went to visit the hospital last year, and we went every day, every morning. We sat by the hospital bed, watched the Great British Baking Show, and then said good night, packed up and drove back home.
On the weekdays, I would cry in my room in Berkeley. On the weekends, I would cry in my room in Elk Grove. I didn’t like going anywhere in that specific car afterward, didn’t want to be in that silver Toyota Camry anymore. Eventually, Mom and Dad gave me the car, and I went to Lake Anza with Aidan in the backseat. He cracks jokes without a smile, so I feel confused looking in the rear view mirror. I want him to laugh, to say in an offhand fashion that the star of the morning is the sunrise. I want him to hand me his $130 binoculars and say that the pacific golden plover migrates back every winter. Maybe I’ll see it this year.