5.31.2006

she will be loved

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I hear the alarm go off, softly filling my room with music. For a moment, I want to believe it isn't real. Please just be a dream, please let it all just be a dream. I sit up drenched in a cold sweat, resulting from a weary and restless sleep. I turn around and stare at myself in the mirror. My eyes are bloodshot and swollen from hours and hours of crying. My stomach lurches as the reality of it all hits me hard, and the tears begin to flow once again.

She's gone.

I remember a chance meeting a few weeks ago in Davis. I was with my sister and my mother, huddling in the corner of a crowded take-out restaurant trying to find enough elbow room to eat our food somewhat comfortably. I was facing the back of the restaurant, and as I took a bite of my chicken sandwich, I saw my sister's face light up and felt an arm wrap around me. I turned, and seeing no one at eye level, I quickly readjusted my focus downward and made eye contact with one of my dearest friends from my adolescent years. Simply being in her presence made me feel happier than I had in weeks, when the post-collegiate depression had wrapped itself tightly around me and refused to let go. The first thing she did was congratulate me on graduating from Berkeley, even though it had happened months ago, and apologized once again for not being able to go to my graduation party. I laughed it off and told her we would make it up in a few weeks' time, when she graduated from Davis. She talked to my sister about life as a Freshman and left a few words of advice. She asked my mother how she was doing and told her that it was so nice to see her again, after all these years. She hugged me tightly once again and said we'd catch up when she came home for the summer. And then she was gone, leaving an aura of positive energy in her wake.

It was always like that with Angelina. You always felt more comfortable, more at ease, and safer when you were around her. The feelings of love and generosity emanated from her in waves, affecting everyone she came in contact with. My friends and I were convinced that she would one day change the world. And in her absence, we see now that she has.

She led by example, following her heart and pursuing her dreams with incredible passion and vigor. She laughed effortlessly and loved fully. She displayed a compassion towards others strong enough to move people into action. So much of her is imprinted upon the lives of others by her character, good nature, and capacity for love. I feel privileged to have the honor of calling her my friend.

Ang, imagining my days ahead without you is like thrusting myself into a living nightmare. I'm sorry for not saying all the things I could have and for not keeping all the promises I said I would. Life is most unfair to those who deserve it least. And that tears my heart to pieces.

I will keep the memories of you close to my heart. I think of my years spent with you and am reminded that our days are too short to waste away trying to live up to someone else's expectations. I'll smile at more people. I'll laugh more often. I'll be more affectionate. I'll tell the people I care about that I love them because I need to know it just as much as they do. I'll let go of my anger and frustration and resentment to make room for forgiveness and compassion, as you so easily did during your time on this earth.

Te amo, Bajita Suave, forever and ever. May you rest in peace till we meet again.


Angelina Malfitano // 12.12.83 - 05.30.06

5.29.2006

we've said goodbye too many times before

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We performed the obligatory round of goodbye hugs, and as I wrapped my arms around her, I wondered how much truth was in our words. Best wishes for a memorable summer and promises to reconnect upon her return in the fall. I smiled at her and couldn't help but notice the look of sorrow in her eyes. Though we may have said it, our hearts did not agree. It is likely we may never speak again.

...

I held him tight and forced myself not to say goodbye. Doing so would close the door to opportunities that lay yet undiscovered in our future. Some of my longest standing friendships have survived distances greater than the one that will soon be created between us. I stood in the darkness on my driveway hoping this would become one of those friendships.

"See you soon," I told him. And it really is the truth.

...

I never intended to say goodbye. I have trouble with words in situations like these and with people like you. Please understand that what I really mean to say is that I think you're amazing and you make every day a Something New Sunday for me.

I miss hearing the way you say my name.

...

You left without a trace. What am I supposed to think or feel? I'm disappointed. Angry. Betrayed. I remember when all this was new and uncharted, when experience didn't affect our expectations. We'd laugh over silly things, bond over hardship, wonder where the days ahead would take us.

What happened to you?

Don't think about me or him or her or us. We're certainly not thinking about you.

...

I once had a friend with whom I shared everything: wins, woes, loves, and losses. The inside jokes were endless, and partying on a week night was never a problem as long as we had each other's company. And then this friend embarked on a nine-month journey around the globe to explore and acquire knowledge about the world we live in. The physical and temporal distance created between us shattered our friendship, leaving our relationship unrecognizable in the end. It was a sad thing to say goodbye to something that was once so wonderful.

BFF, please promise that we won't end up that way. You mean too much to me.

...

These past couple days without you around have been harder than I thought they would be. I've heard from others that we're inseparable, but I guess I couldn't really believe it until you were gone. There's no one to laugh at my jokes, no one to tell the jerks to fuck off, no one to ogle at all the dogs with, no one to call just because, no one to tell me he loves me when I feel like the rest of the world could care less. I feel like you're the brother I never had. The knowledge of your soon-to-come departure tears my heart to pieces. What will I do when September ends?

Though your days begin in the east, you will always find your way back west, to a place you can call home.

5.19.2006

closure

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Damn, that radio is loud. WTF...

Off. Blink. 5:45AM.

Snooze it is.

Wait. What day is it? Friday. Fuck. Up, up, up. No - sleeep. Why did I drink last night?

Friday. Fuck. It's graduation.

//

With the weight of all that had happened the night before - feeble attempts to reconnect with a not-so-distant past fueled by liquid courage and the shocking realization that you can't always count on the ones you expect to count on most - the last thing I wanted to do was attend my graduation. I had already done it before. Was it really all that necessary to do it again? I checked my phone and received a message from my mom, who informed me that she was already on her way to my apartment with my dad. At this point, there was no turning back.

So went the usual morning prep routine, hardly differing from my typical Monday to Friday, with the exception of having to wake up an hour earlier than I do for work and having to adapt my hair style to accommodate a mortarboard. Mom and Dad arrived without the excitement that accompanied their presence at my commencement in December, but they were happy, nonetheless. We drove to the Greek Theatre, making small chat on the way, catching up on the past week's events and contemplating where we would partake in the requisite celebratory lunch following the ceremony.

My parents dropped me off at the Greek, and I hurried up the sloping pathway to the staging area, where hundreds of graduates were eagerly awaiting the start of the ceremony. I searched the crowds for Tanya, my former roommate and one of the four people I actually knew by acquaintance - and the only one I would consider giving the title of "friend" to - at the graduation. We filed in line with all the other American Studies majors and, shortly afterwards, made our way into the seating area.

The Greek was filled with the cacophonous sounds of celebration: screams, chants, banging of pots and pans. Looking around me, I saw fellow graduates beaming up at their families and friends, adorned with leis of good fortune and prosperity. I smiled politely at the audience, knowing full well that I would never find my parents within the crowd of thousands, but looking pleasant just the same, in case they spotted me and wanted to take a picture.

We sat and listened to countless speeches, none of which particularly caught my attention. Not because of their subject matter but, rather, because I felt like I didn't really belong at the ceremony. I was not a member of the Class of 2006, and the feeling of celebration was beyond me. I had no thesis to endure, no finals to study for. That was done and over with months ago. I was sitting in a crowd of nameless faces, all of whom had striven for the past four and a half months to occupy those folding chairs on the floor of the Greek Theatre. What was I doing there, really?

It was then that the student speaker was introduced. She spoke to us about the difference between mechanical time, that which can be calculated in precise seconds, minutes, and hours, and body time, which regulates itself by the beating of one's own heart. While mechanical time forges onward without regard to our wills and wants and can so easily escape our grasp, body time moves with us, providing us with the moments we need to live and enjoy life to the fullest. It does not necessarily fit within the confines of convention, something that can easily be related to the undergraduates of the Interdisciplinary Studies fields, who search for an education that encompasses and incorporates multiple subject matters rather than focusing solely on one field of education. Body time is flexible, accounting for rigid itineraries that fall to pieces to accommodate serendipitous road stops that happen on a long journey and spontaneous decisions to toss aside responsibility for the sake of sanity. This is how life is truly measured - in the moments that catch you by surprise and change your world forever.

Listening to her speak, I finally understood what it meant to graduate with a degree from UC Berkeley. I am counted among the educated and I am privileged because of it. But the three and a half years I spent at one of the world's most prestigious institutions did more than just to teach me about our society, political environment, and culture. In fact, much of the knowledge I acquired during my college career did not come from the classroom. I learned about integrity from peers who held true to their beliefs despite temptation and intimidation. I was surrounded by people fueled by passion who encouraged me to find meaning in all that I did. I learned that the smallest gesture can change a life and enough of those combined can change the world. Most importantly, I learned about compassion and the capabilities of people to care for one another and the communities they live in.

I realized that for me, this ceremony was not intended as a graduation. That had already happened months ago. This formal procedure marking the transition from one point to the next served as a more personal milestone, bringing the closure that I was so desperately searching for in the months proceeding the end of my college education. It helped to give meaning to my experience, which I had previously felt was undefined and empty. Being reminded that the moments of so-called distraction were just as important and informative as those devoted to study and higher learning made me recognize and feel proud of everything I had done and accomplished. As I moved my tassel from the right to the left, I felt the release of all the resentment and sadness that kept me upset over the last few months. It was nice to finally feel that I could move on.

Fiat Lux.

5.08.2006

goodbye love

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The trouble with anticipation is that it occasionally strips an actual event of its meaning. You expect things to go one way, building hope and hype around the moments that precede your long-awaited happening, and usually, things end in disappointment. But sometimes, they end just the way they should have.

//

The closing night of my last concert with AiR probably should have fallen to pieces. Our entire group did not arrive until one hour after the scheduled call time. Shortly after, people went missing for no apparent reason. We did not polish. We did not rehearse. We did not have ushers to sell tickets. We were sick, we were tired, we were grumpy. I had tears in my eyes for all the wrong reasons. A brief argument over nothing at all left me so unnerved, I could not deliver the pre-concert speech I had prepared for months in anticipation of my departure. I began the show feeling worse than I had in a long time and resentful that my last AiR concert had to be like this. Regardless, the show had to go on.

I went through the motions, mentally berating myself for not soaking in and enjoying every passing moment. I blanked out on a part I had so desperately wanted to sing to embellish one of my favorite songs and felt terrible as the applause begin, sustained, and subsided. I remember having to force myself to smile while on stage, something I have rarely done in the 15 years I have been performing. Why did it have to come to this?

When the time came to show the AiR Documentary, which I had worked tirelessly on for the week prior to the show, I tucked myself away into the room off the stage to work the computer and projector as the rest of AiR sat in the audience and enjoyed the product of my labor. Admittedly, I was bitter. I did not get to view the documentary I had worked so hard on either night of the show, except for on the 17-inch screen of my laptop computer, which paled in comparison to the projected image put on display in 145 Dwinelle. Everything, at that very moment, seemed so unfair.

But as the images flickered and seconds ticked their way to the end, nostalgia found its way into my heart. The audience laughed and sighed during the 12-minute synopsis of the year that brought us to this end, and I felt sorry for all that they were missing. 12 minutes can do no justice for the year we spent together. Granted, not all of it was good. There were many things I wish had happened differently. But in the end, you take the good with the bad because you know that though it wasn't perfect, it's better because it was real.

The show continued in a blur, but my spirits had definitely been lifted. I took my final bow, posed for countless pictures, thanked my family and friends for attending. I cleared the back stage area, double checked the aisles, and helped sort supplies out for packing into cars. While all of AiR departed to load up a car parked in the back of Dwinelle, I sat in the lobby, propped up against our ticket-selling table, empty handed and alone. Peering to my left, I caught sight of three bouquets of flowers, lovingly given to departing members in gratitude for all they had done. And it was then that I actually let myself believe that the end had come. I cried in silence, wiping the last of my tears away just in time to see my fellow newly-initiated AiR alumni come bounding down the hallway, ready to celebrate the closing of a show one last time.

It truly is the end of an era.

5.05.2006

opening night

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So much has happened in the past week that has managed to downplay my final concert with AiR.

//

AOII Rose Ball, Saturday night. I had debated for days on whether to go or not and was finally convinced that I must certainly attend what would have been my last Rose Ball as a senior had I not decided to graduate a semester early. It was not how I had expected it to be, for good and for bad. Lots of dancing. Too much drinking. Sweet pictures with friends. Mental breakdown on the bus ride home. Thai brunch the next morning to rejuvenate my deadened senses.


Brian convinced me to go


Me and my Pi Family

That was one hell of a last hurrah.

...

Sunday afternoon, I was introduced to this guy named Joe. Joe is a friend of a friend of a sorority sister's boyfriend. Joe lives in Berkeley, is graduating with a degree in Integrative Biology, and will be working in the campus labs for the next year. Joe calls Redwood City, California, home, and enjoys watching sports and listening to an eclectic range of music.

Joe is also my new roommate.

Joe, Ratha, and I reconvened Monday evening, a mere 26 hours after having met our third roommate, to view and apply for our soon-to-be home in Oakland. Situated a block and a half away from Fenton's Creamery on Piedmont Avenue, this place is more wonderful than I could have ever imagined for a first-time apartment adventure. It is the lower unit of a duplex and in pristine condition. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a fireplace, and a back patio with roof access, connecting us to the upper unit, occupied by Haley (an AOII like me and Ratha), her boyfriend Matt (who introduced us to Joe, the current roommate of a friend of his he likes to work out with), and Pete, Matt's partner for Ortego, the entrepreneurial health food company they are running out of office unit located above their apartment on the roof level. Coincidentally, Matt and Pete had hired Rafi to do some consulting for their business in its infant stages. Funny, the way networking can work.

Two days after we submitted our application, we were approved to move in on May 8. I signed the contract last night, put in my porition of the deposit, and am now just waiting to receive the keys to my new humble abode. "Excited" does not even begin to describe the way I'm feeling. I will no longer have to put countless miles on my baby Rav4 (which I officially have named Lucy) in order to be where my life is.

I'll be sporadically dropping off stuff at my new place throughout the week, and I'm finishing up next weekend when Cathy is in town and can help me make decisions regarding interior decorating. Anyone else want to join in on the fun?

...

In case you see me and I look like I got hit in the face with a baseball bat, be aware that it's just my seasonal allergies taking over and kicking my ass. There's no need for worry, but compassion would be greatly appreciated.

...

I didn't want my last rehearsal to be like that. Absenteeism, tardiness, yelling, storming away in tears. But you know what they say: bad last rehearsal, good opening night. God, I hope they're right. Whoever "they" is.

AiR Spring Show opens tonight. Antics abound. Tears are likely. Fun times guaranteed.