Berkeley, Aug. 13

What I write now is very difficult, painful even.

Yesterday, as J and I sat awaiting our train into the city, a man stepped off the opposite platform and was run over by the oncoming train.

There was yelling and the blaring of the train horn, but I knew, just knew, when I saw the yelling man turn his head away with a shake, that it had been too late.

I instinctively rose from my seat and was drawn to the stopped train, trying to find a way to help, to stop what was happening. I was shaking all over as I asked the train’s driver if he was okay. He nodded, resigned, but had his procedures to undergo and I stepped away to leave him to it.

J tried to pull me away, but I wouldn’t have it. In my mind, I hoped I’d been wrong or that maybe it wasn’t a man, but a rat instead that someone saw or, though awful still, perhaps a bird or dog. I was assured by the man who had tried to stop the train that it was certainly the worst.

And then our train to the city arrived and we stumbled aboard, stunned and at a loss of what to do otherwise. I leaned into J’s neck and quietly began to sob uncontrollably, uncaring who saw me or found me odd for doing so. It had all happened in a matter of two minutes at most. Just like that.

A strong gin and tonic awaited me once we arrived at the symphony, along with the unexpected news that the suicide attempt had been unsuccessful. There would be relief, but for that long train ride, I felt all too keenly what that man had done. Had tried to do.

He is a 65 year old man who left his cane on the platform, rolled off the side, then lay down in the center of the train tracks, where the train ultimately trapped, but avoided killing him.

I’ve never felt such relief in someone’s hopes being dashed.

Berkeley, Aug. 8

My grandfather, once he’d retired, used to wait on the front steps for my grandmother to come home from her factory job at the honey bee company. There, she would magic the honey and beeswax into candies, candles, soaps, and the like for an unidentified yearning marketplace. While he retired and spent his days alone, she kept working for a number of years after.

So he’d sit, waiting for her car to pull around the bend in the neighborhood. Loyal, like a puppy.

It was one of those late summer evenings that takes on a golden tinge, framed by overladen trees and branches, a lingering warm breeze, and a slight hum of insects that somehow never seem to pester in memory.

The steps were concrete and just wide enough for me to sit beside him while visiting that summer. We chatted about now forgotten things, and he passed the time by relocating ants that came his way. He seemed boyish in his impatience for my grandmother’s return, doting in his insistence upon watching the drive for her car.

Nostalgic, now I’m the impatient devoted one, waiting on my own front steps.

Berkeley, July 19

I mailed my letter to David Sedaris today. Actually, it’s still sitting in the mailbox and I second-guessed myself and about went and stole it back out. It would really be something if he wrote back!

Just before sealing the envelope, I enclosed a feather from one of the parrots, adding a postscript, “Juliette made you a pen.” He likes quirky. Will he take it that way? Enough to reply?

On the way home on BART later this evening there was a black gentleman on his phone bitching about his sister-in-law. He said he wished he could simply say to her, “Love yourself. Love your chocolate self.”

How delicious a sentiment.