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There is a man. He is walking toward me on a long dark path. He could be young or old. It might be a woman. We will pass each other and we will not speak. And the path will still be long and dark.

Let’s go to the rose garden and not take a single picture. We’ll weave past the smart-phone-slingers and we’ll run, colors blurring until there are no colors; until there is every color. The roses — don’t touch them, just smell them, and try to remember the exact shade of pink that no camera could capture anyway.

Death might surely be coming for us soon. And we’ll lie in our beds surrounded by all of the plastic containers we’ve emptied in our lifetimes. Our vision will blur at the edges like it did we when were running past the roses in the garden; we’ll see every color — we’ve seen every color, while we’ve been running — and then we will see nothing.

On the long walk home from the garden, we’ll walk into the city center, and through. The lights will glare down on us, from every angle and corner, every color that neon comes in. The lights they flicker, and drop, and loop, and blink. The signs they politely and shyly and cunningly ask you for every penny you have — every 99 cents. And we will give them most of everything we have, we will leave it all here: some of it drops from us as we run, some we left quietly with that man we never spoke to on the dark park path, some leaves from our eyes as we smile at little dogs and little children and at strangers’ backs as they hold hands with other strangers that they love.

In August, one sign reads, the roses will droop and their petals will fall to the ground. The pinks and reds and purples and yellows will all fade to brown, the same color, the same shade. They will be swept up — this is a tidy city, after all — and dumped into a clear plastic garbage bag and left at the same street corner as the convenience store you bought a candy bar from two weeks ago. Brown and brown and brown, buried unnaturally in the earth. Us, too.

Two dogs are sniffing at each other on the walking path. One is white, a tiny fluffy creature, the other black, with short hair, also small. Their owners smile politely at each other, earbuds in, tugging on their leashes. They do not want to say hello, unlike their dogs, even though they are the ones that are able, and they would very much appreciate if their furry companions would ignore every other living creature around them, as they do. And eventually, I’m sure, the two small dogs were pulled away, but I did not stay to watch it, and you do not, either. We walk away. We do not smile when they can see us. We do not speak.

It is hot, tonight. It will be hot all week. The sun will shine down on us and on the pink roses in the rose garden in the park. The bright light will burn the corners of the flower petals; bleach them, turn them a shade lighter than before. No one will take pictures of the roses by the end of July; they will no longer be beautiful enough for Instagram; no amount of photo editing could bring back that shade of pink; there will be no more selfies.

When we reach our home, we will jog up the flights of stairs to our apartments. We will close the door behind us and enter a dark space. Lying on our beds in silence, we will close our eyes, think of the pink we’ve seen, of all the pink we’ve seen, of all the colors. We will think of the old man on the walking path, the one who we never really saw. We will think of the tiny dogs that wanted to be friends. We will think of all the people who do not see the roses, only take pictures of them. We will try to picture the exact shade of pink on those pink roses in the rose garden in the park. We won’t be able to, and the color won’t be the same tomorrow, when we go back. The sun will have been shining down, the color lost, the day over, gone, wasted.  What a waste of a rose garden, you are. We are, us happy snap-backed photo snappers. We tiny dog owners. We tiny home owners. Tiny life livers.

Tomorrow night we will all go back to the park. We will walk quietly along the cement paths. We will weave around those who walk slower than us; let faster walkers pass. We will march in a small, green and flowery parade, fancy tennis shoes squeaking under bright lights. The roses in the rose garden in the park will be there, too. And the small dogs. And the strangers who will stay strangers. And we will march and then march home. And we will close our eyes and everything will go dark.

I see two women walking together on the side of the road as I drive past, and I wonder if the woman waving her hands is talking and talking and talking too much, and if the other woman is regretting inviting her friend to exercise with her on this chilly late summer afternoon, since that’s what she really wanted to do, exercise, not walk slower than she normally would and listen to all of her friend’s  updated life struggles. “My cat just won’t stop staring out the window,” I imagine her saying, waving her arms as she walks, pretending that she wants to exercise, too.

And now the women are in my rearview mirror, I can look back and see them, and see the leaves turning orange or brown on the trees they walk under.

People are already complaining about the cold, about how it’s almost fall and the weather is colder than it was a month ago, and I think about how this always happens, every year, everything. Hot in the summer, cool in the fall, cold in the winter, with snow, and the same fetching of the dusty snow shovel from the basement.

I look in my rearview mirror at the beautiful orange leaves and I think about how I’ve seen this all before, seen those women before, or women like them, had those same experiences, talked about that same cat, seen those same leaves change from green to orange to brown, raked them into piles and jumped in them, or left the piles to rot. Again and again, year after year.

“It’s so cold!” she says, another faceless woman in my mind, pulling on the sweater she hasn’t worn in nine months.

Winter will come. Snow will fall. Salt trucks will melt it away, or try, or make ice patches that are worse than the snow was.

Again, again, of course. And of course the people will go on, dealing with seeing their breath in the air on cold winter mornings, plowing through snow drifts and piles of paperwork and gallons of hot coffee. What else can they do?

So there I was, wandering around in a slightly unfamiliar building on campus, searching for a lady I was supposed to be meeting. (Spoiler Alert: She had forgotten about the meeting and was already at home with her children as I circled the first floor, searching for her – someone I had never met or seen before.)

She was late. Or, was I in the wrong spot? I thought we said we were meeting at the chairs in the front lobby. But, maybe to her, the front lobby is what to me is the back lobby.

I wandered around. I went to the back of the building. There was a lady sitting there, who looked like she could be who I was looking for. I still had my doubts, though. We said the front lobby, right by those squishy chairs! She must be talking about the same place as I am. Maybe she’s just late.

I walk past the lady sitting in the chair. No, that can’t be her. My eyes search among the other people sitting around the high tables and chairs of the school’s cafe. I make eye contact with a black-haired boy sitting against the windowed-wall.

I don’t look away. He doesn’t look away. It feels like I know him, though I don’t know him. He looks at me like he understands. It doesn’t feel like I am looking at a stranger, though I am. I could walk over to him and it wouldn’t be weird. Instead, I walk away.

I go back to the front of the building. No one new there, only a few high school students still waiting for their parents to come and pick them up. (Yes, there is a high school inside of my University. It’s where I graduated from.)

I check the clock on my phone. She’s almost 15 minutes late now. How long should I wait? Maybe she actually forgot.

I check my email. Nothing. Where is she? I wonder how much longer I should wait for her. I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever – 25 minutes. How much time does she need?

I wait. My mind wanders to that boy. I should have went up to him. I should have said hello. I should have asked him if he felt the same way – if he felt like I wasn’t a stranger, though I was.

I wander around the front lobby, as if changing the location of my body, and my line of sight, will make the woman I’m waiting for suddenly appear. It doesn’t work.

I decide that I need to double check that that woman sitting in the back lobby isn’t actually the lady I’ve been searching for all along – I’m trying to be professional, here. I don’t want to leave without making sure. I don’t want to leave her sitting there, waiting for me.

I walk back around to the area where she’s sitting. I walk in the same direction around as I did before, intentionally avoiding the place where the black-haired boy was sitting.

The woman is still there, sitting, reading something in a folder. This could be her, I think.

I walk up to her, a stranger. She looks up at me as I approach.

Are you M.?, I ask. No, she says. Sorry, I say. No problem, she says, and smiles.

I walk back to the front, passing the boy again. We look at each other. I do nothing. I walk away.

Back in the front lobby, I’m about ready to leave, though I still have some hope that the lady I’m looking for will appear.

She doesn’t.

I leave.

I exit the building out of the back door. The boy is still there, watching me. I ignore him. I can’t do anything else.

As the door closes behind me, I think of him. Who is he? Why is it so easy to look him in the eye? That doesn’t happen very often. Why didn’t I say anything? Of course I didn’t say anything.

Later, I wonder. Our eyes keep meeting in my mind. I remember only his black hair, and his eyes, and how he looked at me, and how I felt. I remember how he was sitting alone in the cafe near the window. I wonder who he is, where he is now. I wonder what would have happened if I had been brave enough, or curious enough, to walk up to him. A stranger. A stranger who didn’t feel like a stranger. A stranger with the eyes of a friend.

I’ve fallen in love in California.

His name is … frozen yogurt.

Yes, it’s true, I’ve found a new love. It is either very good or very bad that there are no frozen yogurt shops where I live. Both, I guess.

Yesterday we drove from LA to San Francisco.

The end.

Really, the drive took 6 hours, and it took another hour to find our hotel. So by the time we got settled in, it was getting late, and cold, in our new town.

But since we were starving, as per usual, we went out in search of chow – and got our first pedestrian glimpse of San Fran.

The first thing I noticed were the buildings. They’re small, compared to the buildings of LA, and cramped closely together – packed in tight on the hilly roads that are found here. They are beautiful – they look old, at least by big-city standards. The hotel we’re staying in here in San Fran is one of these buildings, and I can tell from the way it’s built that it’s definitely not a modern building. I think these structures give San Francisco a certain charm – and because of them I fell in love with the city a little bit as soon as I stepped foot into it.

I noticed the people of San Fran next. There were a lot of them – locals and tourists. I can always spot a local, no matter what city I find myself in. They have a certain look about them. They dress like they know what they’re doing. They know where they’re going and they plan to get there. The tourists here are similar to those found in other parts of California that I’ve seen – although here they’ve brought out their sweaters and long pants. Oh, did I mention – it’s cold here!

I guess I forgot that during our 6-hour drive, we were headed north. Northern California is cold, you guys! I am so glad I packed one pair of jeans and one sweater! Without them, I don’t think I’d make it here…

But, more about the people.

For some reason, I couldn’t figure this crowd out right away. Like, in LA, I felt like I understood them, like I knew how to blend in and make my way around. But here, even if I hadn’t had a bright-red sunburnt face, I felt like an outsider.

Suddenly, I didn’t know how to function. Walking down the road, I wondered, “Do I make eye contact? Do I stare at the ground? Do I smile? What do I do?”

I guess the etiquette here just seems different than LA – and it probably is. While still a big city, San Francisco is very different than Los Angeles.

Hopefully I’ll pick it up tomorrow as we explore the town.

Oh, and I almost forgot the good part!

We had Pizza Hut for dinner.

It is amazing how wonderful it feels carrying food “home” after not eating all day, and knowing that soon you will have a full belly.

And that is a fact I’m sure all San Franciscans can agree with. Yeah? See, I’m beginning to understand you already!