Groundhog Day

Daniel S. Wilkerson

Please note that her name has been changed and some times and dates and other details omitted without note.

From: "Eliska" 
Subject: Hello
To: "Daniel" 

Hello Daniel,

believe it or not, I am in California at the moment..
I am visiting my friend in San Francisco. 
Would you like to meet up? 
Hope you are doing well,

talk to you soon,

From: "Daniel S. Wilkerson" 
Subject: Happy Birthday!
To: "Eliska" 

Happy Birthday!


From: "Eliska" 
Subject: Re: Happy Birthday!
To: "Daniel" 

Thank you, Daniel!

I enjoyed my Birthday, I was at Bocce Cafe in North
Beach with my friends and it was very nice.

Let me know if you want to meet for lunch sometime
during the week.

To answer your question regarding my boyfriend - yes,
we are still together and I am very happy with him, so
you dont have to worry:-)

This is the article I wrote, which comes from my
experience working as an interpreter in England..

Approximately 5:20 pm, Thursday, 2 February 2006, Berkeley, California

I see her at a table, but I go to get a drink first. Moving to the end of the line I can see around her strawberry blonde hair to her face.... oh, that's not her.

They guy making the lattes is working as fast as someone can work. A Buddhist would point out that he is working too hard to enjoy his work; it looks more like desperation than flow. He makes my hot chocolate, dripping the syrup down the side of the glass. "Can I have more whipped cream all the way across the top?" He fills it. "That will be $2.40". "How much for a piece of the chocolate cake?" "$2.00" "I'll have that." He runs the knife under water before cutting it.

He rips off the receipt and throws it in a pile. "Can I have my receipt?" He hands me a long piece of paper; it has no printing on it. "That's not it." He hands me one for $4.45 that charges for a latte. "Never mind, I'll find it."....

"I never saw someone make such a big deal about a receipt. How ridiculous." "Hey, he's supposed to give me a receipt."... "Is this it?" "Yes."

A tall, broad-shouldered, buxom woman with long blonde hair walks in; she looks like a 5'10" Barbie doll. "Oh, hi Eliska." She recognizes me immediately though it has been years now; I forget how many exactly anymore.

"Where you here already?" I ask, pointing at her pink-colored juice. "Oh!" she says in that way when she is embarrassed at having done something silly. "I thought you meant the other cafe. You said a few blocks up. I went to Strada." "I said a few *storefronts* up." "Oh. Oh well."

We sit at one of the marble tables in the upper deck. "It is warm here. Warm air rises and we are also far from the door." "Yes I like it here." "We come here to do research; we were working on a paper the other day at that table." I point to the table behind her. "You were supposed to call me at 4pm, but it was 5pm when you called" I say in that sing-songy voice of a child that for some reason I use with her and that I learned from her long ago. "It took me so long to get here from Daly City." "I *told* you it would take two hours."

"I had to finish work in Daly City." Oh, no, she isn't working under some creative mis-interpretation of her visa status again is she? Last time whenever I called the INS they would give me various different answers on whether an H1-B visa status allowed her to work while awaiting response to a request for work status. "No, but this is a *student* H1-B...."

"I am working in England as a translator." "See I told you you would be good at that!" She spoke five to seven languages depending on how you count. She learned another one, Spanish, while she was with me; from just a book and then a two-week trip to Mexico. But remember the directions to the cafe we are meeting in, nope. My old car has dents in every side I think because of her. Well, they are reminders of her to me. :-)

"I am translating from England over the phone" "Oh, you are working in England from California?! That's great!" Cool; I didn't have to feel bad she was working illegally. "Yes I started working for one city council but now I work for five. There are so many gypsies from the Czech Republic in England they are desperate for translators."

"You can just translate on the phone?" "Yes, sometimes I have to do it while I am on the tram in Prague. You know I have to repeat everything they say. In America it is ok because no one understands what I am saying in Czech, but it Prague everyone does. One time I was translating for this woman who was at the doctor, at the gynecologist, and the doctor was telling her exactly what to do, you know 'lie down' and so on and I had to repeat it all exactly while I was on the tram and everyone was listening. I was so embarrassed. Sometimes I am sending the man to jail saying, you know, 'you must go back to your cell'. The criminals they are always very nice to me because they want me to translate well for them."

I have such a strong desire just to touch her a little. "Your hair is so different." I reach out to touch it and she pulls away. "Oh, I just wanted to touch your hair." The taught me in the course that if a woman will let you touch her hair she will let you kiss her. I don't want to kiss her, but it is interesting to know what the reaction means.

"Do you want some cake?" I push the chocolate cake with chocolate icing towards her. "*You* are not on a diet"; she is always on a diet but unlike most women, it works, and she looks great. She is 32 but she looks almost like she did when she was 23, that day I saw her working at Cafe Carousel on Market Street in that tight red top. That tight red top that came apart finally and that she threw away in the trash in my apartment years later we were living together. "Oh, I met you in that top" I protested. "You have to let go of things Daniel, you cannot hold on to the past." Even when we broke up and she left I kept her worn-out sandals, her hair ties, her pain-relievers and sundry medicines with instructions in Czech; I still have them though they are too old to be safe to take. Her Czech plastic bags still line the bottom of my t-shirt drawer.

"You drank everything so fast. You can have some of my juice." She pushes the pink-drink towards me. I sip it. Yuck. How could I forget? "You always did like grapefruit juice." She would go grocery shopping "for us" and only buy grapefruit juice no matter how many times I told her I didn't like it. "I am going to eat mango" she would say and buy the expensive mangos, for us, and eat them.

"Maybe we could go somewhere else. We could go to the downtown." she offers. "Let me show you my car." "Oh, you bought a new car?" Her voice goes up and down in that way that only Czech girls do. "Well, I bought it from Anna." "Oh I remember, it was blue, right?"

Walking down the street I feel light, like I don't weigh as much. Someone like her with a Masters in Art History specializing in Architecture always notices buildings: "Oh, they are building a new building.... Oh, they have painted this house here."

"Well, I'm sure you recognize this place." No one seems to be trying to follow me into the building. "You have a keyboard!" "Didn't I have that when you were here?" "No. Wow it sounds like a piano." "Yea, only $220; it is amazing. Here you can make it sound ... ", 0,2,9, "... now it sounds like a guitar." I play an arpeggio of C, F, G, C. Pretty badly.

"I only know one song; I will play it for you." "Do you want it to sound like a piano again?" "Yes." I push the grand-piano shaped button and the whole thing resets. Every machine should have a button like that; these guys are real engineers.

I stand next to her as she plays a beautiful classical piece I have never heard; better than I can anyway. I smell her faintly next to me. We have been here together so many times before for those five years, long ago now it seems. For a moment I am so happy she is just sitting here. I just want her to know how happy I am that she is alive.

"I will drive you to the BART station. If you get on at Berkeley, you have to change." "No I came by a direct train from Daly City to Richmond." "Yes, but that probably does not run at this time. Let's see." The BART website... "yea, all the trains it says you can take change at MacArthur. If I take you there you won't have to change."

I dread the process of looking for the car. "I am sure my car was right here. Ha ha! You don't change and I don't change. I still can't find my car. You meet me at the corner; I don't want to make you wanter around while I look for the car." I sprint down and around a corner; there it is. "Eliska!" She didn't go to the corner. I run back. "Here it is."

... "I thought you were taking me to Oakland?" "Actually, if I take you to Richmond it is on the same line. Then we don't have to wait in Oakland. ... Oh, I used to live in this house, with my Hungarian girlfriend. I used to walk from campus every night." "That is far." "And dangerous too."

... "See we can park here; this is much better than MacArthur.... Excuse me, can I just leave you my ID and go in and wait with her?" Her microphone isn't working. "Excuse me..." Now it is: "I don't need your ID. Just go around to the other side. If you get on a train you will just get bad Karma."

... "She sounded Slavic like you" I say to Eliska as she buys her ticket. "Wow, you can pay with credit card." "You can even pay your taxes with a credit card now." "Do you want your receipt?" "No." As she is walking away I pick it of the top of the pile of other receipts nobody else wanted, abandoned and unloved.

        5660 College Ave.
        DATE: 02/02/06
        TIME: 07:38 PM

... On the high platform above the Oakland street we can see the lights of the hills to the east. "You are waiting for a train going that way" I point the other way. "See, the hills are there"; I point back.

I gaze at her so familiar face "I am happy to see you." "Me too. I am happy to see you too, Daniel. I cam here to see my friends and you are one of my friends I suppose." I put my arm around her and gently stroke her lower back very lightly up and down. "I was so worried about you. I was so worried you were going to kill yourself...."

She would call me from Prague. "I am taking a walk." "Where, where are you taking a walk!?" "I am taking a walk out on the balcon. I will walk out on the balcon. I do not want to find some other guy." I would talk to her for hours until I could get her to laugh. Then I knew I could hang up. I would make her promise to call me the next day. She would say "Thank you for talking to me. It is good for your Karma."

"When I saw the movie Gattaca I cried for you." Tears are running down my face. "Ah, that movie was filmed in that building..." "The one you made me take you too." Eliska insisted we drive all over California finding Frank Lloyd Wright buildings; we only had the address in a history book. I thought it would be terrible; actually it was great fun and quite wonderful. Sometimes they were in strange places or states of disrepair: a whole building being jacked back up a hill... another with a tree growing through a wall. When we got there, she would give me a private lecture on the history of the building.

It feels so good to stand so close to her. Her body lets go of the little resistance it had at first and her left breast just barely touches me. We stand there together just as we did long ago. I look at her face and she seems happy and calm, as she never did then. "It is so good to see you happy" I tell her again. "Yes, I am happy. We want to have a baby which is why we are moving back to Prague. Daniel, you don't have to cry; it is a happy moment."

... She calmly gets on her train and I watch it disappear. I remember the Japanese tradition that you should watch until the person is out of sight or something bad will happen to them. She is gone now. I walk in a rare state, unhurried. It is a state the Buddhists tried to teach me in the temple, that I could never learn it there. My life always optimized for saving a little time here and there, getting the next thing done, walking fast, that life of "grasping mind" is now hammered flat; stopped now better than all those periods of meditation ever did. I feel the sadness well up from my chest to my whole face and body. It feels good to be sad. I feel love for the world. The stairs are full of people so I wander in a daze slowly to the up escalator and start to get on going down anyway; I want to go down the up escalator, but I change my mind. I wander back out and around to the other stairs. I pass the attendant "thank you for letting me see her off." "Sure. I did not need your ID." "You are Slavic like her. I should have had her talk to you; she speaks Polish" "Yes, I am Polish, but I do not speak it any more. You know, if you don't use it you loose it."

... I am sure this is the side street where I parked, where Eliska and I were together just a few minutes ago.... but my car isn't there. I know myself well by now; the only way to find it is to walk in a full circle around the whole BART station, so I just start, walking clockwise. My mind navigates while I sob, tears pour down my face. I know it must be this street now, but no car. I lean against the huge overly earthquake-reinforced white concrete pillar with my right hand so I can finish sobbing for a moment. The car turns out to be on the complete other side of the station. The scooter parked behind me looks far enough away from the outside of the car but from the inside I am *sure* I am going to hit it as I back up so I can turn out.

I don't even know which direction I am going. I imagine if my friend Simon in the car with me he would say in a calm voice "Dan, are you sure you are OK to drive? How about you pull over?" The logical-planning-engineering part of my mind navigates, while the emotional part sobs. While we were together, these two parts of my mind were at war. I know now which one wins all the arguments....

I signal left properly as I come to College Avenue and maneuver like a perfect driving student; left on Ashby, right on Telegraph. I am crying so hard I have to remind myself to keep my eyes open; I cover my mouth even though there is no one there to hear or see. I cry like someone with his heart broken. It is not what you think: I am happy for her and her boyfriend. I am happy she has someone. I am just happy that she is happy. Crying isn't sadness; crying is life flowing through you. As I said to her just before she got on the train: once you love someone, they are in there forever.

© Copyright 2006 Daniel S. Wilkerson