Faye Rapoport DesPres

Today my college roommate's daughter turns twenty

Today my college roommate’s daughter turns twenty. I discovered this when I logged in to Facebook this morning (a habit I’ve gotten into much like logging in to check email) and the Facebook home page listed today as her birthday. I wrote a quick note to wish her a happy day, but she won’t read that note for at least a few hours. She is in college in Oregon, and it was 4 o’clock in the morning in Oregon when I wrote the note.

The three hours between the time on the east and west coasts melted in my mind into the time between now and the day I turned twenty. I had arrived in London a week or so before to begin my junior year studying abroad. I was sharing a one-room flat with another Brandeis student whom I barely knew; the arrangement ended up lasting just three months. On the day of my birthday my parents, back in the States, arranged for a dozen roses to be delivered to the flat. I remember how they looked sitting in a vase in the center of the small, round dining table that was situated near the kitchenette in the flat.

Time passes so fast. I feel, more and more, that I am racing against it and I can’t keep up.

It is cold in the Boston area this morning — 31 degrees Fahrenheit. But the sun is up and the sky is blue and clear, and just a few clouds are drifting over the neighborhood. It will be warmer in a few hours. A middle-aged man bundled up in a jacket, a flat cap, and sunglasses just walked down the hill past our house. A small white dog on a leash pulled him forward. I watched them pass through the window of my office.

I woke up a few hours ago on the couch in our living room. Unable to sleep in the middle of the night, I came downstairs and lay down on the couch, where I eventually fell asleep wrapped in a red “snuggie.” My sixteen-year-old cat woke me at 4:30, but I refused to give in to his request for an early breakfast until just before six. Finally I got up, fed him and our other three cats, and sat down at my desk to work on a mystery story I’ve been writing lately just for fun. It feels like a pleasant escape to write something that, in this case, is both fictional and a bit lighthearted. The process of writing personal essays, for me at least, is far from an escape. It feels more like stepping into quicksand instead of jumping over it. It can be hard to breathe when you get close to the bottom, and you can’t let whatever you find down there swallow you.

Well, it’s a quarter after eight now and time to turn off the computer and join the real world.

Happy Birthday today, twenty-year old. The world and your future are waiting.

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