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Places | By Lydia A. Nayo

I like being able to put an earring down on a table and have it remain there until I move it, whenever that may be.

You wore the same boiled wool jacket, the same platypus-ugly shoes for multiple winters. I’m told this resistance to change is a feature of being a Capricorn. I’ve also heard that it is because I grew up the fifth of six children; theoretically, children of chaos develop an adult affinity for order.

So be it. Let’s just say that I was not amused when Royal Grounds, our funky little Montclair coffee shop, disappeared. We’d meet there some times, after your appointment with your hair colorist. The tables were tiny and it was a bit noisy, but the walls featured the work of local artists. We could nurse cups of herbal tea for the duration of a parking meter’s maximum time, without incident. Royal Grounds morphed into Metro Montclair, a trendy bistro with cloth napkins and seasonal soups. Nothing wrong with it, other than it isn’t a place conducive to free-wheeling conversations between Capricorns about daughters, sons, hair color, or joint pain attendant to being a mature woman. You can’t broach such issues in just any cafe.

L’Amyx on Piedmont Avenue closed its doors, sadly. The metal teapots used to stick to the tables; in order to use the restroom, we had to go outside and into the office building next door, carting a humongous key fob. But we could share a sweet from their limited menu, get lucky enough to secure sofa seating, and agree that we married two of the best men on earth. Men who cherished our minds, held our souls tenderly in their hands, and loved us no matter how challenging we made that commitment. Capricorns value loyalty and faithfulness.

When we feel safe, I’m told, Capricorn women bloom, like cacti, tucking back our prickly bits to reveal a flower a magnolia tree would envy. In a certain kind of quiet, adult daughters of chaos reveal the frightened girl inside, confess to panic attacks. Tell the untold. The point to such revelations is not to fix the past, or even to whine too long: It is just that the habit of some women is to keep the old aches hidden. The opportunity to share is rare and sacred, as well as a relief. Someone else knows, and doesn’t judge or compete. Doesn’t think us weak, or fragile.

The earring, exactly where I left it.

I meant to call and tell you that we could no longer peruse the crowded racks of leotards, shrugs, and scarves at the San Francisco Dancewear outpost that used to be tucked into that corner of College Avenue at Chabot. Their new digs, on the other side of College, up half a block, are bright and airy, comparatively tidy, with the clothes grouped in some greater semblance of order than at the old place. There is even a bench where one can sit and try on the dance shoes.

Ordinarily, a Capricorn heart soars at such evidence of order, but we liked the intimacy of the clutter in the old place. Liked the promise of the gift of old-school leggings being unearthed with some concentration. It is easier to talk about growing up with a narcissistic mother, or a bipolar father, while standing back-to-back in a claustrophobic shop with uncertain lighting, hunting for bargains. That corner became first a purveyor of expensive silk T-shirts, and now is Toast, which is reputed to be a wine lounge, whatever that is. I meant to call; then I remembered why I couldn’t just dial you up on what must have been the last flip phone in captivity.

The shuttering of the places where our friendship lived leaves me twice bereft. Your death blew the doors off my heart, and it is hard to hear echoes of shared laughter in places that aren’t what they once were. Reclamation of the joy of a raucous, three-hour birthday lunch with the Book Club Women is challenging with Garibaldi’s gone.

The good news is there are bits that remain as they were when first you shared them, places I feel honored that you gave me, moments I would have missed had I not known you. Inspiration Point still stinks richly of eucalyptus; when I do a solitary four-mile training run there, I see walks we took on fog-bound mornings. We pause, take breaths of fire, and continue on: one of us telling a tale that shaped her, the other asking only the necessary questions. The slices at the Cheese Board are still crisp, served hot, topped with delightfully improbable combinations. Pizza for adults. And the omelets at Doyle Street are still more than a single meal. Cesar Chavez Park, while its paths have been improved, continues to feature fierce Bay winds that whip tears from my eyes.

You are needed here, strident and fierce, opinionated and flinty, more present than most. Absent that option, the places, at least, need to remain as we last beheld them. But nothing is as it once was, even the things that haven’t changed. The salient features, the loud warmth of your greeting embrace, the quality of your intentional listening, the linger of our farewells, is gone. As the Capricorn daughter of chaos, I am not adapting quickly, or well. And I’m fine with that. For now.

Lydia A. Nayo is an Oakland-based writer, real estate professional, runner, and recovering lawyer. She has been writing since she figured out that you can’t tell everything to everybody. She has been running since she realized she didn’t always want to hear all of it, either. She is originally from Philadelphia.


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Photo by Cathy Yeulet.