Dreaming the City, by Roxanne Glick

My friends are tucked into the crevices of this city. We live down winding corridors and past security desks. We invariably live behind locked doors in rooms with shut blinds and cell phones that only respond to texts.

My friends and I make up a set of distinct points. We float three dimensionally in the city grid: on the ‘n’th floor of apartments, in the train tunnel, in a basement computer lab. We hang individually in our respective homes; connections loosened between encounters.

Our connections were once forged by sitting next to each other in class, walking the same direction home, living together in the dorms, or through a mutual friend back at home. Those initial circumstances have been long overshadowed by lunch dates, drunken nights out, Sunday brunches, game nights, and by the friends we have shared with one another. But most of the time we are so well insulated that we almost forget each other exist. And we start to wonder if circumstances were different, if we didn’t live down the hall that one time, if we would have any reason to talk at all.

My friends are so well nestled into the fabric of this city that many of us haven’t even found each other yet. Sometimes we get glimpses of each other: strutting the streets on party nights, dodging each other’s bikes on campus paths, less frequently through the sea of classmates in lecture halls. We have yet to be introduced by a mutual friend or signed up for the same discussion section, or gone to the same activity where the name game was played.

You may wonder how I know who my friends are if we have never met. The reason is simple. At the beginning of freshman year we all entered into the same sorority. It is a unique sisterhood with no rush, no picking, and no exclusion. It is a secret society with no objective except true, unadulterated friendship. Even if I tell you what it is called the secret will be maintained because it does not exist unless you are already part of it. It is called Awesome Ladies Just Like Me.

Belonging to the group has nothing to do with major, age, hair color or your parents’ annual income. The things we have in common are completely unquantifiable. They include how we sort through a rack of clothing, the types of comments we make while watching a movie, the range of situations in which we’ll discuss our love lives. We think each other are hilariously funny and endlessly beautiful.

My sisters and I are not points in the city but vectors. We are always on the move, with the next goal already in mind. Our achievements inspire one another and when we talk, we don’t only figure out the best thing to do, but find the motivation to do it. We color in the canvases of each other’s daily lives while leaving enough space for selfhood.

I met one of my sisters last night. I knew it was her because we had enough differences to make us fill out diversity in the group picture and were similar in all the unquantifiable ways. We both went out on the same night and found our way to the basement dance floor. But even though we were equally drunk on sweet wine and punch we were both too shy to dance. We were both playing it too cool to make eye contact or introduce ourselves or to exchange phone numbers. We finally complimented each other’s almost matching colorful stretchy tops. We both didn’t have anything better to do so I went over to her place after and watched a movie. We didn’t mind when we interrupted the movie and laughed at each other’s comments. Before the night was over I knew, she was an Awesome Lady Just Like Me.

This morning I woke up in my own bed and searched for her on the Internet, to no avail. I broke an unspoken rule and walked to her apartment, alone. Trudging through the streets I rehearsed what I would tell her. I would make hints about the sorority to test her membership. And I would smile in such a way that she would smile too and we would make a plan to meet for lunch which would lead to another night out together in a week.

But when I came to her apartment building I couldn’t remember which door was hers. All the lights were out except for one, and the person who answered that door had never heard of my sister. I retraced my steps back home wondering what other Awesome Ladies Just Like Me were chatting together in apartments sealed from view above the sidewalk.

Back home I tried to recreate our chain of mutual friends to get in touch with her but forgot who knew who. No one recognized her name when I asked.

Knowing she would be searching for me too, I put on my rain jacket and goulashes and set out to run into her. I went to my favorite cafes and scanned the computer-blue faces but did not see hers. I made figure eights around the city blocks so I passed the apartment she lives in several times, and felt that I must have just missed her every time. She wasn’t in the class I thought she had said she was in. I went to my favorite clothing stores and craned my neck to spy her as I flipped through the racks. When the sun threatened to set I climbed up into the hills and looked at the warm lights, wondering if she would come here to watch the hazy matrix too.

If the walls of this city were transparent I would be able to see my friends, curled in chairs or leaning over computers in their own glowing niches in the sky. I wonder if I would be able to make out my newfound sister, combing the streets in search of me.

Roxanne Glick is an architecture major at UC Berkeley.

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