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Blue cheese blues: Becoming an adult in Berkeley

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JUNE 13, 2018

I’ve never particularly liked the way blue cheese tastes, sweet and tangy in an instant, leaving something smoldering on your tongue after you’ve swallowed. But Berkeley summers are made of blue cheese. When classes let out, everything tastes like it.

A week before I moved out of my own apartment, I cooked pasta with blue cheese sauce in another emptying apartment. Ketki and Caroline were there, our bags full of pasta shells and leeks. We tumbled into the blank space where the beer-stained Ikea rug used to be — to fill up all the emptiness, I set my laptop down on the floorboards and let Florence + the Machine spill across the kitchen tiles. I shimmied around to Lorde with my stirring spoon while the cauliflower roasted. Janelle Monáe sung to me as I licked blue cheese off my fingers.

The blue cheese tasted sharp long after the creaminess had melted away, becoming a weight on my tongue. I worried about what it would be like to move somewhere new, what music I would use to fill the space as I was emptying it of sweaters and bed sheets.

A few days before I moved out of my apartment, I wore a tank top that was a little bit too tight and ate blue cheese dip at a restaurant in San Francisco. Ketki and I talked about our jobs and watched the couple across from us make out over a margherita pizza. We got ice cream and talked about coming-of-age stories and Italian markets. When we went to a concert at The Chapel, dancing in the purple spotlights, I could still taste the cheese on my tongue.

It felt softer, tasted odd but not awful. I didn’t worry about moving — I was dancing too much to worry. But I worried later.

Then I moved.

Packing everything up so that my bedroom would stand empty and agape made me nervous in the same way that confronting blue cheese did. Nick and Caroline came over and we wrapped juice glasses in pages of old physics textbooks and talked about everything that had changed over the past year. Caroline peeled all the tape off the newspaper clippings on my wall and killed a spider.

I didn’t feel better when all my things were in boxes. It seemed haphazard and crunched. I never packed my toothbrush.

But the day I moved was slow and smooth. It was warm and bright and I drove my uncle’s shiny silver Infiniti with the jumpy gas pedal. I carried smooth cardboard boxes and pulled my hair back in a ponytail. My apartment smelled new — like Windex and air freshener.

This was the part of blue cheese that I liked — being glad I’d eaten it.

Another week later, Ketki and I drove to Pieology Pizzeria in San Leandro. On the freeway, we listened to Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” and Taylor Swift’s “Delicate” and talked about journalists and degrees and how hungry we were.

When we got to the pizzeria, I saw that I could order my pizza with blue cheese on it. I looked at the blue cheese piled high behind the glass and thought about how it didn’t look nearly as sophisticated as it did wrapped up in paper next to the bries and goat cheeses at the supermarket. But it was still blue cheese, still reserved for people old enough to buy wine, people who vacuum their apartments.

I eyed the rip on the left toe of my Converse that I’ve taped back together with red Scotch tape I stole from the children’s museum where I work. I thought about the laundry I hadn’t done for weeks that was piling up in the corner of my closet. I thought about how infrequently I vacuum.

I didn’t feel like the kind of person who could eat blue cheese, who could move into a new apartment by myself — those kinds of people didn’t tape their shoes back together.

But then again, those kinds of people did — I had eaten blue cheese, in pastas and in sauces, and I had moved into a new apartment and my shoe was taped together with Scotch tape. You don’t become a grown-up by seeming like one; you just have to be one.

In the end, it didn’t matter what I put on my pizza because they gave me somebody else’s. And maybe that’s what being an adult is really all about.

Olivia Jerram is the assistant arts & entertainment editor. Contact her at [email protected].

JUNE 14, 2018