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Ten-Year Reunion Week, part the first

College made me more confident, opinionated and headstrong -- to a point. When it came to the big decisions, I was still timid and dependent and chock fulla Catholic guilt, more than willing to defer to a parent or a prof or a significant other. I stayed in Kalamazoo and worked at the library the summer after graduation mostly to be with my friends and then-boyfriend, but partly because no one told me to do anything else.

But by the end of summer 1992, the boyfriend was leaving for 6 months in Italy, the friends were going off to grad school or jobs, the summer library work was almost over, and my efforts to find teaching jobs had proved fruitless. I was stuck and getting panicky.

Then I ran into Jen in the library as I was getting out of work for the day. We'd known each other since orientation week and survived a disastrous quarter as roommates sophomore year that nearly killed our friendship. But we'd gotten close again before graduation. She was moving to Boston to marry a gay Scotsman so that he could stay in the country and be a veterinarian. Honestly. She met him in Aberdeen while on foreign study, and they and two other Americans from the Aberdeen program were going to be sharing a brownstone above a vet clinic. But one of the other Americans called her that day to back out.

"We have an extra space in the house," she said. "Do you want to move to Boston in six weeks?"

"Yes!" It was an uncharacteristic (and as yet unduplicated) outburst of impetuousness. I still can't believe I did it. I doubt Jen, knowing me as well as she did, expected me to take her up on her offer, especially right there on the spot. But she was stuck with me.

I had no job lined up, no friends there, no plan. I hadn't asked my parents or my boyfriend if it was OK. I mean, no one had even seen the apartment that the Scotsman had accepted on our behalf. And, really, moving in with a couple openly engaging in INS fraud? What the fuck?!?

I went back to my apartment in a headrush of freedom and terror. I called the boyfriend and my parents and various friends and told them. I didn't ask them. I was giddy with possiblity, and then I spent the evening sobbing in fear and freaking out.

But six weeks later, September 18, 1992, I helped unload a rented station wagon full of suitcases and mix tapes and cheap-ass kitchen stuff and our other roommate's two rats into our 2-bedroom, 2-floor brownstone on Tremont, right above the Back Bay Vet clinic. I loved Boston. I'd never been to a place that felt so much like home right away. We got temp jobs that weekend, and we all got permanent jobs the week after. And it was autumn in Boston and the apartment was gorgeous and the rent was cheap and hooray!

OK, the jobs were shitty -- Chain Bookstore #2 for me, Kinko's for Jen and the receptionist position at the vet clinic for our other roommate. And the boyfriend in Italy wrote that he thought we should see other people, and I talked him out of it but it still cast a pall of mistrust and passive aggression that eventually killed our relationship two years later. And the living situation started to fall apart shortly after Halloween, as Jen and the Scotsman fought constantly, and the gay Scotsman surprisingly fell in love with the other roommate, who started dating the guy I had a horrifyingly ill-advised fling with during the "let's see other people" phase, and he only wanted to date my roommate to get back at me but they had sex while I was sleeping in the same room, and Jen told the Scotsman the night before his work visa expired that she wasn't going to marry him after all, and he had to bribe the INS to stay in the country, and I moved out of that apartment after about 8 months and lived with some friends in Somerville, and all of my mom's sisters got cancer within six months of each other so I moved back to Michigan in July 1993 to be close to my family again, and it took years to get over all the emotional damage from that fucked-up brownstone situation, and I haven't spoken to anyone from that freaky Boston year since all this shit went down.

But it was still fuckin' cool.

Ten years later, I live in Chicago. I came here in 1994 because I was still following orders (one last attempt at salvaging something with the college boyfriend, who grew up in the area but demonstrated his commitment to our relationship by accepting a job in DC three months after I moved here), but I stayed because I was finally ready to live my own life. I struggled through loneliness and depression, but I worked hard to make friends in my new strange town. I got a better job, and then an even better one. I found excitement, romance and experimental theater, and I finally felt at home. I doubt I would ever just pick up and move again like I did when I went to Boston. But doing it once was all I needed.

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