I was a terrible writer in college. Every once in awhile I would come up with a snippet of a good imagery or maybe even a decent sentence, but my stories were trite and immature. Of course, at the time, I thought I was writing such deep stories about minor scandals that hadn’t already been told by every slightly damaged young woman since pens first touched paper. I reveled in my workshops and panted with excitement when my stories were read aloud. My teachers were kind, though, and were skilled enough to give me the kind of criticism that they knew I needed without crushing my spirit. Chuck Kinder and Buddy Nordan knew that someone who wants to be a writer only has to write. Achievements like publishing and accolades were secondary to the act of gathering words together, a step that scares off countless.
There was a legend among the fiction writing majors that Chuck Kinder invited a group of students over to his house for a party every year. It was a select group, though, and when someone asked me about an invitation that had obviously not been extended to both of us, I knew that I was not one of his favorites. I was disappointed in myself, but glad that I had at least had the chance to sit in the same room with him while he read my clunky words.
A professor that I work with stopped in the other day and asked if I had ever had class with Kinder. “Yes. Why?” Kinder had mentioned me in an email to this professor. The context was muddy and I’m still not sure that it actually happened. But the possibility that instructing me floated to some murky surface in his memory meant the world to me. I had written things and he had read them and he remembered me, kinda.
I rode the bus to work this morning and as the 61A chugged onto Forbes Avenue, I was struck by how much of my life had unfolded on that street. In my head, I narrated the spiel that the imaginary tour guide would give to a trolley full of my admirers.
This is the hospital where her son was born. She had a C-section and the cafeteria’s Jell-O was the best she’d ever tasted.
This is the Arby’s where she had lunch with her former co-workers after they closed down the record store they worked at. (Or “worked” at.) They choked on roast beef while laughing about all of the silly things they did inside that store, like riding the CD tower down the stairs and running after shoplifters. They never saw each other again.
This is the street where she almost lived in a cute row house during her sophomore year of college. She’s still annoyed that that living arrangement never came to fruition.
This is the Department of Health where she accompanied a dear friend to learn the results of a test.
This is the Jimmy John’s where her husband dined right after their son was born.
This is the building where she considered a choice and, sobbing, decided something else.
This used to be a night club where she spent countless hours and shed several pounds of water weight from sweating.
This is the Rite Aid where the cute girl named Jaimie worked. The boys Kelly worked with adored Jaimie and would visit her at work to serenade her with Weezer songs.
This is where the record store that Kelly worked at used to be. It’s a Qdoba now.
This is where another record store used to be. Kelly made many of her lifelong friends within its walls.
This used to be the Beehive. Kelly started frequenting that establishment in high school when she legally shouldn’t have been.
This is the wall in front of the law school where Kelly and her husband sat a few times and made fun of pigeons.
This is the cafe where they spent an afternoon drinking ridiculously huge fruity drinks adorned with candy necklaces, getting sickeningly drunk and giggling and falling in love.
This is the library that is cool on hot days and echoes in the best way possible. You really must stand inside and breathe it in. Kelly has a picture of her husband holding their young son in front of the dinosaur on a pretty spring day.
And all of this pavement is a little bit flatter because of her.
*ding* Stop requested. Time to go to work.