A New Semester, Part Two

Indira Ganesan, More of Last Year's Snow, 2012

Indira Ganesan, More of Last Year’s Snow, 2012

I had not known an ambulance was behind me, but I did make it home.  Driving at the speed limit is what gets me.  I like to drive slower, except in very good weather, when I am alone on the road, no one behind me, and then, I am comfortable driving at the speed limit.  But it is the pressure of imagining the impatience of the drivers behind me that often makes driving less pleasurable; that, and being lost on the road behind the wheel.  Near a highway merge.

To forestall a repeat, I treated myself to a commuter flight on a trusty Cessna to Boston the next teaching day.  After classes, after trying to find a watch store to replace my watch’s battery, and finding it closed, I hailed a cab to head to the airport.  It was in the cab I received a call from the airline telling me flights were cancelled until the next day.  Quickly, I called a friend with a B & B, and found a bed for the night.  In fact, it was a lovely apartment.  A Scandinavian crime novel was in the apartment for bedtime reading, and I settled in.  The next day, I began my day with a search for milk for the coffee provided by my hosts, and instead discovered a cafe.  Gratefully, I found a table, and wrote, then went to a deli for some food supplies.  After a lunch of chickpeas salad and yogurt,  I wandered into a paper goods store to ask the location of the nearest bookstore, and was not only given directions, but shown a picture of the bookstore for good measure.  This is what I love about university towns–they know that not all of us are frontierswomen who like explore without a map; they know that one can be addled and easily lost.  I found the bookstore very easily, and hauled a stackful back to the apartment.

I set out to explore my old neighborhood, for I had lived in Cambridge some fourteen years ago.  I located my old apartment, and found my way to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.  The Institute used to be the Bunting Institute, housed in a circle of old Victorian homes in a courtyard.  Now, it is housed near the Schlesinger Library.  A man wondered if I was headed to Fay House, and pointed the way.  Fay House sounded familiar, but as it turned out, having gone in and trying to find a central office, I found I was not in fact headed for Fay House.  Out I went, to try the next imposing building.  That was closer, but this time a helpful student pointed out a third building across the circle, and off I went.  This time, I found a reception area.  I don’t know what I was seeking.  A library of old Fellows’ work, a welcome, something.  Instead, I realized that what I had so foolishly taken for granted, a year of paid time to work on a project, was not at all easily gained.  I had been given admission into a place that was indeed so rare, so accommodating, simply because I wrote.  I had had a unanimous acceptance by the committee that accepted me.  In my time at the Bunting, I saw my second novel being published, and as my brother proposed to his future wife, in the same city, I forged a relationship with a publisher who would bring back my first novel into print in paperback, ten years after Knopf had published it between hard covers.

Now, feeling quite an outsider, after chatting to the young woman at the front desk, and realizing my quest to find the Bunting at the Radcliffe Institute, to seek the past in the new, was futile, and I left, dispirited, but not before asking the way to the library.  I thought of just going on to town, but since I was here, I shook off my ambivalence, and went to the library.  There, at last, was home.

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