My claustrophobia made my flight back to the states almost unbearable. The random men I was sitting between were not extraordinarily large but because I didn’t know them, I did my best to keep my legs and arms close to my body so we didn’t make any awkward physical contact. At some point I was able to dose off; I woke up with a horrible ache in my neck from sleeping in an odd position, only to see that they had both passed out as well. I managed to stay awake the remaining hours of the flight. I stuck to drinking my coffee, not wanting to fall asleep again in case I inadvertently ended up using my neighbor as a pillow.
Oddly enough, I can’t remember much prior to getting on the plane. I was jittery because I hadn’t slept much the night before. I spent the night unzipping my bags, making sure I had everything I needed, then zipping them back up.
At 20 years old, I was living in my parent’s house in Germany in a tiny room that was pretty bare. I had a mattress on the floor and folded clothes piled on the floor next to the door. My mother handed my two plastic containers and told me, “Everything that you can’t fit in these containers, I’m throwing it out.”
I didn’t have a lot with me anyway. I had a small container of nick knacks I had collected from different countries I had been over the years, on the bottom of the container I hid my journals that I had been keeping since I was 13. This container and the books that I had on my bookshelf were the only thing that I believed to be worth keeping. My mother promised me that my containers would be left undisturbed in the basement until I could come back and get them from the house whenever I got my own place.
I only knew one person in Massachusetts and I had no idea what to expect of Massachusetts because I had never been there. However, for whatever reason, I wasn’t nervous. I felt that me leaving was long overdue and there is an amount of security that certainty grants you. I also knew that I wanted to move to New England more than any other place in America. I was from the west coast and I needed something new. I was tired of the west coast environment and all the family members that would be breathing down my neck the moment I land at seatac.
But I wasn’t entirely alone in Massachusetts; my good friend lived in Lowell. I felt better knowing that in all of New England, I at least knew one person.
Sean and I had been friends for years. We had stayed in touch via MSN messenger. While Sean and I got along pretty well while we talked online, I soon discovered that we didn’t really enjoy many of the same activities. I was a little anxious to see him, because a few weeks prior to me getting there he had told me that he was in love with me. I was a little unnerved by this.
He asked me if I would consider dating him once I got to Massachusetts.
I was quiet for a moment, then said, “Let’s play it by ear.”
He seemed to think that was a reasonable response and left it at that.
Sean didn’t meet me at the airport. I hate being a burden to anyone, so I told him that I was going to find my own means of transportation to get from the Logan airport into Lowell. I regretted this almost instantly.
I had never been to Boston and once I stepped out of the Logan Airport, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was even in Boston. In the same way that the SeaTac Airport isn’t exactly in Seattle, I felt that it might be the same scenario for Logan.
On a whim, I hopped into a cab and asked the driver to take me into Lowell. I had the address scribbled down on a scrap piece of paper. I pulled it out from my pocket and smoothed out the wrinkles. I read the address to him.
I fell asleep while we were stuck in traffic. I landed into Boston right in time to make it on the road during rush hour.
It was the summer, but I was wearing a hoodie. I tend to travel in comfortable clothing and there is nothing more comfortable than a hoodie. However, sitting in the summer heat wasn’t exactly the best time to wear a hoodie. While the car was diving, I would get a nice breeze, making it easy to fall asleep in the back of the cab but the traffic prevented that from happening.
Once we got to Lowell, I was a little taken aback. Lowell was much more industrialized than how I imagined it was going to be. You could be in a heavily populated area in Washington, but you could drive a few miles out of the city and you’re back in farmland. From Boston to Lowell, there was not very much of a scenic view.
Generally I gauged my appreciation of a place by its natural appeal. I had never been a big fan of large cities. I enjoyed places like London and Paris but I knew I could never handle living in a place that big. While Spokane was a decent sized city in Washington, there were easy escapes from the city.
Lowell was much older than any other place I had lived in America. After I paid the cab driver an obscene amount of money I carriage my duffle bag to my new room.
I realized almost instantly how under packed I was. I didn’t have bed sheets. I didn’t have towels. I had no shampoo or soap. I felt like both laughing at myself and slightly panicked that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to a store anytime soon and would have to carry on without deodorant or showers. I caved and told Sean that I needed some help.
Sean made it over to my place in less than 20 minutes. He was sweating and red faced when he got to my door.
I first asked him if he was okay.
“I’m fine, I just ran up the stairs.”
“You ran up fourteen flights of stairs?” I was amazed.
He nodded, still out of breath.
“You know there are elevators, right?” I asked him.
He nodded again, “yeah, I didn’t want to wait for them.”
My entire year of living there, I had never once attempted to climb up the 14 flights of stairs.
He walked into the room and collapsed onto my bare mattress for a moment, waiting until he could breath properly again.
He sat up and laughed, “Hey, we didn’t even hug.”
He came over and we hugged each other.
When we finished hugging, he held me at arms length and told me, “You’re very pretty.”
I said, “thanks” and asked if we was ready to go into town.
It was very apparent that Sean, though he had lived in Lowell most of his life, did not know down town Lowell at all.
“But where do you hang out?” I asked him.
“Well, sometimes I go to movies,” he replied. I felt as though I was making him feel guilty about being a homebody, so I dropped it.
I found a CVS, which was good enough; I bought some chips, toothpaste and other necessities.
When I got back I put a movie on my laptop for Sean and I to watch while I began unpacking my things.
Since I had come in early from out of the country, my roommates weren’t there yet so Sean and I were alone in my room.
Sean had no issue lying down on the bare mattress. I told him that he might get STD’s but he just shrugged.
Sean wore glasses now, thick-framed glasses that he took off while he laid on my bed.
He was thin but had a beer belly, yet he wasn’t a beer drinker. I couldn’t even get him to go out for a drink, when I had turned 21 a few days later.
“Are you glad that you moved to Massachusetts?” he asked me.
I looked outside, it was getting late, the sun had already gone down and I wondered how safe it was for him to walk back home alone.
“Of course, I’ve wanted to move here all my life and now I’m living on my own,” I was overjoyed to have independence.
“Are you worried about walking back alone?” I asked him.
“Nah,” he replied.
I was tired and wanted to go to sleep.
I took some of my clothes and laid them over my mattress so I could sleep on it without sticking to the blue plastic material the form mattress was covered with. I began to dose off, without meaning to. I woke up around 4am to go to the bathroom to see that Sean had passed out on my roommate’s mattress. My laptop was still open; the movie had ended hours ago. His hair was soaked in sweat I didn’t think I could fall back to sleep. It would have been around ten am back in Germany.