Chapter 28: Please Come Back to Boston
"Well, I think this is the last of it," I tell Dahsan as I push what remains of my - now his - stuff into his studio apartment. "That first-year kid picked up all of his stuff, so the rest of it is yours, Babe."
Dahsan looks over all the stuff that I dragged over, partially in shock and partially in disbelief. "Wow, Ellie, I can't believe this is it," he says to me in awe, raising his eyebrows. "I can't believe that you're a dentist now and you're moving out. What the hell am I gonna do without you down the hall?"
"You and Jasmine will survive, my love," I reply knowingly, pushing my sadness aside. "You will. I promise." Then I hug him. I hug him hard and long.
Despite all of the allies, friends and partners in crime that I made during my four years of dental school, I consider Dahsan to be my best friend. He is - was - my neighbor and my confidante, the one I would run to when I was stressed out or frustrated. He offered me a point of view that was different from mine or my classmates, and he was always there to slap some sense into me when I was freaking out or having a meltdown. He would also offer me shots of Sambuca or Belvedere, but that's beside the point. Hugging him now, I can't believe that my time living in Boston has officially come to an end.
"I love you, Dahsan," I tell him honestly.
"I love you too, Ellie," he replies quietly.
Smiling wryly, I tell him, "I want you to know that somewhere, tucked amidst all of this crap, is a brand-new bottle of Belvedere for you." I pause. "Just don't let David drink it all."
He smiles at me. "Don't worry, I won't. But why did you do that?"
"So you wouldn't forget me."
He looks at me crookedly. "Ellie," he says finally, after a long pause, "I could never, ever forget you."
I almost bite my tongue in half to keep from sobbing. I hate saying good-bye. I'm about to have a nervous breakdown.
He hugs me again tightly in thanks. "So what time's your bus?"
"Then you'd better get moving. You've still got stuff to do, and it's noon already."
"I know. You're right."
I look at him knowingly. I've already been where he needs to go. I know that he'll be able to pull this education off, but it will be another two years before he does. I almost wish I could do it for him, but I can't. It's something he needs to do himself.
It takes me a few minutes before I'm able to finish saying my good-byes to Dahsan and close up my empty apartment. I feel an aching emptiness as I take one last look around my empty studio apartment, and it's painful to lock the door. Door #324. Bringing that key back to my building manager is so hard. I can't believe that, just like that, it's all over. I can't believe that I no longer have a home in Boston. There's a hollowness inside me that I can't describe.
I can't dwell on this feeling, though. I have to get to South Station, and get on that goddamned bus one last time.
The Greyhound bus ride is remarkably uneventful. Just so you all know what I mean, over the course of four years, I have been on bus rides where people were snorting crack or having sex in the restroom, where people were passing gas without any consideration for the other passengers, where people were getting yelled at for talking on their cell phones, where people threw up on the floor, even where the bus driver had pulled off into the breakdown lane on the highway so he could, um, relieve his bladder. So this was a definite "free pass," so to speak. I sit at my own seat with nobody asking to share. I have a carry-on bag with the essentials, since everything else has either been sent back to my parents' house already, sold, or given away. My dental diploma shares the seat with me. I look out the window with a huge smile on my face and an even larger sense of accomplishment within me.
When the bus is within twenty miles of Hartford, I feel myself starting to get sad and upset again. I'm having an anxiety or panic attack, I'm sure of it. I think about, and maybe even have regrets about, my time in Boston and all the things I've done. I think about Stephen, and how maybe he deserved something better than a phone call when I told him we were over. (Then again, maybe he didn't.) I think about Michael, and how I couldn't tame him, how I could never make him my boyfriend. What was the attraction? Was it because I truly loved him or was it the chase; was it the thrill of the game, of trying to capture him and make him mine? I think about a lot of the other guys I had been with during my last two years in Boston, the ones who made a lasting impression. Joseph, Will, Chase, Grant, Jack. I think about Jared, and how excited he makes me to be coming home. I think about my girls in Boston - Jayne and Madison, Natalie and Emma, Stephanie and Hunter - and how much I love them, how much I need them in my life, how grateful I am for them, and how much I'm going to miss them not being around. I think about my girls in CT - Beth, Dawn, Giana, Lynn, Allegra - and I become excited again. Maybe being in CT won't be so bad after all. Sure, it won't be like living in Boston, but living in the 'burbs again might not be as bad as I thought.
I step off the bus after we arrive in Hartford. I have my bag slung over my shoulder and my diploma in my hand. Although I've made this trip about a thousand times before, today it feels brand-new. I feel like a different person, and in a way, I truly am.
Walking towards the street, it's easy to hail a cab. The first one that allows me in, I get into the backseat and ask the driver to take me to West Hartford. He asks for the address, and I give it to him. Then, against my better judgement, I offer, "Take me home."
"OK, Miss," he replies cheerfully.
I'm feeling too introspective, and this Doctor title is too new anyway, so I don't correct him. I look out the window and grip my diploma like my life depends on it as we drive along the highway.
Halfway to my parents' house, my grief overwhelms me. I think about everything I lost by graduating and I'm consumed by sadness. I think about my loves, my friends, and my home that I left behind. I think about being able to walk everywhere, and how that will never happen again in CT. I think about Beantown Pub.
I don't know why Beantown Pub is the catalyst, but the tears begin to slip down my face as soon as I think it crosses my mind. They slide down from my eyes and over my cheeks without letting up. I can't believe it. This is the first time I've cried or mourned anything since before my break-up with Stephen. This is the first time I've sobbed in almost two years. This is probably the lowest point I have ever felt in my entire life, even lower than the night I broke up with Stephen, and that made me feel pretty damn low.
"You OK, Miss?" the cab driver asks kindly.
I sniff, then wipe away the tears with the back of my hand. "Yeah, I'm OK, thanks," I reply weakly.
When the taxi pulls into my parents' driveway, I pay my fare and tip the driver, then stand there for a few moments as I watch him drive off. There are a few more tears glistening in my eyes. I am literally standing at the threshold of my life. I know in my heart that taking the steps into my parents' house signals the end of my old life and the beginning of my new life. I stand solid, scared, and frozen.
So many things, for better or for worse, have happened in my old life. I manage to convince myself that so many things will happen, for better or for worse, in my new life. Then I take the leap of faith and enter the house.