I felt nauseous when I drove into town Saturday afternoon. The stretch of road led straight to the college, the dorm buildings on the western side of the campus. The dorm that my best friends lived in junior and senior years, the dorm that an old boyfriend had lived in. Memories that I hadn’t thought about in over a year were flooding my gut.
I met College Roomie at our motel room, the kind of motel you swear you’d seen in an episode of CSI with blood-spattered walls and a murder victim spread-eagle on the horrible purple carpet. College Roomie and I talked through the thin walls as she showered and as I changed into jeans and a tank top. We made plans for the evening; I was having dinner with Nick and then we were meeting up with my old college boyfriend, L. The three of us went to L’s place, and sat on the roof with a blanket, music, beer, and watched the fireworks. We told story after story, some hysterical, some sad. Nick and I talked about how we felt at this time last year, L talked about how he’d be moving out to Colorado in the next few weeks.
Nick left soon after, and L and I decided to head to the local bar. In the corner pocket of the little town bar, we finally brought up the topic of us. How we’d dated, how we never seemed to work out. He’s never really had a relationship; I’ve had too many. He walked me back across the street to my motel, and held my arms as he kissed me. I guess I knew that was coming, but I had absolutely mixed emotions about it. I put on sweatpants and a t-shirt and went back to his place to watch a movie. We’ve always had this part of the relationship down, the cuddling and the talking. He whispered to me that he was going to miss me more than anything else, and then he fell asleep. I gave him a quick kiss and left him a note before I left to head back to my motel.
The entire weekend left me exhausted, and not just because I stayed up until four with College Roomie and our friend talking about crew in the motel room. It was emotional, seeing old friends and old professors. There’s a reason everyone refers to college as the best four years of your life. There’s the quotes about how your friends become family, how the old ivy-covered buildings become your home. You’re fairly sure to fall in love at some point there, and you’re more than likely going to lose that love in some way. Every person I saw brought back a memory; Ex Fiance graduated and I remembered our first kiss on the winding stairs of my dorm room. A professor reminded me of how I’d spent hours holed up in the labs finishing research. I watched L walk across the stage and remembered that first night we sat on the porch of his dorm. L’s parents reminded me of how I’d spent my first weekend away from college at their house, a cabin on the side of a mountain, the pool where L and I had sat while talking about where we’d end up.
When I drove home a few hours later I didn’t feel right. It always feels strange returning, but it feels even worse to be leaving. It’ll feel less like home every time I come back, and the people I see there now will eventually drift away. I might never see L again, or half the people I saw there today.