Where should I begin? Should I start with the rain, which has fallen off and on since I arrived? I had to think about rain things for the first time in a long time. In San Francisco it rains when it is cold — by that city’s standards — not when it is warm and humid. Not when the remnants of a hurricane are passing over. Warm and humid rain calls for different clothes, different shoes.
Or should I start with Boston public radio, which has long commentary about Patriots football and what to wear to Foxboro stadium in the rain. There are inevitably local stories about Massachusetts-bred John Kerry, but also about the Catholic church and the mafia and recent shootings in a bad part of town that sounds British and therefore not bad at all: Dorchester.
There are the accents, of course, words rounded and altered in a way that doesn’t quite become apparent until after the speaker has put them in front of you. Only then do your ears detect the brassy changes, Haavahd Squah from the T operator, for example. I repeat these words to myself as if running my tongue over a brand new tooth, getting used to the sensation.
Other changes are minor or silly and my own brand of displacement: a wall of bread in the supermarket and I don’t recognize a single brand; the metallic smell in the subway; the vague differences in style and appearance that people have that I can’t quite describe yet.
Chances are that soon I will no longer notice, and I worry over the loss of San Francisco from my perspective.
I guess you might say that I am settled into my new apartment, though I feel anything but. I am unpacked as much as I can be. I have a bed and a coffee table and a cushy purple pillow to sit on, but little else in the way of furniture. That will change, of course, but for now it is a reminder that I am no longer in my San Francisco home, with its deep, comfy couches and kitchen just so. And, most of all, husband.
Last night my lack of these comforts reduced me to tears. Tonight it is simply a fact made bearable by the potential for new friendships, the knowledge that this weekend I will find furniture and next week I will have cable and Internet access. And Billy will come.
Today I met some of my classmates for the first time. They hail from all over; I met people from Kentucky, Wisconsin, Maryland, Utah, Los Angeles, Massachusetts and Michigan. Most are women, though I hear that there are more men in my MFA program than in the other program in my department, which has six. They seemed friendly and cheerful. Some expressed nervousness about starting the program. Many of us from elsewhere worried over the long New England winters. I met several students who just finished undergrad. One was living with her parents. Most of the students I met had been English majors in undergrad. Several students I met planned to concentrate in poetry, which for some reason always seems exotic and surprising to me.
We attended sessions about career planning, how to use campus computers, why to join the staff of the literary magazine. After lunch the full-time faculty members introduced themselves, offering humor and advice. They seemed friendly and smart and published (and in some cases academic and obscure.)
In between all of these meetings I attended to the inevitable start-of-school administrative chores: financial aid paperwork, a new ID, a discounted pass for the “T”, etc., etc.
I am now officially a student again.