During our honeymoon, we visited Alex's family in Alabama. Alex and I met in his last year of undergrad and my first year of graduate school, so I didn't know him growing up, unfortunately. But we went to Sam's Club, and he said quietly, "This is where I worked."
It was a few months where he was in this place that I'd never been. Mix this with stories from his family about little Alex and a DVD of Alex playing the Prince in his senior production of Cinderella, and I started thinking about the stranger that would become my husband.
Then when we arrived home, I started cleaning the apartment and found some of my old stuff from college. It was a whirlwind move back from Chicago, so a lot of my stuff --- favorite clothes, backpacks, memorabilia --- went missing and shoved into mysterious storage. So finding old bags from my time in the city was weird.
It's been six years since I moved back to Omaha. I thought I wouldn't be here for more than a year. Now we're looking at houses.
The bag I found was riddled with buttons I'd collected from different kiosks around DePaul's campus, Hot Topic donation tokens, and AWP conferences. The biggest button, and my most prized possession, is the Watchmen smiley face that I can't find. There are Beatles buttons from when my childhood best friend and I were obsessed with the Beatles, but they were taken off the bag and shoved inside, because I was trying to forget the Beatles, and trying to forget him.
But I kept the "You are Loved" button in his native language.
Sigma Tau Delta, the Vincentian cross, the A.V. Club ... all of it is frozen in time.
I was twenty-three when I graduated. I was thirty pounds lighter. I wore jeans under peasant skirts and I was dating someone who wore blazers with leather elbows and jeans with loafers. He was a PhD candidate and I was a BFA graduate. I followed him to ironic coffee shops to ironically play board games. I watched Disney movies on Friday nights with my three roommates, and my other two friends lived above us with a way better view and a much better rent price.
I knew how to time out the L train schedule without using any app. I knew how to run real fast through the alleyways when I shouldn't be in alleyways. I walked everywhere, I had three jobs, a great GPA, and I could cringe my way through a Venture Bros. marathon. My life was made of school work, Chicago, and the DePaul library.
And now I'm 28. My life is made of manuscripts, Disney World trips, teaching, and marriage. My roommates have slid away through the years, even my best friend. The guy in the blazer is somewhere in England now, far away from me, and he can stay there. Alex didn't even know me back then, and now we've been all over the world together. Now no one knows me better.
I wear jeans and adorable t-shirts and pj pants when I don't have to go out. I listen to Radical Face. My rent is awesome, my view still sucks. I know how to fix cars, get anywhere in town in twenty minutes, and I can cringe my way through a Chiefs game.
But some things don't change. Back when Alex was a kid, he still rolled his eyes, he still sang beautifully, and he still got nervous onstage even though he was hella talented. Me? I still write really sad stories, and I still binge-watch comedy series.
Our character arcs shift who we are, but we are always the same people. Sometimes we have no idea how much we've changed until we see something that was frozen in time.
I can't wait to write this scene for my characters after they've grown up and they're looking back on everything they're going through now. I can't wait to look back in six more years and see how much I've changed. I hope I like what happens next.
What is this?
Dawson is an editor and writer and MFA student at Stonecoast. She writes stuff.