The city looks different as it rises before me.
I am driving home from my new college, looking forward to two weeks of nothing. I think about bringing a friend from school here with me, the one with lawyer parents in a fancy suburb. My parents are well-off too, don’t get me wrong, and have a house near the beach, but I made the mistake of doing some research on Zillow and found out that her parents’ one house on a lake is worth three times as much as my parents’ two. She doesn’t like when anybody mentions that her town is well-off.
The speed limit drops down to 50 as the Interstate weaves more erratically. I imagine what I would say as she sat next to me in the car that shakes violently through every pot hole. Here’s the polar bear for the soda company and the college on the hill. This is how you get to the most dangerous intersection in Massachusetts. My old college is over to the north, past the train shipment yard and the auto-body shops.
The newspaper building stands tall next to the bank, dwarfing the train station where we had our prom. They filmed a movie there because our city looks like 1970s New Jersey. The Italian residential neighborhood is to the right, best cannolis and worst hills in town.
It’s a long drive through the city, small neighborhoods and car repairs and churches and struggling convenience stores for miles. The sunlight glints off the rust and dirty snow. I merge right as we pass over the lake, where tiny houses climb the hills for a view and old men sit in lawn chairs, ice-fishing. We would pull off into my town, drive past the post office processing center and the India Society and race up the hill by the private high school. The dairy and the donut place are closed.
How can I explain how I learned to drive here, that for many years it looked like I was never going to be able to live more than 20 miles away? The art museum is better than it seems, but there’s no way to explain, and the largest collection of arms and armor in America shut down last year. Every closed sign and rusted out bumper, every pot hole stretching halfway across the street, every thin newspaper and , speaks louder than my words ever could.