“Why are you here?”
The restaurant owner asked me with furrowed brows. I was in a pub and grill in a town called West Boylston, in rural Massachusetts. This was an area with no sidewalks, only forests and with highways connecting the bars and gas stations. The houses were old clapboard and the only shops I’ve seen here have been either antique stores or Walmart.
A week ago, I was in Chicago where I grew up, visiting friends for the last time since my parents moved to Massachusetts. A week before then, I was in England where I went to college. Now, I graduated and was living with my family while trying to get situated, i.e. get a driver’s license, a job, a cell phone, a bank account, Twitter.
“I like it here,” I told the restaurant owner, as though it was my choice to be here.
It’s not like my parents dragged me by the ankles. I had nowhere else to start. No job connections, no apartment, no bank history – not in America, at least. Going from Europe, to Chicago, to rural Massachusetts was not my choice. It was the only choice.
So far, I’ve felt the post-grad blues. I have no friends here and, until a driver’s license, no way of getting around. As beautiful as my parents’ new house is, I can’t stay in it all day, every day. Getting a job was partly for money, partly for getting me to do something.
“Well, Rachel, I’m pretty intuitive when it comes to people,” the restaurant owner said. “And I think you’ll fit in perfectly here.”
A few weeks later, it was my 21st birthday. I had been hostessing at the restaurant the night before. When I came home, my older brother, Chris, greeted me at the door. He lived in New York but he was home for the week. As I hugged him, I noticed a tall, wrapped present in the foyer. Dad took out his camera and said, “Go on, open it.”
It couldn’t be a bike or a horse or a car.
I tore off the wrapping and out popped one of my best friends from Chicago: Tofu! I started crying. I was so happy to learn that she was staying for the week.
We had an awesome time exploring Massachusetts – and Worcester, the nearest city. (I’ll write about our adventures in the next blog 😉 ). So it was a sad farewell when Dad and I dropped Tofu off at the Boston airport the following Monday night. Afterwards, Dad took me for a late dinner at Taqueria Jalisco, in a Mexican neighborhood in Boston.
We gorged on chips and salsa and then, tacos for him, a steak sandwich for me. For dessert, we shared homemade flan which was made from a recipe by our server’s grandmother. Good Mexican food is hard to come by in Massachusetts, unlike Chicago aka America’s food capital.
As we drove home, Dad said, “I don’t like being in the car all the time. It’s nice how in Europe, you can walk everywhere.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I miss that about England.”
“We just have to get used to this area. You’ve got to learn the city, you know?”
I wish I could just walk or bike around and get to know this place but that’s not how it works here. This is where hidden treasures actually exist. You have to discover them.
Alright. If you say so.
Hence, this blog.
Rachel Noelle is a writer based in Worcester. Read about her here.