A new essay by alumna Natalie Serber (fiction, ’05) appears online at The Rumpus:
“What a wonderful life I’ve had, if only I’d realized it sooner.” ~Colette
I’d been screwing around in community college for two years—signing up for classes, quitting midway—retaking the same classes. It took me three attempts to complete Cultural Anthropology, a class I loved. My best friend and I were renting a tiny clapboard house 5 blocks from the beach. Blue hydrangeas flanked our front door. Tapestry bedspreads billowed from the ceilings. Matisse posters crowded the walls. We’d bought a set of dishes at K-Mart and a cast iron pan at the flea market. I worked as an aerobic instructor and as a hostess at Golden West Pancakes. I made ends meet by collecting food stamps which we once used to throw an extravagant “C” dinner party—crab, cookies, and Chablis—for the rest of that month we survived on top ramen. I had no five-year plan, no dogged ambition. I enjoyed writing, stories mostly. I imagined I’d someday transfer to a university, become an elementary school teacher like my mom. I liked kids, I liked the idea of college, and nothing else tugged at me. But, in order for that low-grade ambition to take root, I would actually have to develop some drive beyond throwing a “D” party—dogs, daiquiris, and ding-dongs.
To further unmoor my already free-floating existence, I fell in love. J was tan, handsome and kind. He was a sailor with his own business and his own boat and a smart golden retriever who balanced milkbones on her nose and could bark her name, Ru-by. He played the tuba(!), which was quirky and adorable. He sold a little pot on the side, which meant there was a party wherever he went. He was also thirteen years older than me. He was calm and stable—things my erratic childhood lacked. You see, by the time I was thirteen, my mother and I had moved ten times. We’d lived in four cities. I went to five elementary schools. With J, I felt rooted and that was intoxicating for nineteen-year-old me. J took me sailing. He took me to nice restaurants. We lingered in bed on Sunday mornings watching cooking shows and then went to the market to buy the ingredients for Shrimp Vera Cruz. He drove me past the sweet house he’d lived in with his ex-wife. It was plum colored with a walnut tree in front and a picket fence. I harbored vague wishes of someday living in a cozy house with J and his wonderful dog.
Read more online at The Rumpus.