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In Providence: An American Girl

“I just can’t see myself leaving like this.”

She was supposed to have left weeks ago. Months, actually. June 8 was her last scheduled day in Providence.

“We’re at June 8. Okay. June 8. It’s here. And I can’t go. I’m like–What? What is happening? Why can’t I go? I love it here. I have to tell you. I love it here. And, uhhhh– I just had this idea of how I would go when I left? And I haven’t had that. I wanted a big send-off, and I haven’t had that. Where I could hug everybody and hold their hands and thank them for– It’s been 14 years. You can’t have me pack my bags and take off when there’s still so much– I feel like I don’t want to leave like this. I don’t want to go.”

Somewhere in California, there is a job waiting for her — possibly. She’s not sure. She’s called the company that offered her the job back at the beginning of March, when you could make plans and execute them without a lot of consternation. The person who hired her told her that should she come to California, the job will maybe, probably, possibly be there by the time she arrives. She was understandably concerned about that.

“I said ‘F___ that!’ You want me to go to– And nothing against California. I grew up in California. My mom– My mom and I used to drive up and down the coast and she’d clean. She’d get jobs cleaning houses, and I’d tag along, and the whole time, she was saving up money, and when she had enough, she moved here to Providence, and then she started cleaning houses here until she was done with school, and then she became a nurse. But I missed California. I can’t even tell you. I was such a brat, I was like, ‘I want to go back! You took me away from paradise!’ My mom would tell me, ‘You can move back when you’re older.’ Man, I started coming up with ways to do that, and I got this job, and I’m ready to go.”

And then…

“Here’s me on the phone asking the company, can we push it back. It was going to be June 8 when I was going to leave, but can we push it back, because, uhhhh, I don’t want to be traveling right now. I don’t want to be starting a new life when– How can you start something now? How can you do that? I know this isn’t going to disappear like–” She snaps her fingers. “Like that, but I thought if I had a little more time, it would feel differently, and uhhhh, here we are, and it doesn’t feel differently. I don’t want to go.”

She started to wonder if it was apprehension about starting a new job and a new life back in her old home, or if her new home was starting to look … like paradise.

“I would go driving. I know you talked about going driving. Well, I would go driving. I would drive all around. I would drive around the East Side and then down Hope, by the library, which is my favorite street to drive down, because that’s where my Mom and I lived when we first moved there. We had the nicest landlady and she treated me like I was her grandkid. She was so kind to me, that lady, and I have all these good memories of that house. My mom lives in Cranston now, but I drive around Providence — from my apartment near the Armory to all over. Have you ever driven around Providence late at night when nobody’s on the streets? It’s a beautiful f___ing drive. No matter how worked up I am, it calms me down. We talked about that.”

We did, because a few weeks ago, I also needed a ride around Providence to calm down. There is some kind of magic about the city when you get just the right route. If you go from the South Side, to the West End, through downtown, up to the East Side, then down North Main Street until you hit the Pawtucket line where you can hop back on the highway — all the while listening to whatever song makes you feel like rolling the windows down and taking in as much of summer as you’ve been given. For me, it’s my junior prom song: “With or Without You” by U2.

“Mine is ‘American Girl.’ That’s my theme song. Doing that drive from California to here — and maybe one more time back. I don’t know. Uhhh, I don’t know yet.”

The last deadline is the Friday after Labor Day. She says if she doesn’t leave then, she might not leave at all, and when I ask her how she would feel about that, she tells me–

“Look, if it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right. Someone said to me that–They wanted to know, uhhh, would I be embarrassed? Because I said I was leaving and– F___ no! Who cares? You gotta be able to change your mind. You gotta– People respect somebody who takes a plan and throws it in the s____er. I know I do. F___ your plans. You need to know when it’s time to go and you need to know when to stay the f___ put, man.”

I tell her I’ll check back in with her again in September to see if she’s still a resident of Providence.

Reader, there’s no point in lying to you.

I hope she stays.

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