On Allison Road

“Such is friendship that through it we love places and seasons.”     -Henry David Thoreau

 Internet dating wasn’t as big nine years ago as it is today. 

So you’d think that the most lasting relationship I’ve had here in Austin wouldn’t have been forged online.  And yet, it was.

In the fall of 2003 I was part of an incoming-class email list for a graduate program at the University of Texas (American Studies, to be specific).  And I have to say, I thought we had an awfully nice group of noobs. 

In all of my naïve and candid glory, I emailed everyone six months before we started classes, introducing myself to my future compatriots.  Something along the lines of, “I’m moving from Massachusetts, and I don’t know anyone!  Be my friend!”  And as nice as everyone was, only one person wrote back reciprocating my arguably needy plea. 

Allison and I “friend-dated” via email for the spring and summer leading up to our grad program start-date in August.  We exchanged pictures.  We talked about our relationships and our dogs.  We planned to get together when I arrived in Austin, and she promised to help me unload my UHaul.  My local friends joked that we’d probably realize that we hated each other when we were actually in the same city, and part of me agreed that it was almost too good to be true. 

But we just clicked.  She was friendly but edgy; smart and attractive; sassy but outgoing.  If not warm, specifically, certainly she was funny and generous with time, praise, and support.  And that didn’t change when I arrived in Texas. 

Allison and I ate lunch together twice a week, took almost all of the same classes, introduced our respective partners to each other.  We read each others’ essays, commiserated over the most arduous of readings, and shared dog-sitting.  And even when our worlds turned upside down over and over again, she remained a fixed part of my life.

So here we are, after three major break-ups (including two divorces), a wedding, twelve (TWELVE!) moves, three degrees, half a dozen varying jobs, countless cups of coffee, and more alcohol than I care to (or can) remember.   

And she’s leaving.

I exited our graduate program with my master’s, realizing that my experience there had run its course. But Allison stuck it out, and this spring she earned her Ph.D.  She’s Dr. Allison!  Huzzah!  But academic jobs are hard to come by, so that degree takes her far away from Austin.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m supremely happy for her.  She’s worked her ass off for this degree, and she deserves every bit of success that comes her way.  I know that she’s about to embark on a tremendous adventure; to grow personally and professionally; to fulfill lifelong goals and test her considerable mettle. 

But there’s a part of me – and not a very small one, either – that wants to stomp my foot and stick out my lower lip.  I want to blockade the door so that she can’t go.  I want to “borrow” some handcuffs and just send the movers on their merry way when they arrive at her doorstep.  I want to stand outside her window with a boom box playing “In Your Eyes”, my chin raised defiantly.  Don’t go, Dr. Allison!  How can you leave us?!

Because one could argue that the friendship that I’ve shared with Allison is the most successful one that I’ve had in Austin.  She’s marked my experience here.  I don’t know this city without her.  She’s been here from Day One.  I’ve made so so many great friends, and I know that (while I’ll miss her desperately), I won’t be lonely.  Still…there will be a void.  Allison is my Austin.  Here in this capital city, all roads lead to her for me.  

I know that we’re grown-ups, and your friends aren’t supposed to mean quite as much to you as you age.  That you’re supposed to transfer your attention to things like kids, career, romance.  But honestly, I think that’s a load of bullshit.  Who says we need to grow up at all?  Who says that our friends can’t be just as important as those things?  Not me. 

I’m confident that Allison and I will keep in touch.  We’re already planning a visit, actually.  And I know that no matter where our friendship leads us, I’ll be grateful for the closeness that we’ve shared.  But there’s no denying this:  A chapter is closing, and Austin is (once again) reimaged for me due to her absence.

In the winter of 2005 I took an extended trip to Europe, and Allison burned me a CD for my wanderings.  I still have that disc…somewhere…and every so often I pop it in to remember that time and place.  One of the last tracks was cleverly selected by Allison so that I’d keep her in my thoughts during my travels.  So here’s my dedication to my friend, who will in some ways always embody this place for me:  “Allison Road” by the Gin Blossoms.  Enjoy, friends.  And fare thee well, A.

2 Responses to “On Allison Road”

  • Julie Mangano Says:

    What a sweet tribute to Allison. I hope I have another friend like that someday.

  • Mom Says:

    Oh, Colleen…you made me cry….again. Yes, Allison, you will be sorely missed by my daughter (and others). You two are such soulmates. Be well and be happy.

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