She was my childhood best friend and, at my persuasion, she moved in with me in New York from Pittsburgh. For nearly a year, we conquered even the most harrowing parts of city life together. She was a painter. We shared a studio space. We collaborated to create events that combined both music and art. When my band went on tour for the entire summer, she came with us and helped with driving and selling merchandise. But all of that concentrated time together backfired and by the end of that year, we had a falling out. She moved out of my apartment; she moved out of New York. She started a new life in Boston. She got a puppy. I sent her emails every now and then, hoping to maintain a thread of contact despite our mutual need for general distance. She always wrote back, even if it took a week or two. She came back to New York once for a night to visit her friends, including mutual friends. I saw her for a second, but the climate between the two of us was still tense and unforgiving. Twenty months of embarrassingly little communication passed and then I asked her to go to Maine with me.
Maine was the only continental U.S. state I hadn’t seen at the time. I read about an oceanside, dog-friendly resort just north of the Maine border and brainstormed a plan and presented it to her. After making sure she could get the time off from work, she agreed.
The cheap Chinatown buses that run nearly every hour from NYC to Boston and other major East Coast cities were means of regular travel for me. I arrived to the dumpy sidewalk corner where everyone waits for the bus thirty minutes early, luckily lugging only a backpack. I boarded a subtly bad-smelling bus and did what I always do on buses: alternated between staring out the window while listening to music and focusing intently on my laptop screen writing. She picked me up in downtown Boston. I was happy to see her – relieved even.
We went back to her house in Newton where I met her nearly 2-year-old Boxer and walked bemusedly into and through her strange home. She’d been living in a house that belonged to her godfather and she didn’t have to pay rent, but there was a catch: her godfather’s family stored anything they wanted in the house and on the property. A few rusted cars, all of which were out of commission, lined the driveway. I twisted through the maze between a handful of couches in the dark living room, passing an adjacent room that was so thick with the brush of dusty excess that it served no purpose other than storage. There were a few bedrooms upstairs and old mattresses were scattered throughout them. My eyes scanned each scene with rapidity, immediately finding items to remark on as if I were perusing the merchandise in a house-sized garage sale. The only section of the house she’d organized was the basement, which she had turned into an art studio. I asked her if she’d thought of ways to create more functional living spaces in the rest of the house, but she seemed to think that if she worked hard and made it look nice, that someone in her godfather’s family would suddenly notice the improvement and decide rent was owed. So she left it all the way it was.
We used her car to get to the resort in Maine, a place called The Cliff House Resort & Spa. Barring just a few wrong turns, it didn’t take us long to reach our destination. We pulled in late afternoon and were shown to our room. Our room belonged to the comparatively dingier side of the resort that contained the older building wherein dogs were permitted. No one else was staying in that wing of the hotel at the time and our balcony overlooked steep rock cliffs that dropped off into the Atlantic. It was perfect. We woke up at sunrise to walk the dog and stared out at the orange and pink beams of light over the ocean with gratitude. We stuffed ourselves with delicious seafood, blueberry pie and wine for three days. I had mussels, foie gras and raw oysters for the first time. When we weren’t eating, we were in the hot tub or the pool. When we weren’t soaking, we were getting massages or body wraps. We even had a masseuse come to our room and give the dog a massage, as if to prove to ourselves that such a service really did exist. He didn’t seem to like the massage at the time, but he fell asleep drooling as soon as the masseuse left – comatose. And when we weren’t doing any of those things, we talked. I had a crush on my now-husband at the time, but I wasn’t quick to admit it.
“I don’t know, E. Sounds to me like you like this guy,” she told me.
“Maybe,” I confessed.
Instead of taking the highway back to Boston, we decided to drive down the coast (I wrote about the drive for the Iconic Road Trips series earlier this summer). It took us roughly five extra hours to take this route, but it was worth it. We stopped for coffee (Seacoast Coffee Company) and photo-taking and got back to Boston with enough time left over to join her colleagues for a dinner at the restaurant where she worked before I boarded the 10 p.m. bus back to NYC. I hobbled onto the bus drunk, having taken too many generously poured, gratis glasses of wine from her manager. The bus smelled strongly of urine, as most Chinatown buses by nightfall do in my experience. I smiled, despite my gagging, at the small vacation I now had under my belt. I’d seen a new state, tried a handful of new things and made good with one of my oldest and closest friends. I woke up in Manhattan and took a taxi back home to Astoria.