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Anecdote 1: Princeton

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She graduated from Princeton, graduate school, with a degree in chemistry, a fiancé, and a plan to keep moving west, away from the land that looks like a fuzzy chicken on the history textbook World Map: Asia. A sad stranger, who doesn’t really feel like a stranger once you see she is sad.

I should’ve met more people, she says. (She is looking down again.) There was something I could have learned from those kids, but …
She wore glasses even then, I can tell, because some people, the ones who can’t forget they are there, just don’t look normal without glasses. And a sweater like that one, only probably brighter and better at keeping out the cold, maybe with embroidered roses on the collar, twirling around the shoulders, a grandmother’s touch pushing down just a little bit more. Pink and gray, and her already probably starting to look down, at the ground, at the table, at her children, her whole life.
But, trailing away, like the sentence just gave up and collapsed like a pioneer and his ox-pulled wagons in the desert. A daughter’s report winks at me from a forest of thumbtacks. In green teacher ink: 100% Great Job! In her house’s light, green is a cold color.
Why does the mother of two young daughters and a cold, stone floor in the Silicon Valley tell me she regrets Princeton? Who knows these days what makes a mother sad.
Goodbye; thank you; no handshake. Thank you again.
Somewhere she stands on the beach, right on the edge of the Pacific, wearing sandals because who knows what Americans throw on their beaches. Go west, the same voice says, the one that told strong white men to pack their canvas wagons and leave home, and promises a better life, a better beach, a better school for the daughters that won’t look like the ones with orange lockers and pretty, bad girls on American TV. Go west, she imagines the chicken shrieking, in a voice high and mean like a told-you-so. Go west! before she can answer. And keep going, until you find it. West, I mean.





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