I’m so conditioned to being in this city, I almost wanted to put a dateline on this post.  But each time I come here – and I’m here a lot for work – I always think about one of my friends from college, who went to school here and who lives in the area with her family, and who likely works here.

Steph went through a rough go of it in college, and dropped out after three semesters because of health and emotional issues. I don’t know if it was the culture shock of moving to the United States from Canada, of being surrounded by seemingly liberal women after growing up in a religiously conservative household and having to straddle two worlds, of having to leave everything she knew behind including her boyfriend, her best friends, her college scholarship and her life behind to uproot with her family … I remember going to visit her when she was hospitalized and I gave her a copy of one of my favorite books. I wonder if she still has that tattered copy.

And I remember seeing her again in Colorado about 10 years ago, right before Christmas. It was the best three hours of that winter, sitting at the Cheesecake Factory and telling old stories and looking through photos of our lives. At one point, she made me stop as I flipped through an album.

“Is that graduation?” she asked. It was. I wondered how Steph felt when she saw that.

I remember that when we hugged in the middle of downtown Denver and parted, a Christmas carol covered by Christina Aguilera was playing on a nearby sound system. I can’t listen to that CD without thinking of Steph.

In the 18 months I’ve lived here, Steph hasn’t returned any of my emails or phone calls – so I’ve gotten the point. Set ’em free, right?

When I’m in Ann Arbor for work, sometimes I’ll be sitting at Starbucks or at lunch and I’ll look out the window, wondering if I’ll see Steph pass by.  And I wonder if I would get up from my seat and chase her down. I wonder if it would be worth it.

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