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Late one night, a few months ago, I stopped at Cashwise Foods on my way home from work. As I approached the cashier I heard an unfamiliar shriek “Annie! Oh my God!” I had no idea who this person was, but the fact that she called me Annie means that she is someone from Hallock, where I lived when people (aside from my parents) called me Annie. I glanced inconspicuously at her name tag and realized that this was the crazy girl.

She is the friend that I never liked, but had to spend time with because our moms were friends. She was always tiny, but made up for it by being incredibly bossy and loud; clearly that hadn’t changed.

“Oh my god, I haven’t seen you in years. What are you up to these days?” In moments of false sincerity I always really, really wonder what my face actually looks like, and how good an actress I actually am.

“Oh, I’m just working part-time and raising my baby.” This was punctuated by a quick flash of the baby picture stuck in her name badge, all the while keeping the rhythm of scanning my groceries. Slightly impressive, actually, but still crazy. I suddenly heard my mom’s voice in my head ‘that girl has baby fever.’ Clearly, that hadn’t changed..

“But you,” she broke into my reverie, “I just can’t believe you’re still here. I thought you’d be long gone by now.”

“Well, I had to stick around to finish my MASTERS last spring, and now I’m just hanging out and saving money, getting ready to move out east.”

By this point she had my total for me, and I’m fairly convinced that she heard nothing I said. She handed me my receipt, and I started to say “It was nice to see you again.” but she was already bantering with the person behind me in line. So I pushed my cart away, marveling at the fact that I got so owned by a stay-at-home mom who hasn’t even succeeded at that.

Before that, when I was initially applying to schools, a customer came up to me at the coffee cart. He is a doctor at the clinic, very self-important, always tips, but makes you feel filthy for wanting his money. He had never said more to me than “low-carb chai”, leaving me to guess the size.

“So, you’n college?”

“I was, until I graduated.”

“With what?”

“I have a B.A. in English and an M.F.A. in fiction writing.” Seeing that he had no idea what to do with that, I decided to throw him a bone, “I’m going back in the fall for and masters of library science.”

“Where you going?”

“I’ve applied at University of Maryland, and the University of Rhode Island.”

“East coast huh? I lived out there when I was in the service. It’s different there. You should go out west.”

I tried to defend my decision with substantive evidence, only so many accredited programs in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico, I don’t want to live in California, everyone moves to Washington or Oregon etc. I could see his eyes glazing over and he just grabbed his drink, and said “well, good luck to you.”

Now I am leaving, I am leaving Fargo and moving out east, even though it’s different there. If it wasn’t different, what would be the point of going there? I have a plan, I have registered for classes. An entire University is expecting me. This is something that is not a whim, or a passing fancy; it is happening.

Now all people can ask me is when I’m coming back. “You’re going to move out there and get another master’s and then come back here right?” “How long do you think it will be before you come back?” “You are coming back?”