College towns live in their own rhythm. Summers quiet down as students depart for their seasonal jobs, family-sponsored trips, or self-defined adventures. Bars and taverns go back to serving, mostly, their old-time regulars. Restaurants reduce their hours. The locals savor the summer months of plentiful parking, shorter lines in the grocery stores, and light-filled evenings.
Secretly, they all long for the return of the students. They love the buzz of excitement that spreads around Labor Day, as they are getting their own small children ready for going back to school. They enjoy the last week or two of peace, while anticipating the increased pace and activity of fall.
Complaining about traffic on student-move-in-day is a ritual. So is griping about the “kids” and their habits, clothing, music, and reckless use of longboards to travel around town.
But everyone knows the faculty will spend more money on cocktails at the bars, pints at the craft breweries, and dinners at the restaurants; everyone knows the students will fill the discount grocery’s cash registers, load up on dorm-room essentials at the big chain store, and flood happy hours for one-dollar tallboys. Everyone knows the college provides the high-octane fuel for the local economy.
And, the older locals, the retired folks, the landlords, the business owners, they savor the taste of youth that tinges the autumn air.
Franny experienced her first autumn on Pine Street in a state of happy anticipation, mixed with loneliness. She’d been given a one-quarter contract to teach a class on campus, and she could hardly wait to experience college life from the inside. Plus, her contract came with one-quarter’s worth of health insurance, something she had to celebrate, especially given the wake-up calls she’d experienced over the summer.
She hadn’t seen Leo much since the wedding, the kiss, and what happened after. Franny had been very busy, and so had Leo, she assumed. She’d run into him a few times, and thought about him so often between meetings, she wondered if they might as well have been together.
Her loneliness stemmed from longing for the first real friend she’d made in this college town.
Franny missed Marilyn more than she could have imagined.