Journeys are about where you’re going, but also about what you leave behind. We’ve moved our permanent residence together more than twenty times and have always had very conflicted feelings about the places we’ve left. We know each time that we’re not coming back. We might go past there some time, driven by memory, but we are gone, never to return to those furniture arrangements, views through the kitchen window, or the years. The grim basement apartment in Chicago that reeked of exhaust fumes, the cute little house in Milwaukee whose rooms we filled with bright colors and wild parties, the Mill House and its duck, the Old City loft and its mad fire alarm . . .
Or South Carolina.
I was ripped up by the roots, and it hurt like hell. I’d been drunk on California— the colors, the ocean, the kiss of air on bare skin, the discovery of new muscles as an actress, being part of a world I loved— and now we were leaving.
We sold the baby grand, called the movers, packed our Beetle to the gills and set out cross-country to Columbia, South Carolina, where Conrad would be a salaried college prof and I would be a leisured faculty wife.
Early in the trip, we stopped to buy groceries for the evening meal. I went in while Conrad waited in the car. As I was returning, the store manager appeared, asking me to show my receipt for what I’d shoplifted. Conrad watched. I bluffed and lied, and the manager, muttering threats, let me go. We drove on without a word.
Conrad had a good contract, and the cost of Southern living was a pleasant surprise. We rented a massive Victorian house and waited for the movers while sleeping in sleeping bags— a mode that for us has marked many beginnings. Conrad began his round of faculty meetings and course preparation while I combed second-hand stores to furnish most of our many bare rooms, bought bright materials for cushions, sewed drapes, bought two Siamese kittens and a used piano. We were in the normal world.
The theatre was part of the English Department, with one other prof and two new faculty, myself and a designer. We had an old multi-use auditorium, a handful of drama majors, and constant struggles with other departments for rehearsal and shop space. I taught various theatre courses plus Voice & Diction, which I knew nothing about, and was scheduled to direct two shows a year. I wore a suit and tie, and people called me Dr. Bishop. For a while, I liked it . . .