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Parallel Universe and Slush Puppies
2006-03-16 - 6:34 a.m.

I had a long "conversation" with my friend Greg yesterday, thanks to the wonder known as Gmail Chat. Somewhere in there, I mentioned my parallel universe fascination. It began a long time ago, even before I saw the movie Sliding Doors, even before Campbell Scott and Bridgit Fonda declared that in a parallel universe they were probably a scorching couple. I know that logically it isn't possible. But what if every decision you make that brings you on a different path DID create an alternate univers with an alternate you who went in the other direction?

In the winter of 1991, I was working as a live-in nanny for a family in Dover, MA. They had traveled to Florida for Christmas, leaving me behind to take care of the dog and watch the house. My friend Phil spent a lot of time watching the house with me. Late one night--very late one night, or perhaps very early in the morning--I developed an uncontrollable urge for a slush puppy. Now, it was December in New England, not really prime Slush Puppy season, but I NEEDED a Slush Puppy, so we set off in the car in search of an open convenience store with a working silver slush machine.

It was a hard search, but about six or so Christy's and 7-11's and Store 24's later, we found one. I filled my cup with loads of cherry syrup and the slushy ice mix, and moved to the surprisingly long line to pay. While we waited, another patron looked up at us, surprised, and said, "Phil?!"

Phil's friend Matt, who had lived out-of-state for several years, had recently moved back into the area. He was starting a band and in need of a drummer. Phil was a drummer in need of a band. Phone numbers were exchanged and we set off back toward Dover with much more than a frozen cherry treat.

A few days later, Phil was playing with the band. I spent a lot of time sitting in corner of their practice space, including the several-week search for a lead singer. Soon, the band found Stan, and, for better or worse, the ZuGods were complete.

Stan lived with his brother, Jeff. Jeff played lacrosse and talked a very smooth game. I had a large crush on Jeff. When Stan invited me to a superbowl party at their apartment, I happily accepted. It wasn't Jeff's phone number I took home that night, though, but Brett's. Brett was a female ex-coworker of Stan's who lived in the city and loved to go out. Like me, she didn't easily make female friends, but we hit it off amazingly well. We worked down the street from each other, and soon made plans to meet for lunch. That lunch turned into a long several months where every weekend I would pack my bag and head into Beacon Hill. Brett's roommate called me "Couch Jennifer" because that was usually where he'd find me. Luckily, he wasn't home much.

Our cheesy weekend spot of choice was Avenue C, where the deejay had a crush on Brett and she always made good on her belief that a girl should never pay for more than her first drink. We danced a lot. We flirted a lot. And we always went home together. It was a lot of fun.

A few months after Stan's party, Brett called and asked me if I wanted to go see Bob Mould with her and a few other friends. Sure, I told her. Although I knew who Husker Du was, I'd never paid much attention to them, but I was always up for a night out.

The show was packed and loud. Brett's friend Dicky was easy to spot, though, up close to the stage so his friend Ref could drool on Bob Mould's feet. He introduced us around--"This is Cronin and Erica and Jim and Ref. Oh, and this is my roommate Tim and our friend Jen." At the end of the show, Dicky pulled Tim aside to discuss trading trucks. Tim's was bigger, more comfortable for three people, and we were off to Dick's Last Resort for Buffett Night. Keys were exchanged, goodbyes were said, and we left to go drink hurricanes served by surly waitresses.

Monday morning, Brett called me. "Dicky's roommate Tim thinks you're cute and wants to go out with you." I thought back. "WHICH one was Tim?"

"The tall one with the short hair? The one with the truck."

"OH. Right. Tim."

The next week, Dicky, Brett, Tim, and I met for dinner at Addis Red Sea an Ethiopian restaurant in Boston. Dinner was enough to make me want to see him again. Soon, my weekends were spent at Tim's instead of Brett's, and a new chapter in my life began.

Through Tim, I met a huge number of people. One of them was Dicky's cousin Chris. Another was Chris's friend Heather. Years passed and our lives spun around each other. Tim and I broke up and got back together and broke up and got back together and broke up and got back together and broke up. After one particularly spectacular breakup, I went to Martha's Vineyard for the weekend with Cronin and Heather and Chris. Heather invited her brother and some of his friends, none of whom I'd ever met before, to fill the rest of the suite.

The first night there, I was sulky, still licking my wounds from Tim's and my latest nine rounds. Heather's brother and his entourage came in, and I barely noticed them. One friend was in love with Heather. Two were a couple. And the last looked like every other white boy I saw walking around Downtown Crossing. Short hair, blue button-down oxford shirt, khaki pants, woven brown leather belt, wire-rimmed glasses. It wasn't until we sat down to eat pizza later that I noticed his socks. They were striped--big, fat, electric blue and white stripes. Perhaps he wasn't JUST like every other white boy I saw walking around Downtown Crossing.

Kirk and I were the only people not drinking that night. The others were doing a spectacular job of draining the Vineyard, but he and I were stone-cold sober, an amazing bonding ritual for two people. By the end of the weekend, I was smitten, and when he called and asked me out the next week, I didn't hesitate.

That was six years ago. He's now asleep in our bedroom, our two-year-old nearby.

My point? It's not always the big decisions. That's why Sliding Doors hit me so hard. Her life became totally different based on catching or missing a train. Mine was changed forever because of an elusive cherry Slush Puppy. The drink led me to Matt. Matt to Stan, Stan to Jeff, Jeff to Brett, Brett to Dicky, Dicky to Tim, Tim to Chris, Chris to Heather, Heather to Kirk. Would I still be here today if I'd given up after the fifth store with no slush? Honestly? I don't think I would.

What brought you to where you are?

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