Kalamazoo as a Summer Fling
Because I am The Most Interesting Woman In The World (tm) ((a strong rebrand from Hoosier Trash (tm))), I've now lived enough places around the world that I have developed a sure-proof way to fall in love with every place I go to. What's her secret? Always have one foot out the door. If you're in the Midwest, spiritually you're on the East Coast. If you are living abroad, your hidden homesickness will tether you across the Atlantic. If you're in DC, you're actually so poor that you can't afford to really be there at all. In this way, everywhere you go will feel ephemeral in a way that makes you deeply appreciate it all.
Hence, I do not have exes- only a long slew of loved and left Places.
As I enter my last week of the summer (which, not to brag, I objectively crushed), here is what it was like dating Kalamazoo for anyone else who may find themselves out here and immediately say, "oh wait, I thought it would be like Ann Arbor??!!"
Kalamazoo- Kal for short- is definitely like, the fourth youngest. He has a bit of a complex because he's definitely had exes break up with him for his hotter older siblings- Detroit, Anne Arbor, even, embarrassingly, Lansing- and he's never quite gotten over it. He's always trying to prove himself to them, like how he unironically tried to sell his own "Kalamagonia" merch, only to get blasted on the siblings' group chat.
Kal is your classic liberal Midwest white guy with your classic liberal white guy guilt. He went to WMU, has a grad degree he doesn't use, and has begun to sport one of those post-COVID white guy lil' baby mustaches. He exclusively wears upcycled clothing he's thrifted at Vintage in the Zoo. If you told him he kinda looks like Harry House-era Harry Styles, he would sincerely shed a tear. His beat-up junker car is covered in Pride and Black Lives Matter stickers, but his name is still literally appropriative considering the whole stolen land of it all. He's a gentrifier but at least self-aware enough to be a really wonderful neighbor.
You meet Kal at Shakespeare's Pub on Karaoke Thursdays, as he crooned "The Promise" by When in Rome. It was sincere enough to be endearing. He smelled like weed and coffee grounds. You're bored enough to take up his invitation to the Farmer's Market, where he greets every single vendor by name and asks after their family. You beg him not to buy $60-worth of mud-covered mushrooms, but by the time you turn around after checking out *that* hot cheese vendor ((you all know the one)), he has his arms full of goat milk soaps, Sarkozy bread, and salsa verde.
He's definitely not Kinsey scale straight, which is pretty surprising considering his conservative upbringing. It's given him a unique ability to make others feel comfortable. He's self-confident and really leans into his hobbies. He's done paper making classes at Vine Bar, joined an improv troupe at Dormouse Theatre, buys local produce at the co-op, and has impeccable trail etiquette. He volunteers by helping people register to vote. He's taken you on a veritable world tour of cuisine- everything from Malaysian/Indonesian, Indian, Korean, and Middle Eastern. However you wish his go-to bar wasn't Bell's, but you will not be the one to take on the emotional labor required to change him. You're simply passing through.
This is what you have to remind him every time he gets clingy. You start to get annoyed by his texts every time you decide to do a day trip out to the beach or a little coffee date with Grand Rapids. He's especially jealous of the long-distance phone calls you take with Chicago; he considers it emotional cheating. You told him explicitly that you're not exclusive, you're just here for the summer. It doesn't stop him trying to lure you to stay and a raise a family. It's his promise- free in-state tuition for your future kids. You tell him you don't want kids but he's still convinced he'll be the one to change you once you see all the family-friendly events and affordable starter homes.
You shush him. It's not like that, Kal. It's not me. Let's just enjoy the time we have left.
Your last night spent with him is at the golden hour at Gull Meadow Farms, surrounded by a sea of sunflowers. It's beautiful; it has an echo of home. He asks if you'll at least visit, and you tell him earnestly you'll try. You thank him for the memories and just like Rod Stewart in "Maggie May", you tell him you have to go back to school. He loads you up with edibles and gives you a warm hug goodbye.
You'll only have nice things to say about that summer with Kal, which is all you could hope for in the first place.