He looked dashing in his business shirt, drink in hand, standing in the center window of Club Heaven and Hell on 18th Street. We’d spent one delightful month together, and this night seemed like the culmination. I was leaving soon to return to North Carolina, and he would continue his exhilarating city life without me. Eager to relish the moment, I etched his image solidly in my memory. I watched him from the sidewalk for a few seconds, savoring the lines of his face and shape of his figure. He saw me, and the black light of the club lit his smile. He rushed out the door, and even though I was there to rescue him from the loneliness of the city, he was rescuing me. He had liberated me from my isolated women’s college for a month of bliss.
I began the journey to Adams Morgan on a brisk New Year’s Day. I was an undergraduate, pre-law student at Salem College, a small school in North Carolina. I felt brave traveling from the sheltered Moravian village of Old Salem to the buzz of a city I didn’t know. My adventure was time-limited; it was my school’s January Term, a four-week investment in the future careers of Salem College women.
That January, I served as an intern with the American BarAssociation. Upon arrival at my Argonne Place apartment, I explored Adams Morgan, sampling the eclectic cuisine, used-book store and fancy drinks. There were many reasons for young adults to spend money and time in Adams Morgan, and the short walk from my apartment to 18th Street was always brimming with the anticipation of new food, new people and new adventures. During that month, friends from the American Bar Association fled 15th Street with me at 5 p.m. on the dot, ready to sample the sumptuous food and drink that “my” neighborhood had to offer. We were young undergraduates without a care in the world, laughing in smoky bars with dark walls and lush couches, feeling like this fantasy world would never come to an end.
And what big-city experience would be complete without love? In January, I met Dave, a handsome journalist. He was raspy and sharp, successful and romantic. I was the young student, and he was the accomplished professional. He taught me what it was like to indulge in the city, read Jack Kerouac novels and be so infatuated with someone it hurts. The month flew by. I gained great experience at the bar association, had more fun than I could have ever imagined and absorbed nearly each inch of the neighborhood.
Years later, I still think about the adventure. When the air turns frigid and frost dresses the North Carolina grass, I remember my January in Adams Morgan. I can feel the crisp nights, the closeness of friends and the excitement of cozy restaurants, dancing and Dave. The image of him standing in the center window of the club is fresh and haunting. I recall his smile and the month of fantasy city life that he gave me. January in Adams Morgan was a holiday, a winter oasis in the midst of routine.
© 2008 J. Dana Trent