In 2003, I sailed east to The Netherlands to commence at brief chemistry post-doctoral stint at the Technical University of Eindhoven. Shortly after arriving, I was installed at a chemistry fume hood in Lab Twee (not Lab Ein, Drie, of Vier). Across the way was one Renatus (Rene) with whom I became fast friends. While running chromatographic columns or triaging his disastrous experiments with Indigo, we discuss America, The Netherlands, and life.
We subsequently go our own ways. I depart back to Boston and into the workforce at start-up E-Ink. Rene marries fellow chemist Anouk, moves to San Diego, has two kids, and then bounces on to St. Louis to keep her job with Pfizer.
I lose track with Rene until I read through LinkedIn that Anouk has taken up work in Cambridge, MA. When I ping him a week ago, Rene confirms that the family had indeed moved to Massachusetts to buy a home in Wellesley, my home town. So odd that while I travel to the world to get away from this squalid dystopia, Rene moves in.
We meet Saturday afternoon for pizza at one of the few reasonably-priced restaurants that also serves beer, a novelty for formerly-dry Wellesley. He hasn’t changed. Nor have I. We discuss the adventures of the intervening 13 years, whether our advisor (and bigwig) Bert Meijer would deem us now career disappointments. Neither of us are where we expected to land, but we are grateful for the stories we own and have trouble envisioning different lives.
Rene confesses that he hasn’t kept in touch with anyone else from Eindhoven except myself. I thought I was the misanthrope. I vainly wish I had made more of my life. Perhaps I should be instead teaching at a small university, overwhelmed with work. As his family now resides in the same town as my family, I’ll see Rene again when I next return home. Life sometimes goes in circles.