Allison Gruber
6 min readFeb 20, 2022


I wrote a book.
The book is called Transference.
You can order Transference HERE.
Kristine’s name is on the dedication page.
Last night, at Kristine’s house, I signed her copy of Transference.
And I jokingly told her this was my “long game” present that I’d been “working on for you” since Carthage. Carthage was where we went to undergrad in the 90s, and where we met. And then I told her
I am a Jehovah’s Witness. Reader, I am not a Jehovah’s Witness, but this is the kind of random “confession” that makes me and Kristine laugh.
And the reason I told her this was because I was telling Kristine and her daughter and husband about Buddha. And Kristine said, “Stop trying to convert my family like a Jehovah’s Witness.”
Of course she was kidding, and then I took the opportunity to add,
“I am not trying to convert your family to Buddhism . . . because I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. Never knew how to tell you, Kristine.”
And even if you’re not laughing — it’s weird humor, why would you laugh? — Kristine and I thought this was the funniest fucking thing: the “long game” book, the Jehovah’s Witness, my remark that “no one ever taught me how to sign my books.”
“Taught you,” Kristine replied, laughing. “What class would that have been?”
And then we ate Thai food, and I taught her kid how to play Nintendo Switch (sorry, Kristine), and the night concluded with Kristine reading me passages from a terribly written “erotic thriller.” I think it was a “thriller” — Kristine was explaining the premise and it was something about a writer who was a woman who inexplicably goes into some vegetative state and so an avatar has to take over her writing career . . . And then there’s also a lot of poorly written sex scenes.

I’ve never written a sex scene. Probably never will. 1) Sex in literature is impossible to write well 2) sex, to me, is not the most interesting topic given all the other human things that happen in this life, and 3) no, I’m not a prude. Just bored by the subject.

2014. Kristine sending me off to Arizona.

As teenagers, Kristine and I started our college’s first Feminist activism club. We called it STINGRAY. This is a long story I will tell you, reader, another day.
And last night, as we began catching up, while her daughter played on my Nintendo Switch, stopping periodically to ask me questions about a game, Kristine and I reflected on the kids we were when we met.
“We were so young, Allison,” Kristine emphasized, calling me “Allison” and not “Grubs” for added serious. Once Kristine described Boomer parenting of their Gen X offspring as this, “All sorts of crazy fucked up things happened, and then they drove us to college, dropped us off with our luggage and said, ‘Bye-bye. Be good.’” And when she first framed our Gen X experience this way, I laughed so hard because it is so true. And maybe that’s what every generation does with their offspring. I don’t know.
And whatever.
We survived.

Once, a grown man called us at our dorm to complain about the posters we’d put on campus to honor a Roe v. Wade anniversary. He told us he “wasn’t paying all this money so my daughter can read about abortion.” And I said to this man, “You know what? If you don’t like it, you should take your concerns to the school board.” And I thought this sounded very grownup and reasonable. And when I hung up the phone (which was an actual phone in the wall because it was the 90s), Kristine said, “Who the fuck was that?” And I said, “Some guy who is upset about our Roe v. Wade posters.” And then Kristine asked, “Does a college even have a ‘school board’?” And I said,
“What the fuck is a school board?”

Last night, I got to tell Kristine’s daughter about the time her ma convinced me there was an actual “Clown College” in Bariboo, Wi, and I believed her and was tragically embarrassed when I discovered she was messing with me.

There are lots of stories I have for Kristine’s daughter about her ma. (Just the squeaky clean ones, of course, Kristine.) And when I went to Kristine’s last night, even though I haven’t seen her in 3.5 years (because cancer & pandemic & everything), it felt as though no time had passed and we simply slipped back into a conversation we’ve started in 1994 beside the soda machine, in a dormitory along the shores of Lake Michigan.

She used to wear a tiara and frequently a Hole band t-shirt, and the first time I spoke to her, in the lounge of Denhart Hall, she fascinated me and made me laugh as hard as my friend Megan, and before I’d met Megan — a year prior to meeting Kristine — I’d never met someone who could make me laugh so hard. Then I met Kristine.

Once, circa 1998, at a Shakespeare festival, we had to walk out of a production of Henry V after I randomly pulled a small, plush unicorn from my bag, set it on her knee and told her the creature’s name was “Charlene” and that she “enjoys Shakespeare, also.” And we lost it. I mean, Kristine lost it first because the whole thing was so random and weird. And then we had to leave the theater. One of us still has Charlene.

Also, the production of Henry V was dull, though during that same visit we saw Christopher Plummer as Lear and that was awesome.

My 32nd birthday, I think. Charlene between us.

Kristine is one of many reasons why I’ve missed Chicagoland for so many years. She makes me laugh. She gets angry on my behalf. She teases me lovingly about my eccentricities. Last night, long after the Jehovah’s Witness/Buddhist exchange, we were sitting in her living room and she began to worry about something distant-future-related, and I said, “Dude. Just be here now.” And I meant it. And then she looked at me and she said, “Jesus, you are a Buddhist.” I widened my eyes in surprise. “Sorry,” she said. “What for?” I asked. “Calling you a ‘Buddhist’ — you looked so alarmed.”
And I said, “Yeah, man, because as we’ve established, I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. Can I tell you more about the Kingdom of Christ?” (I don’t know if “Kingdom of Christ” is a Jehovah’s thing or a Mormon thing or a Catholic thing, but it sounded like a scary Jehovah’s thing — and I’m not trying to come down on the Jehovah’s, though they do unsettle me for a variety of Very Good Reasons.)
I wanted a photo. Kristine suggested we do “Sears Portrait Studio” style.
I sat in a chair, tried to look like some geeky kid in a Sears Portrait, but was laughing too hard to keep the pose for long. And this was the picture Kristine’s daughter captured.
“How old do you feel, inside?” Kristine asked me in the moments before this photo was taken. I am 45, and she will be, too, in a few days.
“Seventeen,” I said. Then thought more, “Actually nineteen.” And because Kristine has born witness to most of my life, I didn’t need to explain why 19, for we both knew that 19 was the year I began to lose myself to myself — my unhealthy coping mechanisms, my pride around seeking true psychiatric help, my fear of what/who I, essentially, am.
“Same,” Kristine said.
And then I told her something I once heard Anne Lamott say about how an over-sixty friend of her’s says he feels, most days, “Like a 23 year old who has something seriously wrong.”

Kristine’s laughter is big and contagious. Over the years, her laugh alone has often made me laugh. Some women laugh with their whole soul, and Kristine is one. And I love this, and many more things, my chosen other-sister, my beautiful, brilliant, hilarious friend.

And in this picture, I see two women who have traveled very far, in very different ways, and who have had more than their share of big, unfair suffering, and who, despite it all can still laugh easily, who can laugh so easily and so much they can’t even sit still for the 11 y/o laughing as she points the camera at her ma and her ma’s friend:

Be good, hooligans.



Allison Gruber

Educator, essayist, feminist, human.