Eastern Illinois University, home to about 11,000 students and alma mater to Burl Ives, Joan Embry and John Malkovich, was not to be confused with Northern, Southern or Western Illinois universities, nor with Illinois State or the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign or the University of Illinois-Chicago. It was part of this vast state university system, one of the largest in the country, one that was still strong but had seen better-funded days. Rebecca and Giacomo had each spent time, many years ago, on the Eastern campus during the summer, at Girls State and Boys State, respectively, with about 800 other promising high school juniors, chosen by American Legions in communities all over Illinois, there to learn about their country and democracy in general through model elections, model governments, the writing of patriotic essays and the marching of marches and the raising of flags. Girls State and Boys State, much to the teenagers' eternal dismay, were not held at the same time, but instead on consecutive weeks, casting over each event an unfortunate single-sex pall. As Giacomo followed Rebecca's car, they approached the town limits, trading Boys or Girls State memories via cellphone. They'd been talking for about two of the three hours they'd been on the road.
The rest of this story is no longer online, but does appear in the book "The Unforbidden Is Compulsory, or Optimism."