nobody home

I moved to an old farming town recently, population two hundred. The locals are friendly, though they wonder what I'm doing here. I tell them I wanted to get away from the city, and they act like they understand, but that's not the real reason. I can't tell if they know that or not, but we both go on pretending.

I guess this used to be a big stop along the railroad, with grain elevators and silos and things like that--there's still a lot of wheat farms, for a town of two hundred. I'm not really sure what they do with it. I guess they sell it still. Sometimes I wonder if any of the bread I used to eat in Seattle came from here. Was I buying their livelihood indirectly? I'll probably never know. I could ask, but I'd rather not.

The local kids confuse me. Not the really young ones, but the ones in high school, or the ones that should be college-aged. I think I confuse them, too. They don't seem any different. When I lived in a small town I was just like them--only there is nothing to do in this town and there's a good chance they all know each other and there's an intricate social structure I'm missing.

I'm not really sure why, but I took one of them on what I guess you could call a date to the local cafe--delicious food, made fresh. The owner knows me now. I guess the whole town probably does. I'm not getting looks anymore. She had brown hair and a practiced smile. She seemed friendly enough, but distant, like one of us was missing the cues. Was she trying to tell me something? Or was I trying to tell her something?

She smiled one of those smiles that usually sends books worth of messages to someone, but I couldn't read them. I was thinking about something else. It's almost Valentine's Day. I'm not home anymore. And moving here didn't actually help. She picks up the tab, and I thank her and say that's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me, and we both know I'm not talking about paying for dinner. I take her back home and she kisses me on the doorstep.

I thank her and say that's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me.

I'd say I never saw her again, but that wouldn't be true. I saw her a lot. I never understood her, but I think she understood me. I almost wanted to leave right there, but there was nowhere else to go. Anyway, I can't leave until I tell someone why I'm here. Even if she already knows.

1 comment:

Janie-In-Nautilus said...

things bother me, which makes me just like everybody else, but what distinguishes me is mostly what things bother me. Inbreeding for one.

My whole world in this small square of life, every boy I know, the late afternoon walks down main street where I can't even have a breath of anonimity-- what do other people do with the knowledge that one of these boys will eventually father their child? What do other people do to reconcile themselves to a gene pool like this?

The boy from the city, I think he knows how I feel. Not firsthand, of course-- no one from the city could ever know that. But when people live as close together as we do here, they get totally blind. No one sees what I'm thinking; they've known me too long. But he knows. He doesn't mistake that speculation in my eyes for how-are-you-and-is-your-dad-getting-better? he doesn't even mistake it for curiosity.

People say he's planning on staying. I wonder if that means eventually he'll be as blind as the rest of us. I wonder if that means I should warn him what will happen if he stays.

Maybe I could suggest that we elope...