I told her from the start, “San Diego is my goal.” I wish I’d been able to tell her something straight out of Kerouac like “I’ve got a girl out there waiting for me.” Except it wouldn’t be a girl, it would be a boy. And no one wants a boy to wait for them. A girl would want a man to wait and no real man would sit back and waste time. But anyways, I didn’t know more than three people out there. A friend of my sister, a professional gambler and maybe a closet case. The older brother of a friend, a restauranteur whose standards are little to high for someone like me. And the older brother of another friend, a man I knew much better than the others, the almost 30 year old child. This last one, he was the one I would keep as my life line out there. The one I would depend on just a little bit in the beginning. until I was steady and ready and set up comfortably enough out there. Until I had my own friends and knew the right people to do the things I want to do.
I’m at that part of New York where everything smells like cow shit and the only radio stations that come in are country or sports radio and every single one of them are talking about the Pats loss last night so I drive listening to static.
Upstate there are towns called things like Selkirk, Mohawk and Ilion. You can look on one side of the highway and see run down farms and the other, run down mills. Some places are nice and developed but they’re so ugly and generic. It’s these run down places that are America. These are the places we need to fix and preserve. These unique, hand built, originally designed places that once employed whole towns of americans. That symbolized dreams and hopes and goals come to fruition. These are the first places we abandon. And the hard work, calloused hands, long hours… Isn’t that what made us all the way we are? The desire not to toil away like our parents The attitude of working smarter, not harder. Isn’t that why we’re all a little fucked up?
Maybe these run down places are what bred the greed in us. What made us want to move up in the world. Change our financial status. Maybe they’re what caused the laziness.
It’s freezing outside. He sits down with his hands full. Waits for me to stop writing and move the books I piled on his side of the little table. I don’t look up as I do it. Sliding paper and cardboard under my notebook. Making sure they are neat and lined up before pushing them a little carelessly to the side. The mug is placed in spot just vacated. Steaming, soothing and bitter. We’ve never spent more than thirty minutes together, but he knows how I take my coffee.
“No history books today?” He’s laughing a little. His face is tan and slightly hard. I think he spends a lot of time outside.
“No, I’m working on my budget.” I feel my tastebuds burning.
“For your move?” We haven’t spent more than thirty minutes together and he already knows I’m leaving.
“Yeah. I need to figure it out. I’m kind of a numbers person.”
“I thought you were a book person.”
“Well, I guess I’m that too.”
We sit quiet for only a minute. He asks me about what my plans are. Why I’m moving. Who I’m going to live with. Where I’m going to travel. All questions I’ve answered a hundred times before. My responses are rehearsed. He calls me out on it.
“What’s really going on here? That can’t be the only reason you’re leaving.” We’ve never spent more than thirty minutes together and he already knows when I’m lying.
“What else would there be? It’s pretty common for people to move for work.”
He leans back in his chair. Appraises me over the rims of his glasses and my stack of books.
“A girl like you would never move for love. And I don’t think there’s much for you to run from.” He trails off. Sits silently. Contemplates the reasons a girl like me would have to move away from the city she grew up in to upstate New York in the middle of winter.
If only he knew. If only he could feel the manic energy roiling my stomach. If he could feel the same desperate need to escape. If he could burn up like me he’d know that the only way to calm the flames is to get far away. Getting out of Boston is the only way to cool the fever.
“It’s nothing.” I say. And drag my notebook back. The encounter is brief and remains silent.