by Ranald T. Adams IV
The town I come from is old and undistinguished,
though, distinguished people used to live here.
You can drive down one big road for a minute and a half
and see every house they lived in,
a memory reel my people desperately preserve
as if to say –
We were big once.
I remember the parking lots I sat in:
cigarette smoke over early-80s angst in my parents’ car
with CVS deodorant to mask my restlessness after the fact.
I remember the forests and the fields
and the drive-in movie theater
and the back-roads by the cemeteries;
places where I alternated between wondering at my luck
and wishing I was somewhere better.
The world was bigger than my town,
I always knew,
and I could look for bigger things
Somewhere out there was a place for me –
Somewhere not so parochial
Somewhere where people knew things
like I knew things
or thought I did.
But all I knew was the town, and the people in it.
The train stopped here
and ran to a city where the faces blended together
and I ran to that city when the town became stifling
and blended my face in with the rest.
I was cool,
and the city was mine until it wasn’t,
until the streets flared up with a heat I wasn’t cool with,
until the flashing lights turned to sirens in my ears
and the hours walking its byways
turned to hours searching for return.
I knew it’d be there waiting for me.
The dead-end strip malls
and the hiking trails;
the gas station
two lights down
from another gas station.
I knew in the city
that I knew the town
and that the town knew me
and I wasn’t another face here –
I was waiting to be.