Small Town Ponderings: Part 1

They are an interesting thing, such a midwest thing, such a drive-to-the-city-several- hours-away thing. They are like iron traps, small towns, tucked away in another century while having all the luxuries of the modern day. Yet, these pieces of the past cling to the elderly of the population who desire to have as little change in their twilight years as possible. It is this vast wealth of age that builds these cages, trapping the young inside like kittens in a bear trap. 

I feel an oppression, like some leftover rebellious spirit from my teenage years, that yearns to bite and claw at the judgemental stares of the cowboy-cladded men in the grocery store, at the up-tight too blonde women who deny their faded youth, and at the elderly who feel little shame with their lingering glares and sneers from their faces so poorly concealed by their own emotions. These judgements scream; Why aren’t you married? Don’t you want to look good for your future husband? Why dye your hair? Why do you have piercings? Why be different?

These questions disguise themselves as originality. From the mouths they spew appalaude themselves of their genius to come up with such rich thoughts that daren’t be repeated from another. They ask without prompt, the corner of their mouth lifted in some half-smile half-smirk, and idle away my time as if it was their own. The originality that they hold is pedestrian at best, performative at the worst. And I with the weak rebel heart, peeled back layers of sympathy and time for such stop gaps in my life, allowing the questions to pour in from all directions. When I peeled back the layers of mundanity, I found underneath only genuine falsehood and dishonest smiles. Image and reputation is the politeness that beholds the questions, and births the sneer. 

They ask the questions and I give them a polite smile that never reaches my eyes. My answers are hollow and only fulfill some requirement for the questioner to hear some parroted version of the thought buried in their brain. 

I don’t know if it’s my own bias preventing me from seeing any gleaming light from the small town I live in, but I can not help to fuel the burning fire of hatred in my heart. Some corner of my brain desires to serve that idea of simple living, quiet days and small communities. No matter where I look in my town I see people repelling one another. I see hatred embedded in small towns that refuse to change. 

Why anything? Is a question that imitates community, the closeness that doesn’t propagate between the different generations occupying my small town. Imitation is key. Those notions of goodwill and kindness are something old and traditional passed on in towns, and yet those that cling to such traditions pass empty empathy to those that occupy space, to those that exist in the places unsuited for anyone but them. 

When I walk downtown where little shops line either side of main street, that sense of idealism, of peace and community exists for an ephemeral moment, like a butterfly dancing around a flower. It is dashed quickly when I enter a shop, my presence is known to be unwanted by a rude comment of the greeting employee. I think to myself that I should have some commatorive plaque for all the unwanted comments I receive from passing folk in town. 

But it should be known that I do not beg for kindness everywhere I go, or attention for that matter. However, I can not help but repel myself from going out on the pure basis that the judgement passed is oppressive and encompassing no matter where I go. There is little kindness in small towns and the questions that burn in passing stares. 

Small towns have iron gates. The questions are what build the gate; Why are you different? Ones that reach so high that when I look up, it feels like the sky is eclipsed by the shadow of the bars. I can no longer see the blue of the sky when I walk the streets of the small town in which I live, but the looming shadow that colors everything I see darker than the pale hues of forgotten youth.

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