The soporific stretch of one-hundred miles, with the same Midwestern fields blurring on the windows, always struck a familiar chord with me. Whenever I drove passed Lisa’s Pie Shop, I considered stopping by out of interest in roadside desserts, but home was a straight shot away and I kept on.
Every visit to-and-from the heart of the state evoked memories of law-bending naivety and diary-stuffing dilemmas. My friends and I channeled between lovesickness and transgression while polluting our lungs with cheap cigarettes.
In the classroom, we were upright students.
After the bell rang, we were sovereigns of the hallway.
During pep rallies, we chewed bubble gum into pink balls and tossed them onto the heads of the cheerleaders sitting several bleachers below us. At a distance, the teeth-imprinted wads appeared like stuck pigs in slick mud-water.
During lunch, I skipped the overly-crowded cafeteria to meet up with the woman I became crazed for after making out in a bathtub and picking at her mind at the biggest house party this insipid county has ever seen.
We patched stories with healthy carelessness before being released into the jungle of responsibility. We were coming-to-terms with adulthood, equally terrified and seemingly prepared, but nonetheless, together.
Patricia Meyer Spacks wrote, “if conflict is the essence of fiction, adolescence provides rich material.” To me, any form of story-telling is eagerly inviting to this truth. It is powerfully bittersweet and unavoidably shifting. We are the living examples of consistent movement, which narrows down to an alteration of self.
From faded band-tee’s to ironed long-sleeves. From playfully dodging situations that result in mugshots to carefully budgeting for a mortgage.
As the wheels continued to bump over cracks on the pavement, I was consumed by dreamy contemplation, remembering all that was simple.
Here’s to the security guards who maybe had a degree in another land. Here’s to the manicurist who had to leave her family to come here, painting the nails, scrubbing the feet of strangers. Here’s to the janitors who don’t even fucking understand English yet work hard despite it all.
Here’s to the fast food workers who work hard to see their family smile. Here’s to the laundry man at the Marriott who told me with the sparkle in his eyes how he was an engineer in Peru. Here’s to the bus driver, the Turkish Sufi who almost danced when I quoted Rumi.
Here’s to the harvesters who live in fear of being deported for coming here to open the road for their future generation. Here’s to the taxi drivers from Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and India who gossip amongst themselves. Here is to them waking up at 4am, calling home to hear the voices of their loved ones.
Here is to their children, to the children who despite it all become artists, writers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, activists and rebels. Here’s to Western Union and Money Gram. For never forgetting home. Here’s to their children who carry the heartbeats of their motherland and even in sleep, speak with pride about their fathers. Keep on.
Immigrants. First generation.
You could come knocking on my door five years from now and I would open my arms wider and say ‘come here, it’s been too long, it felt like home with you.’
our ends are beginnings