Tuesday, May 20, 2014


The wind kicks up swirls of dust, making brief spirals of deep red from the iron-enriched earth meeting the light of the sunset. They bleed into the sky before settling back down to cover the beleaguered road out of this desolate town.

This is the kind of place where, if someone claimed to see Elvis in their morning toast, the entire town would stop running for a week for talk of it.  The kind of place where the mailman is invited to your baptism.  The kind of place where, if you aren't baptized by the time you're 13, the town starts to talk.  There really isn't much more one needs to say to describe it.  You hear that and you know the layout of the place, its map somehow etched on your very heart even if you have never once ventured outside of a place like New York, or San Francisco, or hell even Memphis.  And sure, maybe the person next to you has imagined the church on the wrong side of the street and where you've mentally placed the post office there's actually a Waffle House, but really does it even matter?  You know this place, even though you've never been here.  You know it because somehow it's a part of every American's soul.  Its geography and values are mapped onto your genetic code; tiny little white picket fences bridging tiny little nucleotide houses in your DNA.

I knew I had been here for too long by the time I had learned to read.  By the time I had learned how to drive that knowledge had fueled a need far greater than I had ever known for food or sleep.  Those existential needs, the kind that you can't immediately satisfy, are always the kind that sink lowest in the pit of your stomach.  The need to feel accepted, the need to be respected, the need to be far enough away from this place that it only exists to you in memories; those needs aren't easily satisfied.  Some are damn near impossible to fulfill, and so they just gnaw away at you until you break.

I haven't broken yet, mind, but the depression coming from my inability to cut and run has been leading me to this road every night with a bottle of bourbon for the better part of a year.  Imagine, a 20-year-old whiskey-drunk every day before sundown.  I guess I've read that sort of thing was pretty common, especially in the cities and the universities, or maybe even some of the more rural little towns where you didn't really have neighbors within a couple miles, but not here in this condensed little suburbia. This sort of behavior is considered beyond obscene, but I've long grown past the point of caring.  I can't leave the town, so I try to leave my own head however I can.

There was always something holding me back.  Mom got sick from some bad air when the filters in the general store went, and I had to run the shop for her.  Dad broke both his legs falling off the tractor and I had to take over the better part of the farm while my brother ran the store.  Mom died from all the poison in her lungs and I had to make arrangements.  I take one final pull of bourbon.  As that mild fire burns its way down my throat I throw the bottle and watch it shatter into dust against the reinforced polymer glass of the Dome. I can dress it up any way I'd like, say it was the family or the responsibility or even just that I was comfortable here, but the truth of things is that I'd have been gone years ago if this road didn't end sharply in an impenetrable barrier, the other side of which would kill me in minutes.

Most of my sober time is spent reading.  The library here is a big deal, modeled after the one in New York, with the lions and everything, and it's the one delightfully out-of-place bastion in this homogenous little burg.  Naturally it's devoid of people at practically all times, and it's nice to have the run of the place.  There's so much about the way things used to be, what life was like outside of the Dome, what life may still be like somewhere else.  If I could ever offload the farm I would work there, becoming the regent of dusty books, and slipping into that magical uncovered world.

Above me a vision of a plane glides across the Dome, and fizzles out as it passes a bad patch in its visual display.  Out on the edge of town I suppose that doesn't matter so much.  I keep overhearing Shelly from the diner yesterday telling me that I was one of those guys who thinks he knows everything.  I turn around and start to stumble back home.  What good is all the lost world's knowledge if I'm stuck in a damn bubble?  How can I know anything if I've never been anywhere?  Just as I think I'm going to snap, maybe run head first into the Dome until my skull caves. Just as I'm about to give up and slink back to the farm for the rest of my life, the man's wispy, whiny voice from that old record in the library emerges from the sludge of drunken thought and plays in my ear like a hymn.

"There must be some kind of way out of here…"