Thursday, June 10, 2010

Keeping cool

Small town living is a double-edged sword. It's always great to walk into a cafe where everybody knows you, knows your name, knows your kids, knows that you always sit outside, even in the rain and will drink a giant latte as slowly as a turtle crosses the highway. It's good that someone is paying attention. You always see folks in the grocery store, they say hi, how's the kids, Oh my god that baby girl of yours is nine. Their voices get low if they ask about "the other stuff," I guess they don't want the specialty cheeses to hear about your love life.
It is comfortable and tight in a small town.
And as people watch out for your kids, sit down with you at random to chat over lunch, shoot the sh*t at the farmer's market and show up at your place with buckets of mint and chives for you to plant, you start to ease in, to relax, hell maybe even to get comfortable.
That's when you see the back end of the small town sword. It usually starts with a whisper. The whisper was your own, it was a good whisper to a friend, about how things are going well, you're happy, slow is good, etc. You could almost feel your heart lightening a little. But then, the whisper comes back, a black boomerang, sharp and hissing through the air when you sent it out as a balloon.
And then, it starts. The awkward faces avoiding your gaze when they tell you to "be careful," or to maybe "think it over" you don't know him that well. And, if you're curious, and you should be, you ask, "Why?"
The braver ones will answer you straight up. The kinder ones will wait. The awful ones won't say a word.
The answers come in different waves and forms, and somehow you have to piece them together bit by bit so that at almost every juncture your gut gets a little kick that you try to shake off.
"While you were buying bread I heard him ask someone out."
"Yeah, um, I saw him walking down the street with another chick, they looked happy."
"I think that was him, he was with some twenty-something."
And, mind you, I didn't even ask. Of course, the humor, at least to me, is in the various descriptions of happiness and levels of physical beauty and, of course, activity engagements. I guess the details do matter if you want to knock the wind out of someone. The crowning moment of all of these murmurs and whispers is when you yourself see something "funny" and have to play it cool, god knows why, do an about face even though you were so looking forward to that latte in YOUR cafe (you were there first!) and walk away quietly with the questions burning in your mind, but you're just too damn cool to ask.
Or, and this is the revelation I had that freed me up from my "mental f*ckshow" as my friend Shiver pointed out, you make a choice. Right there in the street. What's it worth? How much do you care? Are you after the truth? Will you get it? Do you want it?
Click, click, click, walking away from the cafe empty-handed, eyes fidgety behind the giant sunglasses, I'm not worried. There will be a new whisper soon, there always is. This time it won't be for me.


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