“Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
The drive up from Northern Illinois through the center of Wisconsin reminded me: fall is better in Wisconsin. Wisconsin has the rolling hills and these lush red trees. Lush.
I dunno dude, I’m a floater. As much as I think about myself, I don’t really get myself. I still am unsure of the triggers and the motivations of me. I kind of float around until I land on something that interests me. I had this post semi worked out in my mind, and I keep sitting down to write what I thought was fairly well mapped out and ready to go, only to find I’m unsatisfied with the prospective post. So I ramble.
My weekend was like a movie. Weird. I had this feeling all weekend of being outside of myself–of looking in, looking down, rather than living the experience. I am the wizard behind the curtain.
I had dinner with two couples on Friday. I got lost in the dark lighting of the restaurant (why do they do that? It makes me sleepy.), deeply distracted by the risotto and goat cheese on my plate and the dark glasses of beer I consumed named “Autumn solstice.” (The waiter was totes offended I didn’t take his recommendations…) And I realized, I can’t befriend a married couple. Something happens when you get married and you become part of a functioning unit. You are two. Maybe I can get in good with one spouse, individually, on their own, but you can’t establish yourself with an established couple, not while I’m a single lady. It’s almost discriminatory. The coupled world versus the single world. Like we’re so different. Ugh, and the questions about being single. “We have some friends with broad shoulders we could introduce you to. But they mostly are into sex without commitment. Are you into that now, too?”
In Juno, Allison Janney has a line to Juno where she says something about how she can’t be friends with a married dude. Couples love having other couple friends. I especially can’t be friends with married people who are Midwest natives. When I’m visiting family in Arizona, I often go out with my married sister and her married friends. It’s different than this. It’s…rowdier? Louder. Less polite. People get drunk and start yelling. We end up at the Village Inn or the McDonalds/Whataburger drive thru. In the Midwest I’m home by midnight, eating ice cream out of the container at the kitchen table.
Saturday I drove to T’s parents’. They rushed from their living room to the kitchen to greet me, after caging their rabid dachshund. People in my family just don’t express that kind of emotion. Except for my dad, but even he has his limits.
I ate foods and swallowed all of the alcohol Cecil excitedly presented to me: Oktoberfest beer, vodka shots, apple cider spiked with salted caramel apple vodka, cranberry vodka, apple pie shots topped with whipped cream (“You like whipped cream, don’t ya?”) One of their friends went on to tell a story, much later when we were standing around the fire, about when the cans of whipped cream first came out, and he couldn’t get enough. He pumped so much in his mouth he got sick, much to his mother’s dismay. “I love whipped cream,” he repeated, as he angled the spout towards his mouth and filled it as full as he could.
I met Annie Peters, a small spunky woman with more good spirit than I knew what to do with. She’s one of those who shakes your hand, then holds it as she tells you something endearing about you that she remembers. She’s one of those that makes a joke out of every sentence she utters. Who bounced around and spoke to every body at the party. I liked her immediately, and couldn’t name the person she reminded me of, until it hit me: she’s exactly like my doctor. Isn’t that strange? How long do we go around thinking we are incredibly one of a kind individuals, only to find that there’s another you out there in the world. Maybe doing you better than you do you…
I went on two hay rack rides, much to the delight of Cecil the driver, and between forced conversations with adults who know me by sight, I stared up at the stars and let myself float in that cold fall air. I’m a floater, and I wandered about this party smiling and commenting when necessary, but I also just watched. I don’t mind being in a room full of strangers, as long as they don’t mind me watching them. As long as I have the space to do so. At one point, early in the night, Debby went up to one guest and said, “oh, I’m so sorry I left you alone.” And I felt myself shirk, hoping she wouldn’t say or think that about me. I don’t need to be entertained, but people oftentimes take my alone-ness as a silent request for company. It’s morbid, but the whole time I was at this party, I was thinking how it would be like this if something happened to Taryn. Her absence was so noticeable, and my presence almost seemed insulting to that shape. A mere shadow of what should have been. I would hold a special spot in their minds because I’m her friend. Everyone had a Taryn anecdote to share with me. Everyone wanted to know how I knew her; maybe they already knew of me from her blog. It was a weird feeling I can’t quite name. All these people I feel nothing for, but I’m connected to them all by a woman thousands of miles away.
Sunday I was thinking a lot about my own family, and how I don’t particularly miss them. I can go months without seeing them, without having a real conversation with them. When I do see them, it’s simple catch up chat. My sisters and my niece are the only ones I have meaningful talks with. But that doesn’t make it any less good. I guess I felt that I appreciate them despite not missing them. Despite having other company that I prefer, I still appreciate my family and who they are as people and how they’ve shaped me. They’re not especially polite or polished or social. They twang or they curse or they make inappropriate jokes. They drink in excess, they smoke cigarettes, they eat processed foods. They haven’t seen much of the world beyond their front door. They’re not particularly interested in making new friends or what I’m learning as I travel. But they’re mine and they’re me. They are my go to for understanding sarcasm and politics and what’s messy about the world.
I also started thinking a lot about geography. Wisconsin is rolling and expansive. Northern Illinois, in the river valley, is similar. I imagined La Salle county as being the city man’s version of the country. It’s not as depressed (as Cecil would say) as the country I grew up in. It’s cleaner. The roads are paved and smooth (so the surrounding area isn’t covered in road dust) and the weeds are mowed down on either side. Even the dilapidated houses seem safe in their yards, protected by the community and their tree line. My country is flat, dirty, insecure. Wisconsin seems wholesome and fat. Arizona is urban and brown and so sandy it is shiny.
This weekend I was reminded how people want me. But I was too busy staring at the grass and the leaves to be.