Sunday, September 18, 2005

Postcard: Kansas

The wind is hot, hot, hot. Stepping into the wind is like opening a oven of gas. There’s no one around. Men at the filing station stare.

Dar Williams is my road buddy. I listen to her sing “Iowa” with backing vocals by a folk singer who came to town, tapped my knee when it was time for him to go on, and said “show time, honey,” and I fell for him hard and fast.

I pretend Kansas is Iowa. The flat plains are low hills. The sorghum is corn. Cows remain cows. I am 22 and on my way to graduate school, in Iowa. Or I am on my way to graduate school in Columbia. Or I am on my way.

Suddenly I go through in my head all the lives I could have had, all the choices I could have made, and come down to this one: another chance. I am driving across the country with my books and my papers and some sweaters and a camera again—for what? For my writing—my writing, this thing, except for a poem last week, I have not done in a month, this slick creature that keeps slipping out of my arms.

I have lost my voice, as I do whenever I get sick. I have to wait for it to come back. I have to believe that it will, hold the words under my tongue until.

I have no one to answer me now.

Later, I eat the best buffalo I have ever had (and I have had some buffalo, let me tell you). The restaurant is staffed entirely by awkward Kansas teenage boys, and I love them. I love the Native American waiter, I love the lonely diner re-shaping his baseball cap who wants so badly to talk. I love especially the bad-skinned boy with the speech impediment.

I am worried about you, boys. I don’t know if you know I love you. I don’t know if you know that one day a girl like me will love you. She will, she will. Wait for her. She's coming.

I slip an extra five dollars under my glass.