Tundra, Day 2

It is now Day Four. Day Two was a lot of preparation for the Meyer’s move, capped with general tso’s chicken at a relatively fancy Asian place. Day Three was exhausting. We started at 7am and didn’t finish moving them into these fancy new digs until very late at night. We had pizza for dinner from a place that smelled like a pizza place from the late ’80s, which is to say reeking of “cigarette-pizza dough” scent.  Mmm.

Meg, after hours of skull-shredding anxiety, landed an internship at NPR DC’s science desk. She’s switched gears mentally in preparation for the shift, which will put her on the east coast unitl April 24th. Hopefully they’ll LOVE her and ask her to stay on at one of their headquarters either in CA, NY, or DC. It’s going to be a long four months alone, and I feel like this might be a fine time to record those feelings that people feel when people they care about move geographically out of their sphere. Let’s go from near to far.

At the epicenter, here, I am surrounded by people and yet feel a little lonely. There are no bad people here; I can feel their minds, though, like searchlights roving over the various stimuli surfacing in their environment, and I feel like a static piece. Selfish of me? Do I want all the attention? No. Of course not. But I am learning, just as is my MO. Dave and Debbie have a new house, which is a package full of more decisions than I think I’ll be prepared to handle anytime in the near future. Meg began our vacation thinking about school, moved on to the NPR internship, and is now concerned with seeing all of her friends. I don’t really know Travis, but he seems like a pretty cool young fellow; a nice, modern gentleman (if you will).

Where do I fit in here?

I’ve been a pair of hands holding boxes. I’ve been a recepticle for emotional venting. I’ve been a ghost, tagging along behind the warm ones and listening in, but ultimately they pass through me or around me. Is this the path I’ve chosen? It might go back to this mode I’ve either chosen for myself or was born into, that of being the recorder. I record everything. I see it all happen and note it all. I’m constantly occupied with defining symbols and navigating interpersonal interacting, marking courses through logic and studying the data. I don’t feel better or worse than anyone, but I do feel (and have felt ever since I was a small child) that I move on a parallel plane to the rest of the people around me. I have skirted the rules and structures meant to corall folks, to manage them, and the management hasn’t been upset. I move to the lowest rungs from the highest and vice versa, and everwhere I am welcome. I have no herd. If at any point I do, it’s for a basic need: food, shelter, or clothing. That’s what it is; I feel like a nomad. I look people in the eyes as my equal, and am not afraid of anyone because I seem to have withdrawn myself from direct competition with everyone. So maybe that’s it. Maybe they don’t regard me because I ask them not to.

Ultimately, I came here not because Megan asked me to, which is a whole spat that I don’t even want to think about anymore. I came here for a taste of something I haven’t tasted before, and I’m tasting it. It’s South Dakota: there are people that are stuck here, there are people that are comfortable here, there is a sense of camaradie evident…everyone has to deal with this weather together. There is an argument for the snow and winter, but from here it seems like there are plenty of places in the US where the snow is more plentiful and the temperature less harsh.

I have been searching since the plane touched down for something that sets this place apart from other cities, and haven’t found it. When it didn’t jump out at me, I told myself to look harder, that there must be subtleties I’m missing. I refuse to say there’s nothing here because everywhere has something. So far Sioux Falls, at least to lonely me, is a lonely outpost on the near frontier of the Great Plains.  It is of no little significance that I am feeling utterly alone out here, either. That has a lot to do with how I’m perceiving the city, I think. The things that are here, though…financial headquarters, hospitals, slushy streets, science centers, bars, chain restaurants, rows and columns of suburban grid, pretentious neighboohoods invisibly segmenting uptown housing…it all mumbles “…Midwest.” to me, a tired confession that I’ve heard too many times before.  Soon I will become exhausted in my search for texture here, which lends foresight toward my upcoming realization: I’m looking in the wrong place.

South Dakota can’t be about the place because the place is utterly void of undulation, just like much of the Midwest. There is NOTHING HERE, a truth your brain ought to immediately reject. No, brain; this time, you’re wrong. European descendants have tried for hundreds of years to make this place as interesting as it was before they landed, and have failed on a massive scale. But wait. In my frantic search to justify being here, I’ve failed to do just what I had intended to do in this post: start at the epicenter. The epicenter, in any case, is me. The epicenter isn’t this house, it’s not my relationship with Meg or her family; it’s me. What is happening inside of me?

Out of my natural environment, I’ve come to gain perspective that I didn’t have before. I’ve had images in my mind of desolation. I am coming to understand how a body reacts to extreme cold. I’ve been lonely most of my life, so that feeling is nothing new but each time I begin to feel lonely it feels fresh, like I’m lonely but now it’s for a different reason. But no, you feel lonely because you yearn to feel validated in your herd, and when your herd collectively turns their heads you feel empty, denied of that thing which you feel like you’ve paid for. Ultimately, it’s the same reason as all of the other times I’ve felt lonely but, as ever, the players have changed.

I haven’t been out to take pictures yet. When in the presence of Meg’s friends I lost the impetus to snap them. If I go outside, I’ll be doing it alone and I’m not keen on getting lost in this weather in a strange town. I’m relegated, it feels, to the indoors and keeping my head down as they put together this new house and Meg reaches to connect with her old friends. For me, it’s time to reflect and record.

Outside, wind whips snow, sculpting roofs and car hoods, and eddies around light posts and trees. Snow flies forward, up and back down, but only in unfortunate cases does it muster to defy the driving wind.

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One response to “Tundra, Day 2

  1. Thoughts:

    I disagree that the Midwest is empty. There are lots of cities there that I find interesting- the Twin Cities being, perhaps, the most interesting of all. Finding something interesting in a new place isn’t always obvious. This is my sixth year living in Beloit and I’m just now starting to find special things that I like about it, secret pieces tucked away. The town, as a whole, might be disagreeable, but I feel certain that there is something there, lurking in a shadowed corner.

    Also: I understand your loneliness there. I have been in this situation a lot from moving so much, and especially when I was living with Sam’s family in Philadelphia over the summer.

    I miss you. I miss hearing your thoughts, like these ones. You are rare thing and I have always admired you.

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