I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time, that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like Malaysia or Thailand or South Africa. I want to be one of those birds who travel to escape the cold. To escape the unbearable monotony of small town life.
I glance at my phone to check the time. 4PM. I’m at the library and my best friend Minnie is supposed to pick me up so we can shop for a dress for her going away party. Minnie got accepted into a music conservatory in Chicago for violin performance and music composition. Lucky bitch. She actually has a chance to go somewhere exciting and start a whole new life. Not me. I have no extraordinary talents or abilities unless you consider bending my thumb all the way back to my wrist a gift. No, I think my future as a dental hygienist is the best it might get for me. That’s what I”m studying at the community college.
The dull gray library building stands stark against the blue sky. I wait outside and breathe in the warm June air. Summer school sucks. There’s a stagnant breeze. Two blank-faced male students stroll past me, faces transfixed by their phones. They scuffle along to their next class, oblivious. A couple of brown, nondescript birds flutter around each other around a trash can. Fighting over oily potato chip crumbs.
A car horn snaps me out of my gaze. Minnie pulls up in her red Nissan. “Brandon washed it for me,” She blurts out as I get myself situated, practically reading my mind. “Isn’t that sweet?”
“Yeah, what a cool brother,” I answer, clicking the seat belt. “Where are we off to again?”
“I thought we’d check out the new mall in Havendale,” she says. “Did you hear they have a vintage merry-go-round?”
“Oh, for real?”
“Yeah. And they have a Nordstrom too.”
Well, damn. This should be good… ” That’s cool. But I have to be back home by seven o’clock to help my mom clean out the basement She’s going to rent it out.”
“Oh, yeah. No problem. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to find something I like.” Minnie glances at me as we drive along. “Hey, Dana. You all right?”
I’ve given myself away. The emptiness. The sadness. The anger at change. The anger at my friend for changing and leaving. The jealousy beginning to fester, over months, over years. Feeling the world closing in on me.
The highway whizzed by, but in my mind, it was motionless.
I relax my face with a smile, reach into my backpack, and pull out some mint gum.