At least people have quit it with the state basketball championship wherever I go. “Hey, weren’t you on the team that …” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like nothing has happened in this town for five years. Maybe it hasn’t, unless you want to talk about the weather, which everyone does all the time, but sometimes you need to talk about something else. So, basketball. I guess there is Fighting Sioux hockey. Wow! Or the other Vikings, the Minnesota Vikings. I guess that’s why people remember it. Not much else has been going well around here. The plant might close. (Yeah, again.) Lots of flooding, a lousy year for crops. Farmers are going bust all over. You’ve heard it. It’s nothing unusual about this place. It’s kinda sad but maybe that year we won the championship was one of the last good times this town had. Everyone came together. People painted signs on all the store windows on Elm. In the school colors, blue on red, “Go Vikings!” And they painted on crazy shirts and painted blue and red on their faces. Laura’s dad said people had parties all over town and listened to us on the radio.
Or maybe it has nothing to do with any of that and people are just getting used to me. Or getting sick of me. The big welcome is over.
The other night when I talked to her, Kate said, If it’s lousy, why did you go back there? Especially since you don’t have me. Maybe now that people aren’t so happy to see me all the time I’ll remember why I wanted to get out of here so bad when I graduated. And I’ll finally get my ass back to Chicago and get on with it. Things aren’t the same as they were before I left, and that’s probably part of the reason, even though it’s a dumb reason. And I think I get this way in the winter, when it’s cloudy a lot and when the wind is blowing, especially, you don’t want to be outside too long. People in the Cities used to talk about ‘seasonal disorder’ or ‘seasonal depressive disorder’ or something around this time of year when they’d get cranky and drink too much and generally just be a big drag to be around. And I’d say, well maybe it’s a disorder for you, since you just have to put on an extra-big coat to get between classes or something, but out where you have to be working outside all day and the cold is crawling through the little spaces in your clothes, the slits between your gloves and your jacket or your socks or your shoes and shaking you with cold, that’s not a disorder. You get cranky like this at it means you’re still alive.