Thursday, 26 January 2017

A Sympathetic Ear

I love my town.
No, love's too strong a word and like is insufficient. I 'know' my town is closer, insomuch that I know other surrounding towns less. I prefer its smallness and the fact that it doesn't sprawl, although that in itself, in the near future, might be a problem, because I sometimes think the way it's developing is irrelevant to its actual needs.
Still, it's home. I've never known anywhere else, either living on its outskirts or for the past twelve years in its centre, though that's not to say I haven't wanted to, it's just that when you weigh it all up this town suits me. It meets most of my present needs even if indeed it's unable to now meet its own, and yet I occasionally hanker for different which I sometimes think is connected to being an armchair reader: a restless spirit who, these days, travels in mind only. Well, okay, I occasionally take the train a few stops down or up the line to another leafy suburb but that's as far as I go, and usually when I return I'm relieved to be home because while a subtle change is nice, it's not different enough, and yet somehow it makes me appreciate all my town has to offer, which if you knew it you might argue is not a lot compared to its larger, more sprawling neighbours.
So, it's definitely not love but maybe respect, of a filial persuasion, and so at times you could say I feel duty-bound to stay, even though it will age and I may not like its transformations.
Where would I go?
I don't know. Nowhere else really appeals, at least not enough to pack my bags and wave goodbye. For good. Forever. Because when you stop the daydream and actually consider it, it, one, seems like a lot of effort for thin reasons, and two, reality, especially if it's an unknown reality may not live up to my expectations, and on my own I'm not the type to make the best of that kind of a situation. Not without back-up.
Where's your sense of adventure? In my head, mostly. I've never been one to throw my cares to the wind. God knows I've tried, and on a few occasions sobbingly failed; the most notable being a one-night-stand with a university, and yes, I mean literally, with the student halls and not a fellow pimply-faced student. I have a torn personality: a grass-is-greener and a small-town mentality. In other words, I prefer to think, wind myself into knots and even go so far as to believe I could drop everything, but not actually have the guts, the balls to follow through. Because reality is known to bite and I think, no matter how good something on paper seems, I'm likely to get badly bitten.
Perhaps if there was a rational motive like the lure of a job or kin, the notion could be more easily (and willingly) acted upon, but as there's not it seems too much of a risk when there's no telling if in doing so I'd be more content as in a whole new lease of life, instead of content but plodding.
Besides which, all England's leafy or coastal pockets seemed overfilled to the point where their inners are secreted and strewn like a bin ravaged by urban foxes, and so the ideal town I have in my mind I do not think I'd find in England, or probably anywhere.
A sleepy town where nothing much happens, but when it does everyone knows about it. A curtain-twitching, yet hospitable town: wary of newcomers at first until your character's been vouched for by a long-standing resident or you've been dealt with and seen often enough in the town's few establishments. A thirties, forties, fifties town. An American town, off the beaten track, and in the South, with a handful of stores and an all-night café which is, of course, its beating heart. For this is the place where, any time of day or night, regulars and all those stopping over or passing through tell their woes to a sympathetic ear, who from behind the cash register reassuringly nods, occasionally grunts, and seldom smiles.

Picture credit: Nighthawks, 1942,  Edward Hopper