I’m from the midwest, she said in answer to the question everyone asked when she found herself seated at a table like this.
I’m so sorry, he laughed.
You’re not like most midwesterners, that’s for sure, said the man to his left, and the woman across the table from her nodded, smiling. The crystal chandelier sparkled on the wine glasses like laughter. She’d never been to a dinner where diners were given more than one wine glass.
Oh but I am, she said, but it was too late, they thought she was flattered by the diminution, they thought that she saw herself more like them, they thought she wanted to disavow where she was from, a place they looked down on when they flew over in airplanes, not seeing the beauty of the great gridded land below them, thinking only of it as a place where a muddled mass of faceless people shared the same tastes for bland network TV fare and processed foods, drove the same boxy SUVs and named their dogs undignified names like Sparky and Spot.
Their adolescences were full of nice polo shirts and multiple pairs of casual shoes and white pants and parents that called them darling and let them drink wine with dinner though they were underage, and going to places like Martha’s Vineyard like it was a birthright.
They didn’t know about the way the mist held low to the crop fields as you stood shivering waiting for the pickup truck driven by the father of one of your schoolmates, everyone piled into the bed, or how quickly the sun would burn a hole through the chill like a match held to lace. They didn’t know about walking beans or detasseling corn or the chiggers and no-seeums that crawled itchingly into the places where clothes made divots into the skin. They didn’t know about the smell and weight of a bale of hay, or how the tanned, rawboned farm boys could sling its weight up into the bed of a truck, knees buckling. They certainly didn’t know about gathering under string lights at night to drink beer that foamed in plastic cups, the way the little tin buckets still used by some of the German old timers glinted, the locusts so loud you had to raise your voice to be heard. They didn’t drink beer, these people, unless it was in green bottles.
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