While I was sitting in Starbucks, I looked over my shoulder at the group of people knitting in a corner. And I wanted to belong to that group. It was an all female group lead by a masculine looking woman with black glasses and a map of the world on her head in the form of dyed blue and green hair. Their multi-colored yarn and threads were scattered across multiple tables, the needles in their hands dancing and catching light from the florescent lights. And I wanted to belong to that group.
Well, not that group necessarily. Knitting is fun and all but not my favorite subject. The point is I wanted to have a group that I could go to on a Friday or Saturday night, and a place we could all converge to hang out and share ideas and laughter.
There is no such a place in my town. Or the town over. Or anywhere near. I had to drive nearly an hour away to another state just to go to Starbucks. Our area is just not set up for youth. All I see at work are old people, women buying clothes for their bedridden husbands. Women buying suits for their dead husbands to be buried in. Blue veins and rinses. Cheap perfume and arthritis. Liver spots and slipping dentures.
And those who are born here endure eighteen years of pain and monotony and then get the hell out when given the chance. That only leaves a few young ones left, those like me who tried to get out and failed and those who were never given the chance to escape.
And so I feel lost because the young are a rare breed here and those that are left are all scattered. There’s no coffee shop or building for kids to congregate. There’s nowhere for ideas to spark and flourish, for talent to transcend one individual’s temples, for friendships to form with frappes and fritters. There’s not even a place for one individual to rest or write or read a book in a chill setting.
I’ve been expressing my frustration to a couple of people and they keep saying we should all pool together our resources and open up our own coffee shop. We all joke and say it should include an internet cafe with state of the art computers and a snack bar with high quality breads and cheeses and truffles and cupcakes flecked with gold. It would be really upscale and we’d call it Haute Coffee. It’s a nice idea but not one I think anyone would take seriously.
As I said, there’s not a lot of youth here. Haute Coffee would probably be bare most of the time. Our typical eighty-two-year-old resident would come in and have no knowledge of Macs or macchiatos. They wouldn’t recognize the music unless it was Elvis or Hank Williams Jr. They wouldn’t know how to turn on the computer.
“Hold the mouse?” they’d ask. “Y’all got mice? Better call an exterminator or this place’ll be shut down!”
It’s just best for me to leave. The town will probably never change. It’s best suited for those winding down their lives instead of those just trying to start them. Then again, if I stay here much longer, I’ll probably begin the process of winding my life down, too.
The Internet has sufficed so far. I’ve met some talented and creative people through this outlet and it’s been nice but it’s still not the same. Blogs don’t equal bodies. I want a real time connection, a flow of ideas that feed off one another, tiny seeds we plant inside each other’s heads, watching as the eyes sparkle and the mouth moves in recognition.
I think I also crave the physical aspect of belonging to a group, something I’ve never truly felt. I’d like to know there’s a place I could go where I could sit among like-minded people and say that’s my book club or knitting circle or Buffy fan club. I’d like to feel wanted. Safe. Occupied with something constructive and motivating instead of taking up my time eating garbage and hating myself for it.
If there’s nothing like that here and I can’t make my own, the only choice is to leave. But where would I go? How would I cleave myself into a community? Do I just go up to the gal with the Coke bottle glasses and green hair and sit down with my knitting needles and ask her to put on some Tegan and Sara while she showed me how to whip up a cozy winter scarf?
Or what if I started my own group. The qualification would be pretty simple. If you don’t suck, you can show up. I guess I’ve been so starved for quality conversation that my standards might have slipped a little. I think trying to find people similar to me would be a bit of a quest so if they could just not be intolerant rednecks, I think I could work with that. If they’ll provide the conversation, I’ll provide the coffee.