Dear Leipsic, Ohio (or to what remains),
Occasionally, when the sun inches above the horizon, I squint and remember your cornfields brushing that morning light, the gold spread against endless gold as it blossomed into hues of pinks and blues. A rooster would awaken the land, throat screeched red-raw, and your sleepy town would ease into morning as one does a chilled pool – slowly to adjust to the freshness against skin. You were careful and gentle and, to a wide-eyed child, serene.
In spite of your smallness, you offered so much for one so young. Main Street, my haven, stretched until its roofs of age-old buildings pressed kisses into the sky. It enclosed my body as an envelope would, an invitation into the known and the comfortable, and I would enter gladly. A woman stationed herself in the flower shop’s doorway, I remember, offering pastries and a glass of lemonade to salivate the tongue, and I would accept the risk of rotting my teeth with cavities to please her.
Maybe she smiled at that.
If I were to venture too far by banana bike, that road would meet its end upon the quake of iron tracks. Whistles sounded at the most obscene of hours, but you accepted trains as one would crickets on a warm summer night. They sang me to sleep as the orchestra behind my parents’ lullabies, though they sounded long after our house drifted to silence. In the darkness of nightfall, they were a reminder that closed eyes did not mean the world would end. Those trains had destinations, after all; morning would come.
But this time, I don’t think it did.
I have awaited your morning for over six years. I have carried your memory, or what now remains of it, for miles upon aching miles, begging for a last glimpse of how your early light painted the wisteria in my mother’s garden. You were my better times. Please wrap yourself around me and shield me from the way you crumble now, how you squeeze to broken roads in such a way that brings me, your griever, to my knees before a town that might as well stand as a grave. The world looks similar now – destroyed and indecent and wrong – and that is no description you should claim as your own.
Over six years later, your memory is fading. The woman who offered gifts has been reduced to a faceless blur of pink nails and frayed sleeves, and although I pray that smile of hers crinkled her eyes, I have no means of knowing if the upturn of lips existed in the first place. Your train whistles have been reduced to nothing more than the echo that keeps me restless at night, and for all those heard where I am now, the yank at my gut only unsettles me. I compare you so frequently to what I have here, but I find nothing but disappointment in return. Despite this, I can’t stop. I want to take hold of your bones and never let go. I force myself to carry what remains of your memory, my childhood, sometimes thinking it will help me continue; instead, it holds me back from moving on.
For all I can’t remember, there is more I can’t forget. And my flaw in the matter is that, in spite of the weighing of my future, I don’t want to.
I’m sorry I can’t let you go.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.