If I had stayed in Seattle, planning a night out with the girls would have been easy. Everyone talks about the isolation of the city, and the crowded loneliness of population centers. People are supposed to ignore each other in other to deal with the crèche of society coming at them from all angles. It wasn’t like that for me. It was easy to meet people, make friends, and start conversations. No one thought it was weird. No one thought I was weird. If they did, they liked it.
Interesting point, though: friends don’t pay your bills, and girls’ nights out cost money. So when I got a job at the small-town university from which I graduated, I packed my personal artifacts into a moving truck and booked it back to my hometown. I wedged my moving truck into a Starbucks drive through on the way, but caffeine deprivation makes me do stupid things. The point is that I was back in my hometown, bolder, smarter, and with better shoes than ever before.
At first I wasn’t worried. I had health benefits! I had a job that didn’t require me to explain the return policy to disgruntled customers! I would make new friends. Why would I be worried? I had found friends at my last job in no time. I had found friends at my position before that one. I had found friends through other friends and friends from wandering around the city. The only thing that I would have needed to do to find yet another kindred spirit was to say something salacious to the person sitting nearest to me at the coffee shop or the bar.
I’m worried now. That desk between me and the graduate students (they make up the majority of the people with whom I interact) with may as well be a cage. I talk to them. They’re very nice. I hear about their lives, and they hear bits about mine. In the end, though, I’m still just the lady behind the desk. That is my place in their lives. What night life there is in Corvallis is even worse. Those who venture out in the evenings fall into two categories: students and faculty. The students would wonder how the fuck someone who they didn’t meet in classes, on Greek Row, or in the dorms even existed, and the professors would wonder why someone outside of their department would interrupt their scholarly forums.
I felt alone. Isolated.The entire issue was made worse when someone who I considered a close friend from Seattle suddenly stopped speaking to me. When I finally got in touch with her, she blurted out that she thought she only knew me on the surface. I was holding back my feelings, she said. I had trust issues, she felt (that much is true, and from this experience I may have even developed some new ones). She said that she was going through some things, but she didn’t want to tell me about them, because I always focus on other people and never open up about myself. She wanted, she said, to help me grow.
I’m not saying she was wrong. Like everyone else, there are some things that I keep to myself. But I thought that I was open with her. I shared more than usual, and when someone who had said they loved me rejected me wholesale, it made me question my entire self-image. If a close friend felt this way about me, then what were my odds of finding my people in this strange landscape of 18-year-olds and overworked academics?
The odds have never mattered. I am Sarah Fucking Burton. All the people are my people, and if they don’t know that yet, then they are about to find out. Now reader, if you will excuse me, I must pour myself a glass of wine, put on a pair of sky-high purple suede stilettos, and plan my glittering assault on small town society.