You are sitting in a leather club chair in the middle of an otherwise spare room. You are home early from the office, having feigned a headache worse than the one you really do have. You are drinking a beer, watching the local news anchor read. Her name is Wendy Something, and you have a crush on her. You moved here only months ago - from Cedar Falls, from Monroe or Meridian, from Canton, from Grand Forks, Eau Claire - and you have yet to make friends. The weekly drink with co-workers has drifted into a less occasional gathering, then none at all, as you’ve gradually discovered you have little in common, and you get along well at work anyway, so why even bother? People are hard to get to know out here, inside their bubbles, with their benign, almost tender indifference to you and their studious gestures of intimacy - the banter that is devoid of subtext and the How-are-you! that is never a question and the See-you-later! that simply signals the end of conversation. It has been lonely. You come home in the evenings and eat a take-out burrito over the kitchen sink and stroll through your half-furnished rooms, with books in alphabetized stacks on the floor and unpacked boxes as end tables and nothing on the walls. You have pondered this metaphor for an unfinished life - or better, the beginning of a new one - and you remind yourself why you moved here, why everyone moves here. And you may be lonely like this forever, but out here it at least feels transitory - a step on a journey, a blip on a timeline, and all that.
That is from Daniel Orozco’s “Shakers" and it has not been my experience in California but it is not hard to see how it could have been, and I am grateful for that and believe it is good to keep these things in mind sometimes.