not from around here…are you?

Once a month, sometimes less, I work the counter at Real Coffee down on Main as a excuse to talk to people I don’t know. I’ve lived in this little house in this tiny town for one week shy of six years and I barely know a soul. They all seem to know eachother, but I’m still just meeting people–Daun’s lackey for a Friday night open mic.

I have a knack for customer service and frothing milk.

Last Friday was wet and nearly freezing, but the place was chock full and flowing with beer and wine for the Art Crawl door prize drawing at the end of the night–$400 worth of stuff from local businesses. All was merry and bright.

Coffee, pizzas, spinach and artichoke dip, chai, folding chairs, bongos, female front singers, chitter-chat. Two women up at the counter ordered a second of something. I was being fresh. I’m often fresh behind a coffee counter, it’s the power of the steam. “She’s not from around here.” One lady said to the other, then she said to me, “You’re not from around here, are you? Do you live here?”

I stopped ring-a-ding-dinging on the cash register and looked at her with a smirk. Why do I get this question all the time in whichever city or town I’m in? I do. All. The. Time. This time it was friendly. This time it grinned. “You just look not-from-around-hereish,” she said which meant she’d never noticed me skulking down Main Street with two small girls and quacking like a duck.

Not-from-around-hereish.

Thank you very much, Me, you’ve done wonders keeping yourself an outsider in every town and every neighborhood you’ve ever lived in. And yet…

As writers writing do we need to stay objective, to see things outside ourselves, to let people feel we are other and in that otherness to collect, arrange and solidify fragments of life on which to meditate?

As writers writing do we have an unconscious agenda to place ourselves in the midst of motion in order to get a feel for the human state of things?

As a writer writing am I really all that special or am I just play acting a role I’ve laid out to bequeath the other me, the shy one in the corner sucking her thumb?

I don’t know. I don’t know. But I do know I’m not the only one in this room sidled up to the wall.

“While I am writing, I’m far away;

and when I come back, I’ve gone.

I would like to know if others

go through the same things that I do,

have as many selves as I have,

and see themselves similarly;

and when I’ve exhausted this problem,

I’m going to study so hard

that when I explain myself,

I’ll be talking geography.”

   –from “We Are Many” by Pablo Neruda /Translated by Alexander Reid

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About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
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10 Responses to not from around here…are you?

  1. Very interesting! I feel the same way sometimes. Always observing — which keeps me one step away from the crowd and one step closer to that wall.

    • pennyjars says:

      Thanks for stopping, Amanda. I think once we observe life this way we realize how much there really is, how easy it is to let it slip past without reflection. Of course, we participate too, but always with an eye on things to be written.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    LOVE this post! My gosh, I wanted you to continue. It could easily be a short story–and a fabulous one at that!

    • pennyjars says:

      Beth, I had to go back and reread as a short story. I can see it now. Maybe later I’ll do some twisting. I seem to have a problem with submissions, they tend to come out more stilted then my blog posts, not as lively. Perhaps that is its own future post.

  3. CameSawShopped says:

    I loved your post on so many levels. My profile on twitter says (and I quote) “observer
    of the human condition.” I too have lived in a few places; 4 high schools in 4 states.
    I can relate to you!

  4. Michele says:

    Oh my yes. I currently live in a teeny, tiny town, for five years now; I’ll always be a “flatlander” compared to the “ridgerunners” who are “from here.” But I can’t tell you how much I relate to your feelings of always being “not from here” in so many ways. I have always felt that way, for enough reasons that actually would make a short story, or a novella. As you can imagine, feeling that way makes me feel like I’m the only one who feels that way. This post so nicely makes me feel that I’m “from here” somewhere at last!

  5. Awesome reading this with the song playing – we always feel like we’re on the outside, usually making up stories about the people we see. It is a writer symptom and oh the power in you taking that and writing about it, love it!

    • pennyjars says:

      Thanks to you both. I was loving on the song being about a lazy afternoon in the summertime, but the video having snow on the ground–exactly how it was here while I was writing. Somehow it fits with the juxtaposition of the lifestyle.

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