Nick, Jack’s brother, knocks softly several times, hears his brother’s voice, then opens the door to the garage. She stands behind Nick, reading the warning messages childishly scrawled on the closed door. The opening door reveals a scene that has existed since she moved to her new property; this is a condition she has lived next to for months, without knowing it.
She can’t take in all the detail. It hits her in the face, the hard cold dark concrete reality. Buckets full of urine, foamy on top, line the walls. Garbage everywhere, some in weirdly neat configurations. Partially eaten food. Lots of soda cans and cups. Feces. An illuminated lamp on a small side table otherwise covered in cups and napkins and wrappers. (No drugs; Jack’s disease is mental illness, not addiction.)
Jack slowly, almost inexplicably, unfolds; he stands up, his tall thin frame rising and emerging from behind a big open umbrella lying on the concrete. He’s created a little private spot where it appears he spends most of his time. He is wearing badly ripped fishnet stockings and ancient high-heeled strappy flip-flops. A filthy short denim skirt hangs under a tee-shirt almost as long. In this hard hypermasculinist place.
Jack is skin and bones, literally a walking skeleton. Nick tells her that Jack has started walking into traffic again on the highway. The roar of trucks blasts her from the side, about 25 feet to her right, as she meets Jack for the first time.
During their short conversation, Jack keeps his head tilted down while his long curly hair covers his face. (Nick quietly left the room as soon as he opened the door. He is walking in a square now, around and around a large manhole cover, next to the highway. He will do this for the next 2 hours. Sometimes he heads to the market in town, where he stands in front, smiling and flapping and singing like a small bird for the shoppers going in and out. This is new behavior, just having freshly arrived in the last month.)
Jack twitches, jerks, peeks through his long curls a couple of times—eyes quickly darting up at her, then back down at the floor. Jack is present, Nick is mostly not, and they are living in circumstances she’s only read about, hideous circumstances. And there is no help for them in this place. None.
These are her new neighbors. Turning away is impossible.
You can help support the Center’s research-based creative work by purchasing a Newsletter subscription for as little as $100.
First Rural Portal Project edition anticipated January 20, 2020 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies is an Accelerate Publishing project. Accelerate: A Niche Publishing & Communications Consulting Co.,–est. in 2015–is a socially just for-profit small business in California.