SOMEWHERE A TOWN IS WAITING FOR YOU TO ARRIVE

I found a folder of 68 photos, from a 2015 trip to Ireland, on a forgotten SD card. Like finding an old role of film, it turned up some treasures and lots of questions. What is this shot even of? What was I feeling on this day? Who was I, three years ago? So this week’s post is a flash fiction on that theme.

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It’s not this town. And you’re glad, though this town is scenic, sprawling along a mineral-gray lake. The banks are mossy and the sky is pale blue and the hill beyond the village is artfully terraced by ancient people who carved civilization from the land with Iron Age tools. Maybe it was Bronze Age. You should know from all the museums but you don’t know.

You promised you would take decent notes. You promised you would write something brilliant from train windows or, if not then, later. But no one takes the train anymore and the buses are full of chattering tourists who are having more fun than you are. You mostly daydream of what your life would be like if you just got off at the next stop and walked away. You have a credit card and a lipstick. Isn’t that enough to erase your past, which feels weary and played out, and write a new story for yourself?

Yes, you think. In a cute village. In a yellow house, or maybe a blue house. You’ll meet a man who is a potter or a woodworker. Not a sheep farmer, though, because the stench of sheep would always be on his hands. Or you’ll meet a woman with clear blue eyes who can show you what herbs to take to heal the nagging, unnameable wound. She can show you heather when whole fields of it bloom purple. Because surely that is love: Not some Iron Age remnant of endocrine alchemy, some internal burbling and sheep-like need, but an external wonder. A sign. Acres of purple blossoms and your heart turned inside out by the sight of it and the old you made new right there, like an immaculate christening.

But maybe not in this town. Sure, it has a yellow house, but it has an air of gloom if you look closely. So there may not be the potter man or the blue-eyed woman. Love might still elude you. You might be left to the raw wind, the carved hills, the sheep and their endless hunger and the way they go on grazing forever — as if there is no town out there, awaiting their arrival.

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