Banal, Illinois

by George Thomas

Beside a quiet road on a stifling August morning. Some arbitrarily named road that split the bane of my upbringing down the middle.

To my left, a cornfield, eaten up by quasi urban development perpetually for lease. A narrow plaza with a Southwestern façade meant to imitate adobe — a misrepresentation of the landscape but anything to make it feel like we-were-anywhere-else-just-not-here. And a self-storage facility, warehouse of dead relatives’ chinaware and unwanted lampshades, hidden because of the memories.

To my right, a cluster of indistinguishable houses. A cookie-cutter subdivision, the kind with names reminiscent of Minnesotan lakes and what New England must look like come October. Never been, but they were the sorts of places I’d always hear about.

I drove all the way back to tear an ear of corn off a fledgling stalk. I peeled the husk like a banana and took a bite out of it. Counting 24 chews before my eyes watered, I spat it out, got in my car, and left.

It tasted awful, but I was desperate to not forget where I really came from.