Every small town has its flavor, points of interest, rhythm of life. Even a corner gas station, linked to a major national chain, evinces this fact. Whether it’s the two-for-three dollars sale on two-liter cokes, the individually plastic-wrapped chocolate bars on discount at the counter, or the few endlessly hamster-wheeling hot dogs at the grill station, they all keep pace with some inaudible metronome.
Two sisters in the ladies’ room follow suit: wearing bright-colored shirts, high-waisted shorts, and straight hair in rumpled ponytails, drawling in accents with a surplus of “a” “o” and “w” sounds, they demonstrate the resourcefulness of an older sister who can instruct her junior in a calm tone martyred by repetition to crawl under the locked bathroom door (watch, I’ll show you), remind her that she’s NOT too big to fit beneath (scrunch up your knees), and then demand that she wash her hands WITH SOAP (but only two pumps, silly).
They belong here, alongside the cashier with teased hair and bright pink lipstick who is giving out free smiles to a tattooed regular, in a way that I, with my peripatetic after-work ways, never could. And, what’s more, they all know it. No wonder the elderly man standing in his carport across the street stares at me, arms crossed over his plaid shirt, as I slowly turn back onto the main road.
The winding country roads and their small-town synapses are full of memories and untold stories. None of them, however, answer the question most prominent on my mind: if not here, then where? If not this, now, then what? when?
After much hesitation, doubt, and over-thinking, I decided not to accept my one offer of admission to a PhD program. As I keep telling myself, “not now” does not mean “never.” I know I made the right decision. But, having said that, I will admit I’m left feeling a little lost. A little weary. A lot uncertain. Making a decision without a backup plan is scary. Closing the one open door that stands between you and the future is frankly terrifying.
So please don’t ask me what comes next. I know that’s a logical question. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. I still don’t have an answer. Respectfully, I suggest that you pose the question to Ask.com instead.
Or, if you must ask, please be prepared to join me when I light out for the territories. I’ll bring the two-liter cokes.