she's with the band

I'm casually looking at rural houses. I really like this one area about 20 minutes from the edge of Cooterville. Heavily wooded, giant slopes, and a river. There's a small cafe that serves exceptionally good food, and I always make a point to stop there for lunch. Today it was staffed by two insanely hot women. One was in her low 20s, the other maybe 35. While I ate my lunch, they bustled about distractingly.

"Hey mama, what was that order?" said the younger one.


"Maybe it's a nickname?" I thought, but further observation led me to the inescapable conclusion that yes, they were indeed mother and daughter. No one guilts quite like a mom.

• • •

My childhood best friend became a high school marching band director straight out of college. One does not accomplish this in a desirable place to live, however, and he relocated to a tiny one-light town 90 minutes out of Columbus. Corn fields abutted the school grounds on three sides. It was just far enough to be the perfect getaway for me, and I went to most of his games and watched some epically lousy football and band music. Inevitably, I got to know the kids, to whom I was an old man at 22. Most of them never dreamed of leaving that town, and those that did largely didn't leave anyway, not even to college. Out of the 20 or so kids whose names I remember, one left the area. She now lives in Columbus. She's the worldly one.

Pregnancy was more common in that band than broken reeds. Out of 30 or so girls, 8 got pregnant one year. I had thought that the teenage girls of my high school were the most irrational creatures I would ever meet, so I was fully caught off-guard by competitively pregnant teenage girls. The crying, the hysteria, the recriminations toward everyone but themselves....shudder.

"I think I'm done here," I told my friend. "This is getting really depressing." He understood and wished aloud that he, too, could escape this bumpkin baby factory. Kind as they generally were, those band kids frustrated me to no end. They were seemingly born without ambition or curiosity. It saddened me. I saw their entire lives unspooling before them, and it wasn't pretty.

• • •

In the cafe, I did the math. Mom was essentially one of those band kids, all grown up and slinging sandwiches side-by-side with her onetime baby bump, who, I feel safe predicting, never once considered a life elsewhere, either. Perhaps there is such a thing as too small-town. I wondered if the daughter had a 7 year old of her own. As I drove off, I wondered if maybe I'm done with this small-town, too.