Fairly Local

There’s something about walking around somewhere at noon on a Monday when everybody’s at work or at lunch and the sky is gently whitish-gray that makes you feel like a local wherever you are, that you own the section of concrete sidewalk or brick pathway you’re stepping on, every new second claiming a few more inches for yourself. You are most certainly not a tourist here; you’ve been to this place many times before, but it isn’t exactly your neighborhood. You gaze longingly up at lofts topping artisan pizza shops and antique stores that occupy multiple floors. Picturesque balconies overlook your walkway as if shelves to display each lucky soul who lives there and decides to step outside from time to time. This is their neighborhood, not yours. But as you make your way past light brick buildings that on Saturdays create the bones of a marketplace, a destination for locals, you know you feel like a local. A local to which these walks are never tiresome and always different. Each opportunity to be here you greet with optimism, the anticipation of your visit laced with romanticism. Your image of this place is never tarnished by work or a bad experience. You live close enough to feel local, but these are your days out, in which you aim to be free of worry. And though you have enjoyed many days and evenings here with friends you prefer to go alone, your resulting thoughts and meditations unencumbered by conversation or expectation. You prefer to go most places alone, experience and self-image spared from your perception of outside judgement, to be an anonymous mover among the city. You know the best place to park when you go to your favorite coffee shop but you still feel a little intimidated walking in, not sure if you’re quite cut out for the cool setting but deep down you’re confident you are. Local visiter to a coffee joint 20 minutes away. Or is that too far to be close? A window table is open. You hope the group of guys dressed in cool dark clothes sit near you. They do and you hope they won’t talk to you. They don’t and you drink your coffee. Later, at a picnic table in the middle of a grassy circle, you wonder how the brick sidewalks and partial skyline and the bones of that marketplace would look to an outsider. Because of this, you silently confirm that, yes, you must be an insider and that, yes, your city is big enough, proud enough, itself enough to be a tourist destination. How much of this city do you own? Is it every inch of concrete your sandals touch or everything you see? As you walk you catch yourself in a shop window and you think that this area will be one of the places you show them when they ask to see where you came from. You were not born here but sometimes you live here, if only for a few hours. With that person you may know what it feels like to experience these places again for the first time, completely free of expectation or conversation other than brief explanations of your silent, anonymous role which you adopted years ago. Everybody owns this place and nobody does. That blue jay owns the tree it sits in and every other one. That piano owns that set of hands touching it and every other one. Your feet feel like they own this street and every other one and every visit here feels a little like a visit home, so it is.

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