Monday, May 24, 2010

My Explanation

Dear Polly,

You can't seem to imagine why I've made this decision. You think it entirely unlike me, and in some ways I admit that you're right. When I was growing up I had no idea that I would turn down this path, it was the last thing on my mind, but I believe that there has always been something in me from the very beginning that was bringing me to this place, and if I may, I'd like to explain as much of that as I can to you.

I grew up in a small town, a very small town. Full of small brown houses, small minds, and small stray cats. I was a small girl with dirty blonde hair, who hoped and dreamed and prayed that there was something beyond Bayden, Iowa. I knew next to nothing of the outside world, but I did imagine what might be outside.

Sometimes when I was walking up and down Bayden's wide main street, feeling the summer sun scorch my bare feet, I would look at the ground and then glance up, very suddenly, as if hoping to surprise a wild animal. There were days when I thought I could glimpse something as my head jerked up, a fleeting image of a fairytale castle, perhaps, instead of sun-baked suburban storefronts. Once I half believed that I had really seen a shining white unicorn in my Uncle's corn field, just for a moment before the breeze blew by and the long stalks stiffened. I would climb high up on mossy stone bluffs and look out over the forest floor, staying very quiet lest I disturb the fairies I was sure were hiding under every leaf and rotting log.

Of course, when I got to be a teenager I tried to forget that I had ever been foolish enough to believe in that sort of childish thing. But I still imagined that there had to be something beyond the smallness of Bayden. Even now, whenever I hear an especially loud air conditioner with a peculiar rattle, I'm back in the town library, where I spent hours sitting in a folding metal chair reading books on New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and any other big cities I could get my hands on. My castles in the air turned into skyscrapers, and I spent insomniac nights fantasizing about what it would be like to ride in a bright yellow taxi down crowded streets between those behemoths of modern architecture.

I can't say that my parents liked the idea of me going to the city, but it became such a fixation of mine that they finally gave in. After working at Arby's for a couple of years and establishing a great relationship with a little-known cousin in New York City, I was ready to spread my wings and fly to the only solace my aching heart could imagine.

That's where you met me, in The City that Never Sleeps. I know that I didn't sleep for those first few days, I was intoxicated with the sheer contrast of this place to the one I had left behind. All of a sudden I was catapulted into a world where there the corn was in the greenmarkets, the houses were in the sky, and the people were everywhere. You were my first real friend in NYC, and I'll always be grateful to Mona for introducing us.

On fire for everything "un-Iowan" that I could find, I was so eager to learn all you could teach me, and I think I learned quickly. Too quickly, perhaps. One rainy October day I realized that the skyscrapers were no more magical than my cornfield unicorn. The city didn't satisfy me. I will always love hustle and bustle: the noise of thousands of people doing fun, exciting, meaningful things; New York City will never leave my heart. Nevertheless, it didn't fill that gap in my life.

A week after my revelation, Mona told me something that revolutionized me. I had asked her if she had ever had a deep yearning for something unreachable, and what she said was like electricity skimming through my veins.

That is why I became a nun. 

Disappearing Tower, originally uploaded by *PaysImaginaire*

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