I Want to Know You All
I was listening to this sort of ignorant blowhard go on about how teaching is a dumb profession and I did this thing I always do, which is feel smug about how smart and sophisticated I am, but my smugness is a little compromised lately by how I do almost nothing all day besides have an affair in my mind and then wring my brain over what a divorce would do to my daughter, who heretofore has been lucky to have a happy, close family, not even too far off from how we pretend to be in public. So I just kept listening without my hackles up so much and also was bemused about how alike we all are, admiring some people, judging others, thinking we’re so special, and this guy had some good stories. One time a history professor in college told him to go hang himself after he wrote 500 words about pheasants in the French Revolution. He said he must have mentioned those fired up and pitchfork-wielding pheasants a dozen times in that paper. That exasperated historian screaming peasants in the margins always reminded him of his dad, who does probate, which is basically a ton of archival research into plat maps and deeds, birth certificates and death wishes. There are no secrets when someone contests a will. His dad once told him, “You wouldn’t believe the number of cross-dressing farmers there are in Missouri” which made me laugh at first at the hypocrisy of this place, but then realize it’s actually tragic how alone those farmers must feel. It’s ruthless out here, I know. All the longing we till under and to let such a secret slip—probate means some cousin or sister or brother described the dress in front of a judge who considered it fit evidence against a claim. I laughed because I can’t imagine who you are—the man in coveralls who mocks the foamy fern I like poured onto my latte, the one who calls me “hon” that condescending way? Could you be the man always with the sign in front of my doctor’s office or the neighbor who mows the waysides of our country road down to stubble? Maybe you don’t come to town if you can help it anymore either. I want you to know, whoever you are, as someone hungry for variety in the human condition, most especially my own, cross-dressing farmers, you light up the fields for me. I hope you walk into those soybean rows some nights and your flowered skirt swishes your legs in a way that feels like falling in love when you didn’t think you ever could, or maybe you feel rooted, belonging to this soil that made you. I don’t know what’s better, but I want for you such happiness and every last acre your bigot of a father left behind to go with it.