K. J. Angelo moved to the Willamette Valley from southern Idaho and currently lives in Portland, Oregon
It’s harvest season, when everything’s changing—and everything stays the same. Coming back is always strange because you feel like the world is moving a million miles a minute for months out of the year, and then you come back to realize that everyone else has remained stagnant—their changes are nothing compared to yours. You’re so different now, and they’re…not. How do you even begin to explain? How do you even begin to remind them that you’re not who you were last month, last year, last decade. They are—but you’re not.
The excitement of life and the world runs through your veins, like a virus. Changing you, constantly. Even here. Here where it feels like they’re trying to tie you down with the rope they use to bale hay, with the sturdy wires that, next year, will hang heavy with hops.
You were never meant to be here, never meant for this place—and every time you think about how much you wanted to stay here as a kid, you shudder. What kind of human husk would you be if you had? If you hadn’t have left.
Before, you could never imagine leaving—now you can’t imagine stopping.
You smell the mint and the hops, and inhale the harvest dust, and it all smells like home—sweet and musky and suffocating.
They’re going to kill you—smother you in their politics and good intentions. They think they’re right—you used to think so, too. And that scares you. That you could have been one of them.
You’re not one of them. You have tasted freedom—you have tasted the salt air, and the crisp city wind; felt the chill of valleys, and the wistfulness of sandy beaches and long roads.
They’ve reached their dead ends, surrounded by walls of corn and wheat, and it’s all you can do to not set their fields on fire. You have become everything they fear—an unattended match, blazing, burning—but they pretend you’re not. They don’t see a danger, a disruption—they see who you have always been: One of them. Just another dry, brittle, withering shell of a person, waiting for the frost to come, and to go, to make the soil pliable and ready for the plow—despite how much of their lives depend upon change and growth and renewal, they do not see it. They remain—as you crumble and fade.