“All you need is a blonde, beer, and a love story or a broken heart.” He explained country songs as we perched on bar stools. He revealed the meaning of a Yeti 110 iced down and silver bullets.
When I took a 6-week internship in the middle of the country, I had no idea that my summer would include all these things.
I was more terrified to make the journey to Topeka, Kansas than the adventure I made to India my first half of the summer. When imagining India, I was apprehensive, but assured that I would be occupied with work, cultural experiences, and the company of two other University students.
An internship at The Capital-Journal was a looming shadow of what might possibly be my life for the next few years: working at a dying publication in a city where I didn’t know a soul.
With an uncharacteristic confidence, he asked the girl in cheap boots and a purple backless dress swirling around the dance floor of the country saloon to dance. With a confidence uncharacteristic of myself I told his friend to invite me to Denny’s with them after closing time.
Afterward, with a forgetfulness completely characteristic of myself, I locked my keys in my car at 4 a.m., and with the kindness and chivalry completely characteristic of him, he walked me the three and a half miles to his truck and drove me to my doorstep.
Fast forward two weeks. A night in the bed of his truck stargazing; the warm concrete of the Kansas City Chiefs arena parking lot; attempting to teach him the two-step I myself still hadn’t perfected; a blues concert. I found myself curled up next to him as we drove home from Kansas City. The light of his radio displayed the Ed Sheeran CD playing, and I hopelessly attempted to convince him I was a bad idea.
I had failed at three long distance relationships before they had barely even started, and one of them was only a fifteen-minute drive away. I didn’t know how to tell him that with three states between us, these summer nights would remain a distant — if warm — memory. Commitment was a pleasant thought, especially as our conversations stretched hours, but my better judgment and self-doubt crippled the audacity I typically jump at life with. This proposition was a completely different kind of adventure, a long, treacherous, and at times almost certainly a lonely one.
Even though I grew up in a farm town of 5,000, I was never a part of country culture. I lived in the country but my adventures included books and sports, not guns and trucks. I have fought so hard to escape it. Despite most of me making it out of my hick hometown, of all places, I now find at least a portion of my heart-claiming stake in another small town in eastern Kansas.
When I first made the fourteen-hour drive, I never could have expected I would be sitting here in late September, spending hours playing with the presets of cheap travel sites. Fighting to find a ticket. Frustrated that during my afternoon run everyone doesn’t cheerily greet me, that not every cashier engages me in conversation. Frustrated that new people don’t ask where my “exotic” accent is from. Frustrated that the crowded dance floor of Rick’s has replaced the polished hardwood and rhythmic clockwise rotation of bejeweled cowboy boots of Wild Horse. Frustrated that of all the places I could be missing, it’s Topeka, Kansas. And most of all, frustrated that I can’t jump in my car with the windows rolled down, pick Brett Eldredge from any of the multitude of stations playing country, and drive down the road to the fraternity parking lot where his 1982 Ford pick-up truck is parked.