v u l v a l i c i o u s
country as fuck
Red shirt, dirty arms, redneck. The way we smell like sweat because it's hot here, always, and even in the shade the sun still wants to eat you alive.
You were my favorite cousin for a moment, sometime in the early 2000s. I'd come home and run into you downtown, me drinking a pot of tea at the coffee shop, you meeting friends for beers. We'd talk and hug.
But there's a distance. Somehow my mother decided we weren't welcome, weren't right. At some point she protested going over for the family holidays: Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas. And then the family got too big anyway, renting out the church once the number of grandchildren grew so large that the stockings stretched past the door frame of the living room, hung double down the wall with the names half-heartedly written on.
I can barely remember the names of your kids. Of any of them, honestly. There are so many now. More than before. A new one every time.
Today I scratched the back of a baby, cooed at his face, all the time thinking: whose kid is this? What is his name? Not having the heart to ask. Knowing I wouldn't remember.
But you're half my people, aren't you? The family goes out to the farm and picks blueberries in the summer, and I'm never there for it. Haven't even considered showing up.
We're country. I'm country. Even though I trained my accent away at 9 years old. Even though I moved away: New York, San Francisco, some city none of you can remember the name of. It comes right back to me when we're talking.
You give my nieces and nephews rides on your four-wheeler and yell at your son when he throws your bike on the ground. "I traded in all my Christmas presents for that bike when I was 17, cost $350 and I've rebuilt it 6 times, you better stand it up, Son." He does. Then you let him ride the four-wheeler around the circle loop where my dad let me drive his truck when I was 12, grinding the gears as I shifted, stretching to reach the pedals.
We drive down and look at your camper. It's new and amazing and I'm jealous. Think about having one myself, consider that it's probably the only kind of home I could ever actually own. Maybe someday.
I'm aware, as I make promises that we'll see each other again while I'm here, tell your wife to come to California for a girls' trip, that none of it will happen. This me, this country me, exists here. Only here.
The place where my accent comes back full force, where I say thank you when someone says they'll pray for me, where I think "god bless" even if I didn't say it. Here. Home. This strange place that's the same even when it's different. The streets becoming familiar again as I drive them.
I drive away and let my niece play with the radio until we pass the country station: Fancy is playing. I make her stop. Sing along, loud. Feel it in my bones, that feeling, that knowing.
My mother didn't send me off to the sex trade, but she gave up everything to get me into schools that would get me out. "Forgive me for what I do/but if you want out, it's up to you."
Goddamn it, I got out. But I never left. Or it never did. That country part of me, thick like honey in my bones. Hot as skin after a day in the sun, SPF worn off hours ago from playing in the water all day. Unable to be cooled.
Country. You. But me too. Me too.