Photograph by Glen Walker

City People

Perri Nelson

we were city people
that much had always been clear
on her eighteenth birthday
my mother had packed her suitcase
slammed it shut with a crash
that never stopped echoing
in the memories of her family
the ones who had never thought of leaving
she took the train to the city
with no thought of purpose
none except to get away
to get far far away away away
she wanted to escape the endless cycle of routine
the continuous sameness
she had packed the suitcase with a crash of defiance
that carried her as far as a train ticket
and when the defiance slowly ebbed out
she found herself alone
in a crowded train station
and a sea of people
who had a purpose
still, my mother was determined
she was a city person now
she grew to love
the ceaseless traffic
and friendly shouts of the markets
as much as she had hated
the rippling oceans of wheat
and the earsplitting silence
of the unforgotten farm
but the city left her with scars
sometimes i would see her crying at night
when she thought i was long asleep
she would lean out of the narrow window in our apartment
her dark hair swaying softly in the wind
touching the silent tears streaming down her face
falling ten stories down, down, down
onto the street below
still, she would not go back
it was unthinkable to her
to step on that train again
to watch the grass grow gradually taller
the roads rougher
to face those she had left without another thought
and so we remained city people
my mother taught me the city
navigating the winding streets
knowing which alleys to never ever enter
i learned
that a certain tight grip of my hand
meant “just keep walking”
we were city people
that much had always been certain
but my mother never forgot the echo
and neither did
the ones who were left behind