*Our paying subscribers can now listen to full audio versions of some of Juke’s most-loved essays. Last month, we heard I Remember Leshko’s by Paul Vlachos, which was published last November. This month, we’re listening to “The Road to Sturgis,” which was published in January. Free subscribers and everyone else can hit play for a short preview. Then check out the original piece, linked below, if you haven’t read it before… TM*
“There were dozens of men passed out on the sidewalks in downtown Rapid City, so many that you learned to just walk over them. There was a boy who died in a motocross accident when we were fifteen; there was a boy who died in a car accident. There were parties—the chemical high that ran through a hundred dancing bodies, late at night in a barn outside Piedmont. There were parties where someone got drunk and fell off a cliff near Johnson Siding….
“Maybe it would have been the same wherever I was. Still, I can’t shake the indifference I learned here. I am carrying it with me. I try to stop myself grasping for it, but when something hurts, when I’m afraid, I want a thick bristle between me and the world. I don’t know how else to withstand the open country, not when the winds are screaming through. Not when you’re breathing the dirt from five states of parched fields.
“Under my coat of indifference, I can hold a bored expression even while my pulse is racing. I can stop up my ears so I hear nothing; dull my skin and feel nothing. I reach for silence, and the widening moat of my silence protects me. It protected me when I lived here—especially with the bikers at the Sturgis motorcycle rally each summer. It protected me later, with the rich suits and manicured faces I met in New Haven after college; with boyfriends and with my husband. I have kept my bristle on hand through the years, to throw over myself quickly when I need to become unreachable. When I need to care less. To want nothing.
“I am trying not to bristle at South Dakota, but I don’t know how to feel otherwise. I always wanted its love. I wanted to belong here, even as I was pushing it away. Driving west into the hills, I could feel myself rejecting all these towns again before they could reject me. I was preemptively annoyed with everything I saw. More signs along the highway for the casinos in Deadwood and the schlocky tourist traps around Keystone, more motorcycle leathers, more gun racks.
“I don’t belong here.
“How many thousands of times in my life have I felt that? I felt it here first.”
Read the full piece here…
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