At the western edge of town, there’s the first gas station headed in or (more likely) headed out, the Dawn Mart, open five A.M to midnight, for all your lottery or beer or milk or beer or gas or potato chips or beer needs. A fading dusty sign above the door – “Dawn Mart, We’re Literally At Your Earliest Convenience”. Whoever put that sign up years ago must’ve felt pretty clever about the whole sentence and, to be fair, it wasn’t the worst slogan, but cities like that lack any utility for cleverness. What’s funny the first few times in grinding repetition becomes firstly annoying then swiftly mocking and then after that, fades into the white-noise of subsistence entirety. You stop seeing it after a while, a blind-spot, like the nose between your eyes. You buy your gas or beer or lottery or beer without even seeing it, without looking up, all signs wasted on you.
Heading deeper into that town once so much more vibrant, there are places that were once thriving locally-owned small businesses now underused or completely vacant, once well-tended homes collapsed into derelict disrepair. There are still people there and things left to be done but it all feels a dim echo of the long past. Dollar stores and fourth-rate tattoo parlors and wig shops.
There are places now that call themselves redemption centers and there are places now that call themselves fulfillment centers but scarce amount of either fulfillment or redemption to be found in either. There are certainly warehouses full of sticky spent lager cans and there are half-empty tractor-trailers rattling from one spot to another but to use big glowing words like that for those subsistence activities is at best a lie and probably a sin.
Somewhere toward the center, there is a shabby city hall, a tiny one, though the cop cars sitting outside of it are sure shiny and new. They’re about the only thing in that state anymore. It sits in a repurposed former Pizza Hut, you can still tell by the shape of its roof, hanging over top like a sagging old fedora. All the paint in the world can’t cover up that corporate signature. That’s just what it’s like in that town. That’s just what it’s like in so many towns, just what it is like now in this late-stage of America.
If you looked up as you passed a convenience store on your way back out, to somewhere that is brighter, has more rational cause for hope, you might notice the damage to the Dawn’s roof that is palpable in its ugliness. You might ask if when folks go in at the very start of morning, if any customers or workers there might joke about “waking up to the crack of Dawn” but no one ever has. If anyone ever does, it will have to be someone like you, someone merely passing through.
When you’re living day-to-day, there’s rarely point in looking up at all.
Last updated April 24, 2021