Upon returning home, I remember walking in wheat fields
|I felt the first breath of fall today. That cool crispness trailed by the sweet smell of decay. That is the breath that kissed my face and stirred my sweaty hair. I closed my eyes to the wind and let it wash over me as the light fog of morning held my hand. I stood on the slanting porch of a dilapidated farmhouse for what seemed the hundredth time in my life and looked out onto the barren fields of what had been my parents’ livelihood. The fields seemed to stretch out like tired old hands, reaching and grasping for the line of ancient evergreens that lined our property.
As I looked out, a small girl appears in the field, standing not on a rocky expanse of earth, but staring into a waving field of gold. This young girl stands in a similar stance to my own as she gazes across the fields of wheat. She had escaped the hot stuffy bedroom to be kissed and coddled by the first winds of fall. She looks onto the fields and imagines herself as a woman leaving this farm for a world of endless possibilities. The woman the girl sees lives in one of the huge bustling cities of the world, she runs for cabs and rushes to work and dines with dark strangers in dim restaurants. This woman never wakes up early to help her mother with the wash, never watches her father worry about the crops and hope that the bank is not calling. As the girl observes, this woman is everything she wants to be; independent, strong, and beautiful. The sun had fully emerged from the horizon now and the early morning mist has been burned away. The girl breaks away from the image of the woman, turns to walk back towards the house and disappears.
I sigh and look away. The farmhouse is exactly as it had been for the last decade, with sloping steps and creaking floorboards. This was not the farmhouse I left decades ago, when I was barely older than the girl in the field. No when I left, and for twenty five years after my departure, it was still a working farm fanned on all sides by waving fields of wheat. I remember that girl in the field, whose only wish was to escape this world and a pang of guilt cuts deep into my belly. The fields no longer wave and the house is no longer alive, hot and stuffy though it was. This place has become comatose, somewhere between dead and living, and as I look around I wonder if I had a contributing hand in it. Did that girl, so eager to become the woman she imagined, help the flounder and fall of this place? I cannot be sure; I can only gaze out onto the empty fields as the sun comes up. I smell that sweet smell of fall again as the north wind rushes across the land. I turn and walk into the house, no longer the girl in the field yet not quite the woman she imagined.