A Sad Midwest Essay

american gothic (2)

Nowhere; you’re in the middle of it.

Corn is the only metaphor available to you. Illinois actually produces more soybeans than corn annually, but you still choose corn as the metaphor because it is more relatable to the general population. You compare your skin as it dries in the autumn breeze to the recently scythed cornhusks withering in the dusk. The corn will be stamped into the earth by months of harsh midwest winter weather just as Johnson & Johnson moisturizer will be slathered onto your face when you go back inside. You only came out here to contemplate corn, hoping to derive from it more than a metaphor for dry skin. Your hopes are dashed. It is just corn. You are just a sad midwest writer.

You return to your sad midwest home–probably a barn held up by leaning wooden scaffolds and various Instagram filters that highlight its decrepit beauty. Somehow you live in this barn, but are able to afford Johnson & Johnson Intensive Care Facial Moisturizer so your skin doesn’t flake like the cornhusks, and a smartphone so you can post pictures of your barn-home on Instagram. Your logic is eschewed by the ambiance of the sad midwest. As a sad midwest writer, you have an image to uphold.

A car dealership in town has just closed. You think, perhaps the wacky-inflatable-arm-flailing tube man is still outside the empty dealership, wackily flailing his inflatable arms. He is not. This disappoints you.

The sky is too big for you here. You think you should use that sentence in an essay about the sad midwest, but you don’t know where it fits, so you throw it haphazardly into the middle and hope other sad midwest writers will recognize it as an artful interlude, if not a trite observation.

There are trains. There are crows. There are people with missing teeth and small dogs. There are squirrels. There is wind. There is Taco Bell. There is the assumption that there are prairie dogs, even though you have never actually seen one in your life. There is also the assumption that you will leave this place someday (get out, get out), but you realize your parents are here, and your grandparents, and their grandparents, and longevity runs in your family (your great-great grandmother is one of the people with the missing teeth and small dogs), and you’ve got a while to decide whether leaving this place is your true desire or a fantasy fulfilled by writing sub-par essays about the state of the region while stacking oreos on the kitchen table of your barn-home.

There is grass. There is the sunset over the plain. There is the vague scent of manure.

There is a window. You gaze out it at the vast, empty landscape, seeing nothing but the landscape, and its vast emptiness. You think there must be something profound to be said about the window, the landscape, the empty, but you can only imagine corn because, as previously discussed, it is the only metaphor in your sad midwest repertoire. You cook soybeans alone.

american gothic
“American Gothic” by Grant Wood, 1930

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