Dear Wigleaf,

I'm writing from the house I grew up in, in Chicago, except not really. My house is in a suburb called River Forest, west of the city.

There are people who will call you a liar if, when they ask where you're from, you answer "Chicago," and when they ask where, you explain it's a place like River Forest, right next to but not actually in the city. "Oh, the suburbs," they'll drawl, as smug as a pretty girl in middle school. As if they would know where River Forest was, otherwise.

During a hideous college orientation event, I told a girl I was from "outside Chicago," and she asked if my parents were farmers. In a mean way, farmers weren't cool yet. The very next girl I met told me she was from Rockland, New York, and I exclaimed, "Oh, I'm with you in Rockland," with eighteen-year-old hope. She answered "What," just like that: "What."

But, whatever. I love being home, but that's not what I'm thinking about. I hated college orientation, but I'm not really thinking about that, either. I'm thinking about Blanes, Spain, where I went this summer. Blanes is a beach town on the Mediterranean, the very beginning of a region called the Costa Brava, with jagged rock formations out in the turquoise water. Every night I walked the Paseo Maritimo, watching the light change.

On the second night a young blonde girl came up to me on the Paseo Maritimo and asked if I had seen "the flying object." She had a thick Polish accent, and it wasn't clear whether she had seen a UFO that evening, or wanted to know if I believed in UFOs in general (I hadn't, but I do). After we had settled her question, she asked what I thought about Poland.

I told her I was from Chicago, land of many Poles, wonderful people, that I believed Poland to be a magnificent nation with a beautiful national story of struggle and triumph. This pleased her very much. She used her phone to take a picture of us crouched together there in the fading purple next to the sea. Then she disappeared.

I walked back to my hotel, happy to have had made a fourteen-year-old on her holiday happy. I used to think this kind of satisfaction was facile, suspicious, but that was when I was eighteen; now, I just feel like a saint when I make a stranger smile.

All around me were elegant couples in shimmering costumes: long, heavy dresses on the women, blousy shirts and harem pants on the men, sequins catching the last fumes of the day. I saw these shining people for three days before I learned there was a folk dance festival in Blanes. Then I went and watched them shake on a temporary stage.


Lisa Locascio

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Read LL's story.

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