Everyone here is so nice, they say. Everyone here is so nice, you say. You walk through the streets, head bowed, making eye contact with no one. You do not want to inconvenience all of these nice people. Nobody speaks. It is because we are all so nice.
It is cold. It has always been cold, it will always be cold. Liquid water does not exist. You live on nothing but cheap diner coffee and your own internal body heat. You do not know how long it will be above freezing in your own body. Already you cannot feel your fingers.
You cross the Mississippi. The sign says you are in Saint Paul. Cross again. You are in Minneapolis. There is no difference. The streets are the same, the people are the same. You are stuck in the endless loop of the Twin Cities, back and forth, déjà vu. You cannot escape. The streets are not arranged in a grid. The Twin Cities are a paradox situated at the mouth of a river. They both exist and do not exist.
Do not look at the hot dish. Do not ask yourself what is in the hot dish. Do not wonder why the hot dish is able to retain heat while nothing else here can. Put some in your fork, chew, swallow. Ignore the sharp pain in your esophagus. Swallow the blood you choke up.
The locals whisper of a lumberjack, taller, older, and stronger than the trees. You scoff at them. You do not believe he exists. That night, there is a blue ox the size of a house in front of you. There are legs behind them. You look up, looking for the source of the legs. The last thing you see before you wake up is the axe.
You are driving along the highway. You are driving through Minnesota. You are always driving. The license plates claim there are 10,000 lakes here. You have yet to see a lake. There is nothing but yellowed grass and cornfields. You are still looking for the lakes. You do not know that the lakes only make themselves known to locals.
You arrive at your friend’s house. You stand inside the entryway. They ask you why you are still in the mud room. You do not know what the mud room is. You no longer know where you are. Are you in the mud room? You cannot move; the uncertainty is paralyzing. You do not know whether you should take off your shoes or leave them on. There is no place to put your shoes. The room is filled with them, piles and piles of shoes. The pile seems to grow before your eyes. You are drowning in shoes. You take your own off. You are burying yourself.
People tell you they will not be here this weekend. They are going up to the Cabin. They are all going to the Cabin. They leave you behind. You do not follow them. You know that if you make one trip to the Cabin, you are required, bound, to make a pilgrimage to the Cabin every other Saturday. To fail on this obligation would mean the death of all you hold dear.
It is time to go. You say goodbye to your friends. No, they say, stay. Stay for dinner. You do not want to infringe on their hospitality, you do not want to overstep your bounds. No, they say, it’s no trouble. No trouble at all. You are uneasy. You want to leave. You tell them you think you should go. No, they say. Stay for dinner. They keep talking to you. Talking about how much fun they’ve had, how much fun they will continue to have. You realize now you cannot leave. You are trapped forever. It is just before goodbye. Time has stopped. It will always be just before goodbye.