Jeremy left. He’s my hero. When he turned eighteen and graduated from high school he washed his hands of this town forever and left to see the world. I remember when he first told me he was going to leave. He sat Jacob and I down on the couch, although Jacob never needed help finding the couch.
“Did you ever wonder if some things were better in other places?” he asked. It was kind of a dumb question, even to a thirteen year old, which I was at the time, and I told him so.
“It took me eighteen years to figure out why I couldn’t eat Mom’s spaghetti. Eighteen years! I thought maybe I just hated spaghetti. Then I had it for dinner at Katie’s house and thought it was delicious. You know what the difference was?”
Jacob and I said no.
“Milk,” he said. “Mom always pours milk with every meal, and milk with spaghetti is disgusting. Spaghetti with just about anything else is heaven. And that got me to thinking. If spaghetti is better somewhere else, what else is? There are an unimaginable number of places outside of Nebraska, each with their particular customs and prides, and I’m just aching to see them all.”
“Okay, George Bailey.” Jeremy smiled and wrestled me to the floor. I knew he would. He loves that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, but George Bailey never did leave his hometown. Jeremy did. He went to college in Boston, where he got real into bicycles. Can’t get anywhere in Boston without a bicycle, he told me. He rode his bike from Boston to California one summer with a buddy of his. You’d think you’d go through Nebraska doing that, but he managed to pass around us. After he graduated, he flew to Europe and hitchhiked for a while. With every new place he sent us a letter telling us all about his experiences. To me, they sounded like good adventures, ones I would like to have some day. I decided I was going to be like Jeremy. I was going to be the most cultured cornhusker there ever was. And I was going to live someplace with other cultured people.
To my parents, the letters sounded like examples of how Circumstance, and therefore themselves, wasn’t good enough for him. He never wrote about missing home, or missing us. But then again, they never got on well with Jeremy. It’s a shame, really. I think it’s just a bunch of misunderstandings. My parents like old things and Jeremy likes new things. My parents like it here and Jeremy likes it anywhere else. Eventually Jeremy came back to the United States and settled in Kansas City and that’s where he sits. He still sends letters, but he stopped putting my parents on the address, and then my brother. All the letters are addressed to me now. Maybe that’s because I write back.
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