Oh, you need to see the dentist for a rotten tooth? Sure, I can help you. Why, I’ve lived here all my life. I know these streets and these people inside and out.
You see that little girl up the road? The one with corn silk hair, crouched and looking at a dead bird? And she’s holding a white balloon? Yeah, her. Make the first right after you pass her.
Go about three blocks until you see a 54-year-old woman sitting on her veranda, her brow creased with the stress of keeping her married daughter’s infidelity a secret. Which also, by the by, echoes her own failed attempts at love outside her unhappy marriage. And then make the next left.
Cross the tracks and continue until you see a gas station run by a twenty-something young man. The gas station was left to him by his father who raised him alone. The young man is wearing a stained pair of overalls and is haunted by the childhood memory of seeing his father kissing the mailman through the kitchen window and how that has colored his own sexual experiences. Make a left there.
After a few blocks, you’ll see a park with a tall white wooden cross. Can’t miss it. The cross will have fresh flowers at the base and a raven sitting on it. There’s always a raven or two on that thing. That’s the memorial to the mayor’s daughter who was killed by a drunk driver just last year. Rumor has it that the mayor himself was driving. But I don’t know what to believe since the mayor’s brother confessed to doing it. Anyways, go past that and the dentist’s office is right there on the next block on your right.
If you see a first-generation daughter of immigrants caught between her parents’ expectations and the social systems of American capitalism standing alone by the road with a red guitar case, you’ve gone too far. She is trying to find room for her heritage while forging a new identity after getting laid off from her high-flying finance job in Manhattan and returning to her small hometown. Just turn around and head back the way you came.
Good luck with that rotten tooth, kid. And don’t talk to that girl with the balloon up ahead; that’s the ghost of the mayor’s daughter!