Mud People, No. 15

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Mud People, No. 15 (2019). House paint on paper. Artwork and text copyright Danny Grosso.

He used to love this country, with its open spaces, and single family homes for anyone willing to do the rehab work. Everyone had a car and a 401k. He learned the language quickly, excepting a disregard for the th sound at the beginning of words, but saying “dis” instead of “this” just made him fit in better in Chicago. He used to love this county, especially the immigrants, the Italians and Chinese that owned the places where he ate, even the Mexicans he worked with on jobs, who brought homemade food to share with him at lunch. They all seemed to make him feel comfortable in a strange place, assimilating together in a colorful new home. Then came the flood of people from his own country, of a late generation, bringing with them the dread of that old stagnant land, seeping it into this once promising haven for aspiration. He didn’t worry anymore that the newcomers would sap his drive, for it was already gone, departed as soon as he saw his block filling up with newcomers speaking his native tongue who bought houses with no money down. They parked their leased Mercedes SUV’s in their driveways, and hung outlet store jewelry on their wives who dressed like harem girls. He once tried to help them ease into the grind here, or rather they sought him out – his eastern features calling out to them, convincing them to start conversations in the old language. He would answer in English at first, then not at all after they registered displeasure at his rejection of the native tongue. “This is America,” he would say, “you have to learn English.” Soon, he wasn’t invited anymore when the neighbors would welcome visitors from the old country. At the pool hall, the younger men from the block began to gather around and cheer on whomever he was playing at the table. They would steal the tip money he left on the bar, and use it to wager against him. Sometimes their wives would come in and look at him the way he used to look at the old monarchists in his hometown.

He used to love this country, and now that love has diminished.  He left the pool hall one Friday and drove all night and day, way out west, to the middle of nowhere, and felt a rush. It was that old feeling, same as when he first arrived here so many years ago. Maybe he would relocate within the great unpopulated expanse now, to get away…

 

-Danny Grosso

 

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