Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lillian's Travel Blog, Entry #2

June, 1927

I have lost count of the days since I left New York City behind me. I thought never again to look with such awe upon a place as I did upon that city of towers, but I have discovered that America is full of wonders. And space – America is full of space. Over these last weeks, I have put my sturdy shoes to good use on my way to North Dakota, on my way to Jozéf. Every day, from dawn until dark, I walk. I think of Jozéf, and how my life is bound to his.

I have seen so much I hardly know where to begin. First, everywhere there are good roads. I have marked them on the map I made at the library in New York City, and I follow them west and north to North Dakota, so that I will not get lost. These roads are full of cars, big American cars. Sometimes, these cars stop for me, for I suppose I am a curiosity, a woman, walking alone. Without fail, a man is alone in the car. My English is so poor, I have difficulty understanding their words, but their meaning is clear enough.

I will confess that once I accepted a ride with such a man. He was a salesman, I believe, for when we stopped in a town for hamburgers, he shows me a suitcase full of kitchen wares – along with a pistol he keeps in the glove box of the car. He was showing off, trying to impress me. If only he knew how hated the sight of a gun is to me, with what I have lived through.

This man has trouble keeping his hands to himself. After I finish eating, I tell him I must use the bathroom, and leave through the back door. I stop only to take the pistol from the glove box, fearing he may come after me. I am, after all, a woman alone. For the next few days, I must keep to the woodlots and fields, out of sight of the road. But the hamburger was delicious.

I have seen farmlands so vast and so fertile that the young wheat flows in the wind as far as the eye can see. I laugh to myself, in a place called Pennsylvania, to see wealthy farmers who could afford to buy many trucks using wagons and horses instead, just like the peasants back home. In the towns, I am struck my how people walk down the street smiling. Where I come from, only idiots smile so much. But like everything else in America, happiness is plentiful. I suppose it is easy to smile here.

Not everything in America is beautiful. In Ohio, the factories and steel mills make the air foul and choke the rivers. In Chicago, I see magnificent buildings like in New York City, but also newcomers from many countries, pressed together in tight quarters – like in New York City. Everyone struggles to be successful, to be American. They see my worn shoes and my dusty clothes, and they think I am a peasant – like they used to be, before they became Americans. Now, they want only Americans for friends. I hear Yiddish in the streets, but I pretend not to understand. For as much as I want to belong, I want just as much to be invisible, anonymous.

I am discovering what freedom feels like, and space to oneself. I keep away from the cities, preferring the openness of the countryside. Most nights I sleep under the stars and wake to the gentle dawn – knowing that each day brings me closer to Jozéf. America is hope, and I hope that soon I will find him. Tomorrow I set out again, north and west to North Dakota.