Our motorcade into Georgia is a white truck with a one-word sticker on the bumper that screams stubborn intolerance, driving 35 in a 45, refusing to pull off to let anyone by.
The Georgia we see reminds us of everywhere and nowhere. It’s just like every suburb where people seem to seek simplicity, stability, wealth, beauty. Likely the product of white flight. Every city feels the same. But then again, we’re seeing so little with these tired eyes. A main street like Menlo Park. A neighborhood like my hometown country club’s. A coffee shop with a cute, jaded barista who is only a little rude.
We pay too much for coffee again. It tastes flat and acidic on the tongue, but it’s served with a tiny glass of water. We sit, snobby and disheveled in our pajama shirts.
They’re all borrowing the same stock notions of the ideal town. Is this a neighborhood, or a suburb? Whose mall is this and what used to be here? The CDC is somewhere nearby, but Google only tells us about Sonic and Starbucks. Like some big conspiracy to homogenize. But this coffee shop surprises me – the only non dairy milk they have is pecan milk. I’d never heard of pecan milk.
We know this isn’t Georgia. This isn’t even Atlanta. But it is the Georgia we see.
I am reminded that the first time I went to Georgia, at the age of 17, was the first time I saw a Confederate battle flag on the back of a truck. My friend told me it was so awful but you see that here a lot and ‘welcome to the south’. At the time I ignorantly didn’t know what it was. Georgia was also the first place I tried sweet tea. My teeth felt like they were going to fall off and I couldn’t drink another sip.
But that Georgia was the Georgia I saw then. This Georgia is making tacos in a tiny kitchenette full of matching sets in the same optimistic turquoise. It feels loud even though no one is there. I reach a point of neuroticism, looking at where we need to go next. The spreadsheet stretches forward and backward, plotting where we’ve been and where we’re going. My brain runs laps around the country. The only way to neutralize this mind trap is to get in the car.
This Georgia is driving to the grocery store at 9pm for ice cream and sitting on a couch in a windowless apartment watching a forgettable show on Netflix. This Georgia is finally showering after what might’ve been a week. This Georgia is bringing almond milk in an empty mini Bourbon bottle into a diner. This Georgia is walking through a little forest-y park discussing quarter life crises.
For us, this Georgia is merely a non place. A place we slept. A place we showered. A place after one place and before the next. The place where we begin to travel north, but won’t be leaving the South for days.