George Clooney, Do You Miss Augusta?
It’s not completely outside the realm of possibility that George Clooney and I could meet. We’re both Kentuckians. He went to Northern Kentucky University for a while, which is where almost everyone I went to high school with ended up. It’s where I went to take the SAT. George Clooney and I have both stood at the center of that campus and felt like we were trapped inside a concrete fortress made by people with cold and barren souls.
What I’m saying is, in some ways, our paths have already crossed. So it doesn’t take much to imagine some kind of social gathering we might have in common. Maybe he’s back in town for some event to honor Nick, his dad. Maybe we’re both waiting in line at the cash bar and he starts the conversation.
George Clooney and I have both stood at the center of that campus and felt like we were trapped inside a concrete fortress made by people with cold and barren souls.
“Having a good time?” George asks.
“Yes,” I say. I look down at my hands. “You?”
“It’s a nice event,” George says, or something bland like that. Nick raised him right, so George understands that banal exchanges are the social glue that hold our lives together.
He asks some question about why I’m here or what I do or where I’m from. He’s polite like that, and the line for the cash bar is long, even with George Clooney standing next to me. It doesn’t really matter exactly what he asks. The point is that I tell him that I’m from Kentucky too. Like him. I grew up in a small town. My small town is by the Cincinnati airport, and I won’t have to explain to him that the Cincinnati airport is in Kentucky. He already knows that.
Nick raised him right, so George understands that banal exchanges are the social glue that hold our lives together.
“My aunt and uncle taught in Augusta,” I’ll say eventually. “He was the baseball coach.”
“Oh, what’s his name?” George will ask. His eyebrows will go up and he’ll have that little smile that’s always there. Even when he’s frowning, it’s like he can’t quite make the ghost of the smile disappear.
Maybe he’ll know them and maybe he won’t. That’s not really what matters.
“Do you ever miss living in a small town?” I’ll ask him. This is the important question. This is where the whole conversation has been going. This is the point of meeting George Clooney.
The company my dad worked for had a factory in Augusta. For ten years, my Dad made that long commute from one small town to another. Sometimes we would go up with him for the annual picnic and to see my aunt and uncle.
This is where the whole conversation has been going. This is the point of meeting George Clooney.
In Augusta, there’s a church that sits right up on the main street, like a spectator who doesn’t want to miss a thing. My aunt and uncle’s house was old and had so many rooms I was convinced it must be magical. They had a garden around the corner. We walked down to it and waved at their neighbors who drove by as my aunt pointed out where a turtle took bites out of the low-hanging tomatoes.
There was nothing exotic about Augusta, even though it seemed to take so long to get there in the car. I would fall asleep with my head against the window in the summer on the drive, and I’m convinced the lightning bugs have never been as thick as they were then, streaking by as we sped along.
“Do you ever miss Augusta?” I will ask him.
I don’t know how George Clooney will answer. Whether he’ll say yes or no. Will he take a moment to think about it? Will he get a faraway look as he remembers? Or will those dark eyes close with a quick, low chuckle. “No,” maybe he’ll say. “Not at all.”
And then there will be nothing else for us to talk about.
Robyn Ryle started life in one small town in Kentucky and ended up in another just down the river in southern Indiana. She has a short story chapbook, The Face of Baseball, as well as stories and essays in CALYX Journal, Little Fiction/Big Truths, Midwestern Gothic, and WhiskeyPaper, among others. You can find her on Twitter @RobynRyle.
Illustrated by Nusha Ashjaee.