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This is what it is to be both incomplete and at the farthest point from who you were: you disappear into the skin of a stranger, yet it feels – normal. You’re unsettled, at first. But you think, “This is a nice change of pace.”
Then it gets old. And you go back to being incomplete, and a stranger, besides, even unto yourself.
Wispy clouds hung low, draping like a gauzy cape over the shoulders of the colossal mountain range that hovered over the valley like a phalanx of Olympian sentries. Dawn was just breaking and, for the first time since moving to this Montana town, Bette genuinely felt a tug, a psychic rope, almost, like the one that used to pull her home after her usual early-morning run around Golden Gate Park. Home. Throat raw, muscles locked, sluggish, and screaming from a punishing eight mile run down rough trails, over hill and dale, and through the surrounding meadow, Bette felt that tug as she re-entered town. Her sense of relief was overwhelming as she spied the lights beaming out from second floor rooms above her new café, guiding her back. Calling her home.
She’d run past farms that lined the country roads, full of round bales of wheat straw, and where farmers had been busy already with chores this crisp early summer morning; past people who’d seen her drive up and down these country roads over the past month, but were seemingly too pre-occupied to acknowledge her as she ran by.
She wasn’t surprised that they looked the other way or kept their heads down when they saw her approach, swiftly running downhill, or keeping an easy lope as she ran uphill. Even those who had to at least know of her by now didn’t look her way. Some even knew her name, having been introduced by others when she’d done business with locals around town. No matter; they all ignored her as she ran by.
She couldn’t help but think she would’ve been treated differently if she’d been closer to who they were, rather than being unmistakeably who she was. Would they have treated someone else who’d poured as much money into the local economy the same as they’d been treating her? No, they wouldn’t. Bette knew she somehow fell into the category of the quintessential other, the very definition of an outsider, almost from the moment she set foot on this town. Far more of an outsider than tourists who’d driven or bused into town, on their way to or from Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons. Kept at a distance even further than they kept urbanites from either the East or West coast who’d been touring this part of the American West.