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The Village of Belonging
by Eric Suhem



I like to think of myself as a professional tourist. For a number of months out of the year, my wife Miriam and I travel, then blog about our experiences.

On our most recent trip, we were driving along a road when we saw a sign which read ‘Welcome to The Village of Belonging’. Driving through the town, we were greeted by the inhabitants of the village, all wearing similar outfits. As suggested by our tourist guidebook, we decided to strike up a conversation with the locals. Happening upon a group of women with strollers, we talked about the weather, local points of interest, and found it all to be quite pleasant.

Looking at a nearby field, we saw a group of people in red and orange tunics running around as white-suited attendants chased after them with butterfly nets. The scene seemed hallucinatory, but we had not taken any drugs at all, except for the cholesterol-inhibiting statin Miriam ingested with her white wine at dinner the night before. The wayward people were eventually captured by the attendants, and put into a white van. Seeing the nets reminded me that observation of monarchs and their migration patterns was part of our travel agenda, and I excavated the butterfly identification book from a pocket of my khaki cargo pants for future reference. I enjoy butterfly watching, and I assume that Miriam does too.

“I wonder who those people were,” said Miriam.

“Apparently fugitives from the nuthouse,” I replied, while checking my butterfly identification book for species indigenous to the area.

We continued along in our rental car, looking forward to viewing the recommended scenic points of interest. A number of white vans passed by in the other direction as we approached the next town, seeing the sign: ‘Welcome to The Village of Non-Belonging’. We saw a man who was standing in the middle of the street, wearing a purple triangular hat. “Hello, that’s an interesting hat you’re wearing,” I said.

“Well sir, we are the Village of Non-Belonging, and we’re known for our eccentricities.”

“What are all the white vans for?” asked Miriam.

“Well, you see,” said the man, “When a person in the Village of Belonging does not fit in, that person is captured with a butterfly net, put in a white van, and sent here to the Village of Non-Belonging, to be among his or her own kind. What we have seen though, is that so many people are being sent to the Village of Non-Belonging that it becomes the Village of Belonging, and what was formerly known as the Village of Belonging becomes the Village of Non-Belonging, and so on.”

“So all the white vans are needed to shuttle these people back and forth?” asked Miriam.

“Yes,” said the man. “The main industry in the area is the maintenance and operation of the white vans. In my opinion, it’s all a conspiracy by the van operators and gas stations in the area. A self-perpetuating organism.”

“But people are complex, they can’t simply be classified as ‘Belonging’ or ‘Non-Belonging’,” Miriam argued.

“Oh, those people go to the Village of Ambiguity,” replied the man, “In a beige van.”

A white van pulled up, and the people in red and orange tunics got out. These were the ones we’d seen earlier. They ran into a field and began bouncing up, down and around in playful unison. I turned toward Miriam, and saw that she was running into the field to join the lunatics. “Miriam, what are you doing?!” I yelled.

“This is where I belong,” she said simply, running into the field.

I was stunned, looking at my wife of 11 years frolicking with the lunatics. I didn’t realize that Miriam had always felt lonely, wanting to belong. She’d put so much energy into trying to belong, that it sapped her energy and soul. “Miriam, this is so unlike you, I feel as if I’ve never really known you!” I exclaimed.

“Exactly,” she said.



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