Lost Children Archive: A Novel by Valeria Luiselli:
We didn’t expect what we find when we drive into Asheville later that afternoon. We thought, ignorantly and a little condescendingly, that we were going to a godforsaken little town. Instead, there’s a small, buzzing, vibrant city. Walking along the main street, well groomed and lined with saplings, we see storefronts full of possibilities, though I’m not sure of what—possibilities, perhaps, of furnishing imaginary future lives. In the terrace cafés, we see pale young men with long beards, and lovely girls with feathered hair and freckled cleavages. We see them drinking beer from Mason jars, smoking rolled cigarettes, frowning philosophically. They all look like those actors in Éric Rohmer movies, pretending that it’s perfectly normal—despite being too beautiful and too young—to be deeply engaged in a discussion about mortality, atheism, mathematics, and possibly Blaise Pascal. Along the sidewalks, we also see languid, camel-faced junkies, holding up cardboard signs and cuddling their robust bulldogs. We see reformed Harleys, crosses hanging heavy on their graying chests. We see big Italian machines in cafés, brewing good coffee. I wonder what kind of rhapsody Thomas Wolfe would compose about Asheville now. Finally, we see a bookstore, and we walk in.