Dry Your Eyes
Located between Chicago and Milwaukee, Greenville Township is poised for massive growth. Once a graphite manufacturing town, it’s now a rapidly gentrifying mix of middle class farmers and sleek city folk. It is, therefore, the ideal place for the next expansion of Wholesome Food, a nationwide grocery chain boasting organic produce, silky nut milks and artisanal cheeses for a fraction of the price of its competitors. There’s only one hitch - the new Wholesome Food will displace the beloved S&O General Store that has been the only grocery store around. Brady is a Wholesome Food marketing manager tasked with ingratiating the Greenville community to the soon to open store. His main opposition is Sara whose family has owned S&O for four generations. Brady hatches a sweepstakes for opening day with a host of winning numbers redeemable for in-store coupons and one grand-prize winner of a hundred thousand dollars. It’s the perfect plan, until it all goes wrong. A glitch in the production makes the majority of locals the grand prize winner. Told through the viewpoints of a cast of community members, Dry Your Eyes is a moving exploration of resistance and surrender, and a tender look at the inner complexity of a small town community.
Alison had insisted on taking an Uber from the airport and would be arriving in a couple of hours. Sara had prepared her old room for her, cleared the piles of clothes she’d meant to take to the second-hand shop but had never gotten around to, and fluffed the pillows that even after all these years still held the slightest indention of her daughter’s head. It took her a minute to remember the last time Allie had been home as it had been some time. Christmas last year, which felt like ages ago. Sara sighed and listened for Oliver. Mornings in bed, alone, were her favorite time of the day when she could twist and spread out in the bed, pull the covers around her and cozy into the pillows. Take up as much space as she wanted. Even still, the sound of Oliver’s coffee cup lifting and resettling on the kitchen table was something her ears were attuned to. He had his ritual and she had hers and it was okay if he thought she was sleeping all this time. That didn’t hurt a thing.
Sara was surprised to find it was later than she thought, though still in the golden window where she didn’t have to get up just yet. She tossed her phone back onto the nightstand and laid on her back, staring at the ceiling. There was a spider web veining in the thick plaster work around the faintest bloom of a water stain. She couldn’t recall when it had shown up or if it was getting worse. It was, no doubt, a double jab of the crumbling foundation and the roof that was well overdue for repair. She would paint over it as soon as she had the energy to do so. She took in a few deep breaths, mentally preparing herself for Alison. She needed to find a way to balance her temperament with the welling anxiety and anger over Wholesome Food and the general challenges that always accompanied these family visits. She loved her daughter immensely, but the love for a daughter was a lot. They were like little versions of yourself, kids. She’d never really known how to handle that, that feeling of accountability that comes with bringing a person into the world, setting a life into motion. It was an intense feeling, more intense than she’d anticipated, and after she’d had Alison, she knew she didn’t want more. One was enough. One was like a firecracker had gone off too close to her and muted everything – colors dulled, sounds lost their depth. She’d never admit that feeling to anyone. The other mothers she was friends with talked incessantly about how magical motherhood was, how it gave them purpose, fulfilled their lives. Why didn’t she feel that too? It’s not that she didn’t love Alison with all she had but becoming a mother had split something inside of her. It was like she gave up a wedge, plucked it out and tossed it. She had never felt the same. And so that constant yearning to find the piece again left her a little cold sometimes and made her overbearing others. Sara had tried to find the balance in it, the magic of motherhood, but all these years later, she was still searching.
She knew Allie and Oliver had a better relationship than she and Allie did, and she liked that. It made her feel less like an awful person when she watched how easily the two of them were with one another. At least someone was able to give Alison that, if not her. Instead, she loved how she could love – through nutritionally balanced meals, reasonable bedtimes, curfews designed to keep boys' hands out of her daughter’s pants, that kind of thing. She’d made sure Allie was strong, physically and mentally, willful, confident and in control. Surely, that was love. It was also likely what had given her daughter the confidence to take off and start a new life nowhere near them. Sara never fully expected that Alison would take over the family business, and if she permitted herself to think honestly about it, she wouldn’t have wanted her to. But she also hadn’t expected Allie to stay in school for so long, and she wanted to tell her daughter that she didn’t have to run away like that. She didn’t have to make those kinds of excuses to not return home.