“I want to see everything that I’ve experienced that was significant everyday.”
– Kris Kuksi, on the photographs plastering his Hays, Kan. studio.
When I moved to Hays, Kan. in 2001, I hated it. Where were all the people? What happened to bookstores and Best Buy and freeways?
So when it was time to pack my things and leave, four and a half years later, I realized several things.
I grew to know Hays. I knew what things were possible and what things weren’t. I was in control; the limited hours a local gas station might have were tolerated, the absence of Italian food was mourned and substituted.
My fear of knowing no one interesting proved utterly wrong. I can attribute almost 95% of that to being on staff at the college newspaper. I suddenly was able to approach complete strangers and maybe even befriend them. I also spent more time in that newspaper office than any classroom. These staffers were my family.
It was also my first taste of being known. The mayor knew me, the president of the college, the police officer on the street, the pretty girl sitting at a table in the library. Introductions were always one-sided; “you’re Adam, right?” I might have been as well known as someone can be in a city of 20,000.
My internship at the Hays Daily News was a fitting end. I got to finally see Hays minus school, the frightening ferocity of summer storms and the deafening sound of cicadas in the evenings. I suddenly had time, time to get to know a very select group of friends, to watch television for the first time in years, and to read and think. I got sent all over western Kansas, to places represented with specks of dust on maps.
It feels strange, knowing that the city still continues on. Unlike every other time I packed all of my belongings and left, this time I won’t be returning. It might take a while for that to settle in.