"Would you like a Dove bar?" I ask. It's all I've got. No Advil.
And Lynn from California, the latest member of our book group, has been crying for half an hour. She misses the ocean, she says. I would, too.
"It's so bland here," she says in a wobbly voice. "Target, Starbucks."
"Old Navy, Whole Foods?" Janet, a poet, says gently, handing her a tissue.
At least it's not the book. Kingsley Amis's comic novel, The Folks on the Hill, is not the kind of book you cry over.
No, it's just the soullessness of our town.
"We're all from somewhere else," Janet adds.
Comfort on eggshells. Would sentence fragments help? I try.
"We've. Been there. How do you get through your days?"
I wish I had a reporter's notebook. Writers are such shits, aren't they? But it is a good, relatable subject, the problem of moving from X to Y, following a spouse or moving for a job, and feeling lost in a new geography. And now there's Covid on top of it.
"I cried for three weeks," says Lynn, crying.
"That's nothing," I say cheerily. "I used to walk to the mall and back every day. That killed four hours. Five if I shopped at Borders."
"I made a $1,000 phone call to an ex-boyfriend," added Janet. "I tried to get him to fall back in love with me."
You adjust, but you never really adjust. The small art museum is uninteresting. The community orchestra is always slightly off-key. The town's favorite park is ugly. In the fall, the homeless camp nearby.
You know what? I would like a Dove bar!
You have to become an artist or a writer or a scrapbooker or have your own YouTube channel or something.
But you can't tell a newcomer that. It's too daunting.