The next morning, I went for a getaway breakfast at a Hopperesque diner. I was seated beside a group of white-haired women in their Sunday finery who I had heard in line talking about the sermon they all had just sat through. Noticing that I was alone, they kindly engaged me in conversation. When I told them why I was in town, they perked up.
"Ooh!" shouted one spry, sharp-chinned woman, raising her eyebrows and adjusting her white knit shawl. "What do you want to know? I'm a docent at the Hackley."
They were just such nice ladies that I couldn't bring myself to disturb their Sunday morning breakfast by asking about Hopper and isolation. Instead, I said that I wanted to tell people about the fine art in smaller towns; that Muskegon, Michigan might actually have a New York Restaurant. They were very glad to hear it. One woman insisted I look up her brother in New Haven, Connecticut, when I went there to see the four Hoppers in Yale's collection. The project was gaining momentum.
Out in the parking lot, I ran into Miriam, one of the women from that group, by herself. She had kept quiet during our earlier talk, but the pouting lips on her round face made me think she had strong opinions. Maybe because she was alone or because I was getting ready to leave town, I drew the courage to ask her outright, "Do you feel that people in your community are as isolated as Hopper's characters?"
"Ooooh yes," she replied without hesitation. "Emotionally isolated," she emphasized. "We have this community spirit, but inside I think each of us is lonely."
With that, her friends called her back over, and we went to our separate cars. Before I drove away, she came back to my open car window, put a warm wrinkled hand on my arm, and looked into my eyes. "Please," she said. "Please tell them about us."