A wee sketch of fiction from a longer work in progress.
It's the tours that tourists really come for. Worry all you like about the busses unloading sixty or seventy people at a time onto the middle of the pedestrian walkway, but if it were not for their scheduled, guided, narrated walks around "historic downtown," most of these people would see blocks of brick shops that close by dinner time and restaurants with hours-long waitlists and then they'd wander around aimlessly and go home and leave a bad review on the internet: there's nothing to do in Salem! And that would give you something to worry about. Service is the industry here, so you may call them your enemies but, economically speaking, you and they are entangled, entwined, interdependent.
"This is Massachusetts," you might, in a more gentle mood, choose to enlighten these aimless ones. "We roll up the sidewalks at dusk." You might even enjoy this moment of their attention (and they, too, enjoy yours; they have come here to be paid attention to), the special high of holding local expertise and thus authority over them, and so you might even tip them off about the hours when they can and cannot pursue their vices, the premises they must not leave with pleasure in their possession, how there are all of these blue laws and gray areas of regulation here.
"Old Puritan culture, you know," maybe you would say, to summarize. They deserve to have enough information to connect the dots on their own, but no more. That old culture is, after all, why they've come here, isn't it?
You have your own mental corners of this to navigate, anyway. You're trying to accept how those tours with their telling and retelling of the same half-facts and tall tales about this place where you live are incantations, in some ways necromancy keeping an otherwise-dead place alive. On your way to the pharmacy or the barber shop, or some other virtually invisible door in the walls of antiqued facades where actual residents must venture regardless of the season or the festival schedule, you hear countless versions of these stock scandals and ghost stories in fragmentary iteration; each tour company has their own twists and styles of delivery. You are most intrigued by the more costumed and androgynous guides who know how to pause their groups in half-lit alleyways and how to straddle steam rising from vents between the cobblestones like the antihero of a film noir. Glamorous and macabre, they conjure the sins of some neighborhood protagonist of yore, sins which begot revenge, revenge which ended in bloodshed, bloodshed which lead to hauntings, hauntings which then drove some other, later, hapless protagonist to sinning anew; thus it continues, persists. The guide's expert tongue may even tell the truth from time to time, may even speak it to power where it had been previously suppressed, hidden, forbidden, taboo--yes, there are radical tour guides around here, too, for again, this is Massachusetts--but no matter the angle, what they speak, you understand it now, are magic words. As performed, these spells transfigure place into story, package experience into theme, condense centuries of hymn, holler, and hush into a mute-sweet syrup which those fickle throngs of economic stimulators swallow with relish.
And you can’t lord this power over them, no; you, too, are possessed by it, precisely because you live here, conscribed and compelled by necessity but enchanted just the same, and so you open your mouth; you open wide and say, abracadabra.