The first place that ever felt like home was also the first place to abandon me in my darkest hour. I think, for a lot of reasons, it could be no different. You can not feel something as finite as the safety of home, and not also give it the ability to hurt you. Isn’t that what they say love is? Giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting they won’t. Or so I read once upon a time.
In a remote part of the Olympic Peninsula, there is a small town where community means you always have a couch to sleep on, food in your belly, and friends at the ready. Gas prices are higher than the island I currently live on. If you can’t buy whatever your heart’s whim is at the Safeway or Henry’s, then you secretly order your needs online without letting the neighbors know you didn’t pay the exorbitant prices of the local tourist trap. Either that or drive an hour to the nearest decently populated town where they have box stores at the ready to service your every need. The streets are haunted, both literally and figuratively. Locals will take you on tours and tell you the ghost stories of a hundred years ago. But if you listen closely, they’ll tell you the ghost stories of last week as well.
Everything in this town changes and somehow nothing is different. I’m sitting in a bar watching the familiar faces of memories from years ago. No one seems to be better off in any capacity. On the contrary, they are overworked, underpaid, and for most, time has not been too kind. In exchange for a life that has little certainty, is completely dependent upon the tourism which writes the paychecks of the working class, there is community.
Unlike every version of community I could comprehend before being one of them, their community is that of fairy-tales. It’s something right out of Stars Hollow, sweet, iconic, full of festivals and characters only television could do justice. People tend to be more honest, as your secrets won’t stay secret for long. Unfortunately though, for every five quaint stories about charm, there is one about how drugs or alcohol have ruined lives. I suppose when you live at the end of the rainbow, when war and drink are the two things no man is too poor to afford, you bottoms up, as the saying goes.
This is a town where social media is fodder. Where having a Facebook account is akin to wearing a badge with all your relevant information. Is she single? Look it up online. When did that person move to town? Social Media to the rescue. What do we do tonight? Hit the web, someone’s doing something somewhere within a rocks throwing distance. When the town spans exactly six-miles end-to-end, nothing is too far away, and walking home is always an option. I once held a Stray Cat Christmas on a last-minute social media post alone. An open invite to anyone who didn’t have somewhere to be, much like myself. My door became revolving and that sense of community grew in my living room. It was the beginning of the end.
I often think about moving back to this place that felt like home. This feeling I’ve only ever felt in one location. I’m learning to understand that maybe this feeling wasn’t the place but the people I surrounded myself with. When I go back I’m embraced by old friends and I always have a place to stay. The familiar is inviting and the new is fresh which keeps it exciting. I don’t know if I’ll ever move back. But I like to think someday, I’ll find the end of the rainbow again. Only this time, it will be a permanent move. One where I can grow old and maintain my own sense of community with those I love.