– Are you coming down to the church with me?
– No. I’ve got some stuff to do before I go out.
– But I might have a heart attack and die if you don’t come.
– At least you’d be close to your plot.
Says my nephew.
After ten wonderful years of living in the bohemian, all-freaks-fit-in stronghold of Commercial Drive in Vancouver, I have officially completed the deal and moved out of our home. My longtime boyfriend has found another place and we find ourselves in love in different towns.
Returning to my hometown feels like going back to high school. I know names and faces but I don’t know who my friends are yet. I am certain though that I need human contact beyond my father, Skype and weekend getaways with my nearest and dearest.
I suspect that anyone who has moved away from their hometown had a reason. My reason was Sam Page.
I met Sam in Grade 6. He was an English Muffin. I was a French Wench. It was my first love triangle. He liked her. I liked him. I’m not sure who she liked but after a long year of best friend/unrequited love, Sam saw the light and loved me for real.
We were together for the entire length of Grade 7, which in elementary school time equated marriage. He ate dinner at my house more than his, kissed me for hours, played with my terrible hair, thought me beautiful despite my buck teeth, always walked me home for my 9 o’clock curfew, and talked on the phone until as late as our parents didn’t notice.
I broke up with Sam right before Grade 8. We were going to different junior high schools and I wanted to try kissing other boys. Over the course of months, Sam went from a basketball jock to a long-haired hippie and I, with the help of braces, went from ugly to preppy. We made new circles of different friends but we still talked for hours and I still went to him in tears with a hat on my head anytime my hair had been butchered, again.
He was the love I had for myself.
It was spring break Grade 11. I was recently returned from a year abroad learning French by skipping school and partying hard. My first road trip to visit my big sister and her family in Alberta, we had just arrived and had dinner when the phone rang. I was washing dishes with Angela, laughing. My sister screamed.
Sam had drowned while camping with friends at Sooke Potholes.
I remember locking the bathroom door, smoking cigarettes at Dairy Queen in Drumheller, the backseat of the minivan as my sister’s friend drove us back to BC the next day, arriving at the funeral home at night alone, sitting in a room with Sam’s cold body and his friends that I didn’t really know.
I remember the black hole all across my chest and the absence of anyone to share the pain of tragic loss and the sudden terror of mortality.
From seventeen to twenty-one, I took refuge in the loving protection of a skater punk rocker named Gymbo and the Victoria punk scene. I didn’t much like punk music and I definitely didn’t look punk. I was the jelly under the spikes of a porcupine.
Unsuccessful at feeling belonging in a small city on a big island, it wasn’t until I moved to the mainland in a neighbourhood of strangers, misfits and the Parade of the Lost Souls that I settled into myself.
– I’m off to listen to folk music.
– Folk you!
Walking barefoot through the first annual Folkwest, I see adult faces of children I recognize. I don’t know what friendships may or may not blossom as I build a new life here but there is something beautiful about knowing the child in someone. Getting older, I no longer feel alone in the experience of loss and fear of death.
And, with families to raise and bills to pay, I doubt the girl from Grade 9 is still mean.
Folk you Victoria. I love you.