I had once thought it a gloomy, sulky place that stifled everyone within it like a gas chamber, but I see it now more of a type of wonderland. Other places might regularly experience the same heavy fog, but I doubt they could replicate it entirely. The way all lights in the distance were dimmed and diffused like a lampshade over the town, the sound of train whistles hollering in the far distance, the damp sidewalks and lingering wetness as one hurried across thresholds…all of those are common things, I know, but somehow this town made them unique. It was pushed in the corner of the state–cut off like a castle on a hill–so even though it was filled with things that other places might also have, it still felt new and removed from the rest of the world, like the Galapagos islands.
I didn’t like it at first.
Instead of seeing its isolation as rare and unique, I saw it as lonely and confined. For the first year that I was there, all I wanted to do was be someplace else. I had left my comfort and all familiarity miles away and my existence was limited to language, reading, and a small room with one window. My friends were scarce and the ones that I did make did not count me as close. Everyone already seemed to know each other and to have been there for years–it was a home to them, and I was the lost, dirty cat sneaking in from the rain. Even now, I’m not sure I could call it home. I’m not sure I was there long enough for my paw prints to stick.
But it grew on me, as most things do over time. I began to love the humble size of the campus; the birds on the telephone wires in the morning, calling at me as I hurried to class; the comfort of a consistent day; the recognition of faces on a sidewalk; the world and time feeling uncommonly distant. And now, living in a bustling town that seems to never stop, I miss it. The fog here is not the same. It does not diffuse the lights; it stamps the city down under its foot like a beetle. The cats are left out in the rain, meowing at bolted doors.
I’ve no reason to go back, though, and I do not plan to fabricate one. As much as I miss it there, going back is never the same as the memory of it. The birds call too loud, the faces are not the ones you remember, the fog is too heavy on your shoulders, the wetness screams against your skin.
Wonderlands, I’ve learned, are better left as dreams.
currently listening to: Over You by Ingrid Michaelson