This is the fourteenth of many excerpts from Heather Lowe’s novella titled Catharine. It explores her love affair with downtown St. Catharines through a series of shamelessly exaggerated vignettes.
It was rash and it was naive. My Other Half and I encountered what some would refer to as “tough times” but, in my heart I know that barely seems to describe it. You rarely see tragedy coming for you, it’s impossible to be prepared for something that alters your life forever. Many handle sadness and grief with grace and integrity while others make drastic life changes and imprudent decisions to mask the enormous emotional hit they’ve just taken. I am not ashamed to state that I am in the latter group. And so, due to my fiery foolishness, my Other Half and I decide to move away from The Garden City. We had our reasons, I think. Reasons that I no longer believe myself but they were our reasons nonetheless. Perhaps we had convinced ourselves that it was for the best, maybe we thought we would somehow financially benefit, surely we must have thought it was the right choice for us at the time. And so we did it. We didn’t move far away of course but it was certainly far enough to feel the inevitable change.
On a good traffic day, a mere twenty minutes down the highway from The Garden City sits what I will gently call ‘a Town of Wonder.’ This town is home to a natural wonder of the world, endless steakhouses, trashy tourist traps and in the heart of all the wonder, everything looks and smells like an amusement park. People from across the globe save every penny they can to see and feel this Town of Wonder. A bucket list must, the town is buzzing with electricity – literally. The face of the town convinces the masses that it is a fun and thriving place to fall and stay in love but for the most part, people don’t see the real Town of Wonder underneath, they just see the facade. Behind the blinding lights and numerous hotels that litter the cityscape, the Town of Wonder doesn’t seem so wonderful after all. It’s inhabitants seem cold and tired and lonely and almost everyone seems to be having trouble making ends meet. To escape this thundering storm, the inhabitants howl at the moon at the weekly karaoke night and drink their woes away, all the while cursing the very place they call home.
When my Other Half and I move to the Town of Wonder we (foolishly) decide to make the most of it but somehow misery finds our new address and slowly we also become cold and tired and, more than I’d like to admit, lonely. The Town of Wonder eerily begins to feel like a deserted island to me. The irrational but very real anxiety gradually begins to grip my heart and suddenly I’m sad without reason, I doubt everything about my life, I have no ambition, I stop writing altogether but worse than that, I stop singing to myself. This is when I realize that something isn’t right. Surely it can’t just be the Town of Wonder that is causing me to behave like Eeyore, it truly can’t be that bad, can it?
I’ve always believed that hindsight is truly the greatest comedian. It’s funny to me (now) that in a town so surrounded by rushing water that I would be so thirsty for inspiration. Maybe it was my fault, perhaps I had decided to dislike it, maybe I had convinced myself that the Town of Wonder was a place where dreams went to die and that all of this was simply the funeral pyre for my own. It wasn’t until I returned to The Garden City on a short stint with The Luggage Company that I finally realised what the problem was. The town of wonder wasn’t so bad but it wasn’t home. It wasn’t the Garden City. Not even close.
Over a year later as we again pack up our belongings to move home, I can’t help but feel like the past year was hard and it was lonely but it was also bittersweet. And I was wrong, dreams don’t die in the Town of Wonder, but doubts do. And those silly doubts, like the town itself, I am very happy to be leaving behind.