It would take us three long hard days of driving to get to our next home. It would take the moving company one week. It would take us two weeks to find a place to live. And it would take jobs, schooling, and alcohol for both my parents to forget where they now lived. At the time it was a good six to eight hours from the closet other city. Now they have reduced that time to just over four. When you set out on the highway you needed to prepare for an epic adventure because the only help you could count on would be your own. The highway was traveled primarily by long-range truck drivers with this dirty city, which featured an eatery on the main drag called, “Gob ‘n’ Go”, being a pee-stop at best. Two lanes carved from the Northern muskeg, hastily built during the second world war by our neighbors to the south in an effort to protect the frail north and their oil interests up in their most northern state. I shouldn’t have said carved because muskeg is not something you carve as much as it is something you just drive over quickly in an effort not to sink. Consequently every mile of that highway ribbon is covering multitudes of US army equipment of some kind, a result of sinking into the muskeg as they pushed through with this epic highway.
From the beautiful coastal city to…. well, something forgotten about but featured time after time in a Stephen King novel. Driving into this city was stepping back twenty years. The city was comprised of commercial buildings lining both sides of a straight stretch of this lonely highway for about a kilometer. Then it spread out following the road to the small municipal airport. The structures were not built with design in mind but practicality. And cost. Anything you required needed to be shipped into this place, which made everything very, very expensive. Except milkshakes. There was this little shop that served homemade milkshakes because they hadn’t learned that there were machines that made them nowadays and so I could go there and get one of these amazing homemade milkshakes that would take a few minutes to make and they charged me twenty year-old prices for that shake. That place was amazing. But, apart from the shakes everything else was incredibly expensive. And weird. Very weird.
Perhaps that is what isolation does to someone. It makes them weird. Or, maybe it was us that were the weird ones. There was a coldness and an empty stare that would be in people’s eyes in this place. Survival was a common conversational thread. We arrived in late spring, just in time for the emergence of the insect apocalypse, and before the onset of winter, which brought with it very short lit days, a lot of snow, and a bitter cold that would hunt you down and kill you if you gave it half a chance. Your only companion was the howling of the wolves that waited on the outskirts of the city for some poor lost stranger to wander off… just for a moment. The bears and the moose and the elk and the deer made this city as much theirs as it was ours.
This was now our home. I would spend all of grade six and most of grade seven in this place. It would be here that I would lose my love of nature. It would be here that I would snap and confront a bully for the first time. It would be here that the person I was and left behind would be lost and forgotten, perhaps buried in pieces along the winding lonely highway to this place. My descent into darkness, my retreat into myself was encouraged by the bleakness of this place. The only thing this city had to offer was the dances in the sky on most nights but even in that amazing spectacle one was only reminded of the loneliness of the place with only the wolves to serenade you while you waited to die.