It only took six weeks to set up a temporary grocery store to replace the one that burnt down. However, everyone who was not salaried or management lost their jobs. The temporary grocery store took over the abandoned space of an old bar/restaurant combo and lobby/meeting room space of a worn-out and run down motel along the main strip of this northern town. Plans were already announced to rebuild a brand new larger grocery story but that was a process that would take some time and time was something our family was not good at. My father went to work in this temporary place, now doing the work of his staff as well and it only added pressure on the cracks. It was becoming clearly evident that this northern city was not working for us any longer.
My dad struggled emotionally when he saw others around him struggling. It was as if he couldn’t enjoy his life if people around him were not doing the same. You would think that this was compassion and perhaps there was some aspect of that but on closer inspection what was really happening was selfishness. At least that was my experience of his compassion. Don’t be miserable because it makes me miserable. Don’t struggle in life because it makes me uncomfortable. Don’t need anything because then I can’t enjoy what I have. Don’t experience trauma or loss because then I can’t be happy. So, consequently, having the main grocery store burn down and his employees and friends lose their job meant then that he couldn’t be happy that he still had his job. So he worked his guilt off by working even longer hours and that took its toll.
The northern lights had lost their luster and mystique. They only served as a stark reminder of the hell hole that we were stuck in, isolated from the rest of civilization, from other people being happy in other places. Now, these lights simply danced in the sky, mocking us from above. It was time to move and an opportunity to do so had come up. It wasn’t a promotion but it was a ticket out of this place so my dad took it and we started the journey once again. We packed the boxes, didn’t tell anyone, got rid of the dog, even sold the family car, and began the long journey to the far south east corner of this western province. Our multi-day journey would take us to what has been promoted as the highest city in the country. A place with some European heritage, full of new adventures and new challenges for our family and for myself.
I abandoned the posse. Leaving the mess behind. I have no idea what ever happened to the daughter of the preacher, my first choice in that crazy coded message. I connected with the second girl years later. She was living down by the ocean and seemed happy enough, now with a family that seemed just as broken as the one she grew up with. The other girl who moved away first, I was able to stay in contact with for a few more years as she moved from the very north, over to an eastern province, home to the nation’s capital. I would visit her in that province once, courtesy of my girlfriend/wife-to-be, and we would connect for a couple more years afterwards but then like everything else in my past it was forgotten or deleted, leaving no trail for anyone to follow.