Getting Home

May 2019

I went upstairs to say goodbye to Mom and when I came back down Kathryn had finished packing my things in her car.

“Is this seriously all you’re taking?” she asked.

“The house is already furnished! I don’t really need much.” I didn’t tell her that I had been anxious all week about how much I had packed, afraid the girl I was moving in with might think I was high maintenance. Her comment assured me that my extreme effort to come off easy and breezy had worked.

I slid into the passenger seat and closed the door. The big floppy hat I was wearing to make myself look adventurous suddenly felt very bulky and uncomfortable. I took a selfie before ripping it off and flicking it into the backseat.

Kathryn closed the trunk, climbed into the driver seat and turned the ignition.

“Alright lady! You all set?”

“Jesus no, can we please get a coffee.”

I looked up at the grey morning sky and took a deep breath hoping it would relax my shoulders but no luck. I wanted to feel excited but the fog and drizzle that saturated the air seemed to make its way inside my head as well. I couldn’t grasp onto any feelings, only tension and worry. I knew I wasn’t quite right. And I hadn’t been quite right for a while. It had been a little less than a year since I moved back to St John’s from Toronto and no matter what I did I couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of being home.

“Have you seen the Dungeon before, Kat?” I asked, trying to visualize all the beautiful things that made me choose Bonavista.

She shook her head while keeping her eyes focused on the road, “I didn’t get a chance to last time I visited, I heard it’s gorgeous though.”

“We’ll go see it before you drive back to St John’s. It’s pretty magical.” I rested my head back on the seat. I closed my eyes and pictured the blue waves pounding against the rocks and a green field on the other side, the grasses blowing in the wind while horses grazed on them. I tried another deep breath. Still no luck. I opened my eyes, sipped my coffee, and watched the rain hit the windshield.

The Dungeon, Bonavista
Photo courtesy the author

When I told people I was moving to Bonavista for the next four months their reactions were usually the same. A look of surprise, followed by a brief description of the time they visited the peninsula, and then questions. Do you have family out there? No. Do you have a job? Kind of. Do you know where you’re going to live? Yes. Do you think a townie like you can really handle this? No idea. Why are you doing this? Um. Whimsy? People thought whimsy was cute. Whimsy was understandable. They might not make life choices based on whimsy but they’d seen whimsy on tv and in books so it was digestible to them.

The truth was I couldn’t handle being in St John’s anymore. Being there felt like all the wrong decisions I had ever made were staring me down, waiting for me to add another one to their ranks. I was terrified to do anything. Seeing friends became harder, leaving the house became harder. Eating, sleeping, blinking, and breathing, all became harder. I needed to escape.

As we headed down route 235 the rain started pounding down. I felt a cold shiver run through me as we came over the horizon and I caught a glimpse of the Bonavista water towers. I texted my new roommate Jane to tell her I was almost there. She texted back to say she was in Port Union and wouldn’t be home to let me in for another half hour. My jaw clenched and my shoulders drew up even closer to my ears. Could I be making another mistake? In a half hour Kathryn would be gone. I would be stranded in this weird town that has two water towers and my only friend would be this unreliable woman who apparently spends all of her time in Port Union and hates me so much already she can’t even be bothered to meet me. My breath shallowed as I held back tears.

Kathryn, sensing my panic, suggested we visit the Dungeon. As we drove down the road I calmed down. The scenery really was beautiful here. It was open and wide. There was space to breath. We got out of the car and I could feel excitement building. Drenched by the wind and rain we squealed and giggled at the giant hole in the ground. At the moment it was cold, wet, and windy. But I knew it wouldn’t always be this way. I looked around and could visualize what was coming. I could see the blue sky, the green field, and the sunshine.

After a while, Jane messaged to say she was back. We drove down the hill and I saw the house I’d be living in. A white saltbox with a red trim, surrounded by a white picket fence. We parked and I ran to the door, still freezing and soaking wet from our frolicking at the Dungeon. Jane quickly opened it, smiled, and introduced herself. As the wind swept me inside I was greeted by a warm kitchen with low ceilings, a small table in the corner with rickety old chairs, and knick knacks in every nook and cranny. I took a deep breath in. My nose was filled with the scent of spices and incense, and as I exhaled my shoulders relaxed. We brought in my bags and after drying ourselves off it was time for Kathryn to leave. I thanked her for bringing me out, gave her a hug, then watched her drive away. I turned to Jane.

“Do you want a cup of tea?” she asked. I nodded and sank into one of the chairs in the corner and looked around at my new house. There was something familiar and comforting about it, something that reassured me that I had made the right decision, that I was going to be alright. And as I listened to Jane putter around while filling me in about the town I realized for the first time since before I left for Toronto I finally felt at home.

Bonavista
Photo courtesy the author

Kadie Cowan is a writer and storyteller from St John’s who focuses on personal narrative in new places – geographically and otherwise. When she’s not on the move, she can be found working on her blog, Astray, and dreaming up where to go next.

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