In trauma work, it is often the case that we need to have time to process traumatic things that happen to us, lest they get stuck and continually trigger us. I think that enough time has passed for me to finally feel okay to talk about my traumatizing move to rural WA, and hopefully this post will help with further catharsis and processing.
Earlier this past Summer, Jay and I packed up all of our belongings, stuffed the dog and cat in the car, and moved to an insanely rural part of North East Washington state. Rural is actually quite an understatement. I wish there was a word that is a hybrid of “Ghost Town” and “Hillbilly Mecca.” It would be something like that. Now, don’t get me wrong. A place with natural beauty, less traffic, cleaner air, abundant lakes and rivers, and stars so bright only astronomers wouldn’t be jealous isn’t a bad thing. We decided to trade in our life in Oregon for something slower, more peaceful. Little did we know, we were actually moving into the 10th ring of hell (yes, the 10th ring does exist).
My descent into clinical depression came on gradually.
First, there was the hour drive one way to work on a pitch black two lane highway. The wildlife was great aside from the problem of the furry critters liking to cross the road at quite inopportune times, like when you are barreling down a two lane highway, eating your breakfast boiled egg, in a rainstorm, while scream singing with your eyes closed to My Morning Jacket. To date, I have almost careened into: a ton of deer, a family of racoons, dozens of wild turkeys, a herd of cattle, squirrels, and a moose. Actually I didn’t almost run into the moose, but I did see the magical matey on the side of the highway once. I imagine seeing a moose would be kind of like seeing a Sasquatch. He was so big and lumbered around in such a surreal way in the fog along the highway, it felt like I was seeing something that I wasn’t supposed to.
The town itself, had about, oh, 560 people. Plus two including Jay and I. There is one grocery store called the Food Court that from the outside looks like something in an apocalypse movie. From my field research, it seems that the residents of this town only eat fried deli food such as chicken gizzards and pizza sticks, and get the rest of their sustenance from cheap beer with camo print and graphics of bucks and other enticing game to hunt. This is my best educated guess given that the produce at the Food Court was slimy and rotten and the meat section was mostly old hotdogs and weird looking bacon. There was not a single coffee shop, and the locals (including yours truly) bought their coffee at the gas station. Early in the morning before work, I would go to the gas station where the local octogenarians met to sip drip and talk about the goings on in the town. I would ask for the same thing every morning; “Double Shot Americano,” while I ignored the awkward glances from the country folk judging my complicated order. It was the same look I got the first time I asked a befuddled deli worker at the Food Court if they had hummus. The first few times I ordered this, I was asked to taste my coffee after it had been made to “see if there is enough coffee in it.”
The mayor of the town was a twenty-something party animal who basically got her position because, according to my Dad, “No one ran against her.” She is also a bartender at the local shithole/watering hole. She ran around with an arrogant young man with a Farmans Pickle tattooed on his upper arm. It is always on display, even in the Winter time because he rips off all the sleeves of his shirts. Nothing says Washington pride like a permanent tribute to a pickle made at the base of Mt. Rainier.
Party Mayor, unfortunately, turned out to be a total racist. Jay and I decided to get real wild one Saturday night and we went to the local bar to drink club soda with limes. There was an underage kid in the bar with his girlfriend, the drunkest lady I have ever seen in real life, and the mayor, slinging drinks behind the counter. Drunk lady ordered a drink, which I was only able to deduce because she waved her empty cup in the air towards Party Mayor bartender while slurring something completely unintelligible and almost falling off her barstool. Again. To my surprise instead of giving this alcohol poisoned Grandmother a cup of water, an IV bag of electrolytes, or even just straight soda, the bartender filled up her glass with more booze. And grandmother with the world record for highest BAC of all time, hugged my brother and talked to him like she had known him all his life in her crazy drunkspeak. Just when I was convinced the night couldn’t get any better, our lovely bastion of All American values bartendress turned off the lights of the bar around 10:15pm. When I asked if the bar was closing she replied, “The Mexicans are starting to come in, so I am pretending we are closed.” I have never been so close to throwing a punch in my life. Night over.
I think I was the first one to break. “I hate this place!” I told Jay one night at our house after feeling bored not being able to get any internet or cable. Being the wonderful and supportive boyfriend that he is, Jay tried to convince me we just needed to hang in there. It was just growing pains. A few days later, he was ready to crack and most likely was thinking about drinking the rubbing alcohol in the medicine cabinet to black out and forget the incessant nightmare that we had gotten ourselves into. But the insanity didn’t stop there.
Our local bank manager was relieved of her job for asking patrons coming in the bank to deposit checks if she could borrow some money. All the high school kids wear camo and think it is cool to be obsessed with Duck Dynasty and be racist/homophobic. Everything closes at 6pm. The main attraction is the high school football team and all the residents go out to games to scream at the poor high school kids fucking up their underdeveloped brains with concussions about how they aren’t doing a good enough job at “kicking ass.”
I think the breaking point came when I started to cry at a restaurant while having lunch with Jay. “We have to get out of here no matter what!” Jay looked worried, and probably half out of fear to talk me down, and half out of being at the end of his own rope, agreed with me. And that is when we committed to moving back to the city. We didn’t care that we were like Ikea loving, small batch coffee drinking, city elitists who liked to have cell service at ALL times while at our house or within our zip code. We had our tails between our legs and did not give a shit. Despite the natural beauty, the country just wasn’t for us.
Of course the restaurant we were sitting at was an hour away from where we lived, because our town had no restaurants. Funny restaurant story: when we went into the “Bar and Grill” in town, a man with a pretty amazing mullet set down his beer that he was swilling with a table of friends, to jump behind the bar and offer us a drink. When we asked for a menu, the bar fell silent and the patrons all looked at us with the “they must be cityfolk” look. “We actually don’t serve food anymore, and the bartender is out right now….” said the mullet coiffed man in a tracksuit (who later we found out was also the wrestling coach), “I just thought you all wanted a toddy or something.”
No thanks friend, No thanks.