Not Your Typical Hometown

It was in my first college creative writing class that I realized the gravity of the effect our hometowns have on us all. The rhetoric of our past, the way we were brought up to speak and act, the type of people we were raised around, all contributed to this unique outlook we each had on the world. Before then, I used to preach that there was no way a person could be original, that we're all just speaking over each other trying to prove that we are different, we are special. 

I realized I was wrong when I gathered around to listen to the stories of my classmates' childhoods, relating specifically to their hometown. Each story was unique, even those who were like me and were raised in a small-town of the South. We still came away with very different experiences. The further I get away from my childhood and teenage years spent in that small town, the more I start to realize that it has played a significant role in the shaping of my personality, the things that pull at my heartstrings, and the way I treat people. 

Even with all these differences to be celebrated, there was one difference in my hometown that I hadn't noticed before. While I wrote about growing up in a small beach town, where I was seconds away from the ocean, and knew every single person's car I passed on the road; I also wrote about the fact that so many people I knew were strung out on drugs, and coming to school high was a common occurrence, seeing people deal those drugs at the parties I snuck out for was even more common, and hearing about overdoses was something that was always shocking, but never unexpected. 

And while I was lucky enough at that time to never have any such tragedy hit too close to home as I wrote that paper, I was completely unaware of how much my life would be changed just a few years later because of those very same issues. 

Growing up I was completely desensitized to drug use. I knew I would never use hard drugs, and I knew they were obviously bad, but I always knew they were available and if I tried hard enough, I knew I could get my hands on just about anything. Since I grew up with a dad who was not only a "Special Agent" for the government but also a part of the coaching staff for the high school football team, I had to be selective with the type of trouble I wanted to get into, and I preferred to put my efforts towards dating boys that were obviously no good for me, and sneaking out to go drink in fields or people's garages. 

It was all around though, and there were always rumors about who had made the jump into pills or heroin, or whatever designer drug was the cool thing that year. Every new overdose never phased me, until it was one that I couldn't stomach, one that snapped me back to reality. The morning I learned my high school best friend - a charming, handsome, smart, incredibly kind and comforting guy who could bring a smile to your face just by giving you a little sideways smirk, had overdosed... I can't explain the grief, guilt and pure anger I felt. I remember thinking, it can't be Wes. It really just can't be him, he wouldn't be that stupid. He knew what could happen, he knew the outcome, why would he do that?

But then again... I had heard the rumors about Wes, and I chose not to do or say anything because we had grown apart. It wasn't my business anymore, right? 

What Wes was like when I first met him, doing anything for laughs. 

What Wes was like when I first met him, doing anything for laughs. 

I first met Wes when he moved into my Country Club neighborhood that was minutes from the beach. Being the product of a true Southern upbringing, my parents walked me over to meet the new neighbors and introduce myself to the new kid since he would be going to my high school.

Wes was your typical "skater boy" with the shaggy haircut and a bulky hoodie, just my type, and I instantly had a crush on him. We would meet up to take walks together in the neighborhood and soon started dating after that. He was one of my first real boyfriends, mainly because my parents knew his and he was literally right down the street from me, so we were allowed to hang out almost every day. Which if you remember, my detective/coach of a father was incredibly protective... so it's a good thing Wes also played football. 

What my parents didn't know is at night I would still sneak out to go see Wes, even though we had spent the entire day together, to lay in his bed and listen to O.A.R, sharing all of our secrets in between songs. I would also sneak out for parties that Wes would have at his house, and loved being the girlfriend of a guy that was so well-liked by everyone, one who always stood out because he would do anything to make you laugh.

We dated for 4 or so months before we realized we had grown to be just friends. I started to like an older boy who was a lot more trouble than Wes, and texted Wes as I snuck out to see that guy, instead of him, that we were probably better off as friends. Little did I know Wes was doing the same for another older girl, and the day after we laughed about it and promised to stay friends.

Sadly these weren't costumes, we had just gotten back from the beach and decided to play guitar hero, but of course needed war paint to be a serious band. Beach kids at heart. 

Sadly these weren't costumes, we had just gotten back from the beach and decided to play guitar hero, but of course needed war paint to be a serious band. Beach kids at heart. 

Luckily, Wes was good at keeping promises and I could never pull myself away from him long enough. His personality was enigmatic, I knew too much about him from those nights we spent staying up talking about everything, to sum it up - he was the perfect guy-next-door. 

Wes grew out of the "skater-boy" stage and into a shockingly handsome, tall, muscular, football player who was also smart, dorky, and best of all, kind to everyone. He was always in the background of my life, and that was never a bad thing. Every morning I picked him up from school, and until his girlfriend got her license, I brought him home after our practices ended every afternoon. We'd go to the beach together on the weekends, we'd see each other at the same parties, and probably the funniest thing of all, we worked the same awful job at the Country Club golf course picking up golf balls from the driving range and washing golf carts.

He was there for me, and I for him.


Until college came, and just as all high school friends seem to do, we grew apart. We saw each other a couple times after college started, I would visit his school to see other friends and would always see him since they ran in the same crowd, and when we were home for summer I would still swing by to pick him up whenever I went to the beach. It was never like what we once had, but I knew we would be there for each other whenever we needed one another, or at least that's what I thought. 

To Be Continued...