When people ask me where I am from, it’s easier to say I’m from Chicago because if I say I’m from Wheaton, Illinois they have no idea what I am talking about. Even worse, if people ask me about Wheaton in general, I have to tell them how it has more churches per capita than any other town in America and that Wheaton College, which is down the street from my house, was like the town from Footloose but with much more restrictions. Students were banned from most forms of social dance, drinking, or smoking at social events. Although they have loosened some of the restrictions, there are still many things not allowed.
Yeah, this is where I live.
There is only ONE free-standing bar in Wheaton, and it is a complete dive. Everywhere else is a bar and grill type of place. So when I come home, I don’t drink. Not because I have no friends and have no one to to go with, but because there is NO WHERE to go and I have no car so I can’t really go too far. But last week, I actually went out. I went to one of our local bar and restaurant, Muldoon’s, and tried to have a good time with my best friend from high school.
But little did I know that everyone that I had ever gone to high school with — and disliked — would be there too. The thing about Wheaton is that everyone here has been going to school with each other since they were five years old. I moved to Wheaton when I was 14, a sophomore in high school. So I knew no one but my three cousins, who were and still are infinitely cooler that I was/am. And at this point in everyone’s lives, they knew who their friends were, and didn’t need to make new ones. So I was a bit lost in the shuffle. I played three sports, was in two clubs, and took all honors classes; and yet, no one really connected with me.
Yes, I had my few high school friends, but now I talk to one of them. So it was weird going to this bar and seeing everyone who were friends in high school just picking up where they left off on Holiday Break. It was as if 6 years had not passed. We were frozen in time. Well they were. I felt kinda like this:
What was even weirder was that for me, it was like being a reporter on the red carpet. I was looking around nudging my friend and being like, “Oh, my god. It’s So-and-So! And look! Over there! It’s Whats-Her-Face!” While my friend scowled next to me, telling me to shut up.
I went to the bathroom and ran into a girl that I a) went to high school with for three years and b) took some classes with as well as c) spent four years at the same college and d) bumping into and said hello to on the quad. But when I saw her at the bar, it was as if she was looking at a stranger. I don’t mind, really. We weren’t best friends who braided each others’ hair and had sleepovers. But we still knew of one another. It’s just funny to me how insignificantly I impacted anyone’s lives I went to high school with.
But when I went out with my friends from college, a week before, it was like :I love being home and I love spending time with my family. But being in Wheaton itself is the most boring, life-draining thing anyone can do. And going out just further proved how I do not belong in this small Christian town.
I need to live in a city.