By Samantha Bucher
My first encounter with Wilkes-Barre was at the R/C 14 movie theater on Northampton Street. I saw Inception with my family and a friend’s family and I was the only one that understood it. Everyone else was just confused. I tried explaining it to them, but it was like we just saw two completely different movies.
When I first started living here, I felt so painfully alone. It didn’t get better for a while. I had no friends except the ones at home whom I had left behind. I did not like being dropped into this new city where I didn’t know anyone. Everyone around me complained about living here, the city itself stank, and the sound of sirens and partying drifting through my windows kept me up all night. Loneliness was eating away at me from the inside out. It put me in a cage and prevented me from seeing anything good. I felt trapped, as if nothing good awaited me here. Finally, something in my brain snapped. I told myself that I needed to find something to make me feel better.
So I walked. Every time I felt alone and depressed, I’d take a walk. The city became my friend. I had no one to turn to, so I turned to music and the places around me. I’d plug my headphones in and explore the city. Some days I would find myself sitting in the back corner of Musical Energi, paging through records on the tall white shelves, searching for a Genesis or Billy Joel album I didn’t already have. On other days, I’d walk to the Barnes and Noble. After ordering a chai tea, I’d sit down in one of the corner booths and do my homework there. Some days led me back to the movie theater. I always loved the windows, but I couldn’t bring myself to go in. As much as I held onto the charade that I wasn’t, I was still alone. The places I visited became a cast of characters that I came to know in a story of my own making. I started to find my place here, but it wasn’t enough. I was surrounded by people, and yet, I still felt so painfully alone.
Then, something amazing happened. I met my best friend and fell in love with him. On our first date, he took me to the movies. It was the first time I had been there again since I started living here. With every conversation, with every smile and laugh, and with every moment I spent with him, I finally felt the loneliness within me receding, like the ocean ebbing away from the shore. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I met him here, in Wilkes-Barre. We take walks together now and whenever we do, I look around at the city and thank God that I don’t have to look at it alone anymore.
If I had a nickel for every time I hear an insult thrown at Wilkes-Barre, I could afford to have the entire city renovated. Yes, it’s not a perfect town. It’s far from it. The streets stink, there’s no peace from the sirens, and there aren’t a whole lot of things to do. However, the facts remain. This is where I’m figuring out what to do with my life. This is where I made a home for myself. This is where I fell in love. So, every time I hear, “Wilkes-Barre sucks” or “This place is awful” I smile to myself because I’m lucky enough to be one of the select few who can look past the smell, the crime, and the decay. I see beauty here. I get Wilkes-Barre, I understand it. When I walk around the city, I feel like I’m transported to the movies again, walking out of the theater having understood Inception. When I leave Wilkes-Barre, I will hold on to that little secret: that there is always beauty around you, even if not everyone can understand it.