I’m from Hyannis. Pretty close to Main Street, kinda between Main Street and the water. It’s a pretty big neighborhood, tons of houses everywhere. Very suburban atmosphere. I’ve always liked where I lived. Sure, I’ve had my complaints. When I went to school at Nauset and had to drive an hour in the morning just to get there I would occasionally find myself wishing I lived in Brewster or somewhere closer. Overall, though, I was happy in Hyannis.
It was close to everything. I could walk to main street, take a short car ride to the mall, and in the summer it was just a short walk away from a Cape League ball game. Go Hyannis Mets. Although actually, they changed a while ago; they’re the Hyannis Harbor Hawks now. Anyways, something I never really realized until I went to high school down at Nauset in Eastham is that a lot of folks on Cape don’t really have that. Everything is farther apart. A buddy of mine lives in Wellfleet. When I, in Hyannis, want groceries, I can go to one of any of the 3 or 4 grocery stores within 10 minutes of my house. When he wants Groceries, he can either go to Provincetown or to Orleans, being forced to drive through two separate towns either way. When I want to see a movie I’ve got a handful of options. He’s got one. And don’t even get me started on restaurants.
This is a sort of difference that I never really appreciated until I spent a few months living in Brewster. Yes, Brewster is still much more densely populated than Wellfleet, or Truro. But by my Hyannis standards it still takes way too long to get anywhere.
It was during my first year of college when my family rented the place. It was pretty big, much bigger than the house in Hyannis. It was old too. The front of the house was built in the 1800s or something like that. It was divided up into 3 sections, the front part which was ancient, a middle part which was tacked on in the 50s or something, and the back which was brand new. You could see the lines in the floor and the walls where another house was just sort of attached to the old one, making a hodgepodge of three centuries of Cape Cod architecture. This was really cool for me since I was used to our old cookie-cutter Hyannis house from the 80s.
I didn’t stay there the whole year it was rented. My mom and sister did, but I spent most of that time away at college. The first time I came back home was a nightmare. I took a bus from New York to Boston and hopped on a P&B to Exit 6 (or what was then called exit 6, recently changed to Exit 68). My mom had stashed her car there for me and left the keys over the rear passenger side tire. I picked it up and drove all the way home to Hyannis, only to remember all too late where I was supposed to be going.
Eventually, I got used to it. Thanksgiving break was tough but for December break I remembered the right place. And over New Year’s, I invited some friends from college. I had this weird sense of pride taking them into this house that I had barely ever entered before. It felt so Cape Cod, with the different sections of different ages. And it was right on 6a, kinda near Drummer Boy Park, so you could see the water from the side deck. There I was with a preppy sweater and all these weird shells that the landlord liked to take from the beach and keep on countertops and shelves and pretty much all over. Everything followed the aesthetic of what someone who only knows of the Cape by reputation would imagine the Cape to be like.
At first I really loved that house. My friends from college knew me as a guy from Cape Cod. I mean, I’m literally writing a blog about the Cape so I think that goes to show that I like the place that I’m from. Having my surroundings reflect this idealized version of something that, while I claim to enjoy, I never actually experienced, was pretty remarkable. So, when I had those college friends over, I was expecting to present who I always really was inside to them: I would show them that I’m a real Cape Codder.
Turns out, I wound up doing what I think everyone who’s ever been to college has wound up doing, and played a fake persona of myself for about ten minutes before returning back to status quo.
That’s a weird little paradox that I’ve only recently begun to notice. When we are brought into new situations, say college or a new house. A new job or a new relationship, we’ll try to reinvent ourselves. We’ll recognize that back in high school or wherever you were before, you were never really the real you. Now, you’re finally gonna be true to yourself and express an aspect of your personality that you’ve always kept hidden. But then, you do it for about five minutes and then you give up because it feels fake. It feels like you’re playing a character. Then, we retroactively decide that we were never being true to ourselves, but rather making up an entirely false persona that just felt wrong and was subsequently abandoned. The final stage is the one that I’m having as I write this and you’re probably having as you read it: asking yourself “which one was the real me?” and contemplating whether it’s ever possible for people to change.
When we moved back to Hyannis, I was very happy. It made my drive to the mall so much quicker. But more than that, it felt good to be home and to not be in a place which only felt so “Cape Cod” because it reeked of generational wealth and aggressive whiteness. Even though our house in Hyannis is much smaller and doesn’t have the ocean views or rich history or, again, insanely Caucasian atmosphere, I’m still going to be happy if I ever get the chance to have a college friend over. I don’t have to masquerade as a Cape Codder when I know in my heart that 1. I already am one and 2. titles like that are pretty useless because there really isn’t anything special about Cape Cod as compared to pretty much any other beach community in the country. You know America is so much more homogenous than people realize.
In retrospect, though, there is one thing that the Brewster house has on the Hyannis one. The stars in those less light-polluted areas are just amazing every single night. Until I see them again, however, I’m content to look up at the paradoxically illuminated black sky- the terrestrial light that hides the stars acting as a symbol of man’s first reach into the heavens above.