When I met Shana at the airport it was late October, almost three years since she left Seattle. I still didn’t have a car so I rented one, which seemed nicer than making her ride the bus. The last time we said goodbye I assumed it really would be the last: I couldn’t wait with her at the airport though, the fact we were splitting up seemed more real there, with all the people coming and going. When I got outside it was the right bus but the wrong direction and I had to take it the whole way, in a loop, alone but feeling better. I should have seen it for what it was when she came back to visit a few years later (casual sex, her wanting more than that) but I didn’t, or I didn’t care, it had been another hard year for me and women.
I came back from France after five months on the Mediterranean in a condo but no romance to speak of, one night with a group of drunk Americans was about it. Whatever scent I wore that repelled women carried into ’99 with Kristin, whom I met training to climb Mt. Rainier, who also worked at Starbucks, so there was the likelihood we’d run into each other on elevators or stairwells, with a lot of email in between.
She was a runner so I started running too, partly to train for Rainier but more in hopes I’d bump into her on the trail around the lake that separated her apartment from mine. From the trail I could even see her apartment from across the water, make out her kitchen window, and sometimes stop and stare in hopes she might appear. One time she did, but on the trail, and when she asked what I was doing there I lied and said I was running.
She was going back to Boston for the marathon and I had a friend coming from New York and Kristin seemed jealous so I asked why, it’s not like we’re committed to each other, she’d made that much clear.
My friend slept at my apartment, but she’d met a guy she was probably going to marry, was loyal to him and I respected that, so we just lay there in bed all night looking at each other, and that was that.
Kristin made pastel still life drawings of fruit and started leaving them by my desk with handwritten notes, suggesting she wanted to start seeing me again. Because she was Pisces the subjects often came in pairs, with one leaning against the other. They were together, but not really. I saved the drawings but got rid of them after Dawn moved in, at our place in Wallingford. When we posed for our group picture in the parking lot before climbing Rainier, Kristin and I stood next to each other but with a gap between us, and she decided she’d only go as far as base camp and then hike out alone, driving home the same day.
It was a let-down after Rainier, we’d trained the whole year for it. The day after, I went to a bar in Fremont and slouched on a stool visibly whipped, wanting to look that way so people would ask why, and I could tell them.
There was a girl on the bus I was enamored by, but afraid to talk to — and another one, a waitress downtown, but my friend Myki got to her first, and had the nerve to describe all the details about her Penthouse Forum style, which didn’t seem fair. Around then I heard from Shana, who wanted to come visit in October, and we agreed to meet at the airport, the same place we last said goodbye.
When I went back to my favorite bar they’d taken down the picture of the dead manager Steve, it’d been there for many years. He was on a motorcycle in full leather with a helmet and bushy beard, right by a photo of William Burroughs. I always tried to find someone who worked there who remembered Steve but it got harder as the years wore on; I’d move away and come back, and everyone was new. There was the waiter I met my first time there, he had a silver 280-Z and died of AIDS and they named a burger after him on the menu — I’d often mention it to the staff to see if they knew the story as a way of reviving him.
The bar was a former showroom for cars so it had large windows facing the street and across the way an art supply shop called Utrecht, but Starbucks had since put a roastery in its place, a popular tourist destination with people outside waiting to get in.
Shana and I went for a hike up a nearby peak, it started to rain, but as we turned back the rain changed to snow, and with the flakes and the leaves we stood there marveling in it, and when we got back to the rental car we had to dust it off, and I put on the heater and a mix tape and we drove back to Seattle, met some friends for dinner, and they remarked afterwards how strange it seemed the way she looked at me, like we were still together.
I’d sent an email to our guide on Rainier that he redistributed to a bunch of others as a way to get back at me; he was mad at Starbucks for reasons no one understood, had even talked poorly to my ex-Navy SEAL friend Peter who organized the climb, and had been through a lot worse.
My friend Rob asked if I could help him on a small theater production and offered to pick me up at work: I asked if we could swing by the guide’s house first, I wanted to call him out on the porch to talk to him about his email.
When I got back to the car Rob gave me the schedule for the rehearsals and I went that Saturday to the Oddfellow’s Hall on Pine Street; it’s where I first met Dawn who was directing it, not far from the apartment I rented with Shana.
I thought it could be my last day not working so after the hike with Ginger I went by our neighborhood bar and parked out front so she could watch me through the window. It’s the same place I came after I left my last job and they had the song “Dream Weaver” playing, and I thought the phrase must mean something special for me, so I put it on my LinkedIn profile as another thing I do.
When I woke on Wednesday it was like all the other days not working, with not much to think about, all those trips to the lake with the dog, the afternoon naps, how with nothing to frame it, time just seems to spill out and lose its form — and now at last, it’s time for it to go back.
This post is the sequel to one from yesterday and bookends a series that started in December of 2014 here.
You are a braver writer than I am. I mine my uncomfortable past for fiction and avoid revealing my ugliness. Honesty is something I like in other people…not so much in me.
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That’s a more normal impulse I think, to conceal one’s ugliness. I guess that’s the gift that keeps on giving, with my material. But I’m glad you like it Jon, it allows for some form of redemption.
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I read with the luxury of knowing it works out for you, that you met a good woman and started a family. But man, I read these and find myself rooting for you. Liked the bit about Dream Weaver, can see that happening and feeling right.
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That’s nice, the rooting part — thank you Kristen and yes, I’m lucky it did work out. It could have gone a number of different ways, that’s what’s fun about reexamining one’s life like this, I think. And most of the women I was lucky to be with in the past were real gems too, we were just ‘off’ respectively. Lots of me was too.
It’s actually a nice way of looking at any failed relationship, good people but wrong fit or time.
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I agree with byebye that knowing how things turn out makes this appealing to read. Isn’t that how it is, when you go back and read journals where you’re bemoaning your existence and complaining that things are never gonna get better?
By the way, I can sure relate to the “troubles with women” angle. You look around and see couples acting so natural together that you can’t figure out what the hell you’re doing wrong! Then The One walks into the room, and you start doing things right all of a sudden … Life.
I think most people can relate to the troubles with the other sex (or same sex) quandary. Mark at Exile on Pain Street has quite a number of posts on that tune. In some ways I was riffing off his blog by doing my own version of that, but compressing it down into two posts, which means the word count was higher than normal and I had to leave a lot out. The Basement Tapes, right? Probably many issues I could produce myself…so much I’ve deliberately forgotten too. And then there’s the fact my mom, my wife, and my mother-in-law read this, so that complicates things. Fortunately not my kids yet, but then they’ll learn more about me someday when they do.
people come in and out and timing and state of mind and heart are everything.
I think if I went back and talked to some of these people from my past, whom I was intimate with, I don’t think I could relate to them as the same person anymore. That made sense in my mind when I was thinking it earlier but didn’t by the time it got down to my fingertips just now.
Do you regret throwing out those drawings?
What do you think? Now that they’re in my memory they’re better, they’re art. Ha.
I purged photos of my first serious girlfriend, including a sweet portrait she made for me. I did it as my personal statement of loyalty to Deb. So, um, yeah, that was probably a good call, Younger Me.
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