Black and white portrait of geese flying against the clouds

Kreuzberg storefront, Berlin

Kreuzberg storefront, Berlin

It’s a cold, wet snow that’s started on the mountain passes and though we’re much lower elevation in the foothills, it’s the same chill in the air that defies logic, that seems so much colder than the temperature—like that San Francisco cold, a cabdriver friend of Loren told us he’d just taxi down by the wharf waiting to pick off tourists freezing in their T-shirts and shorts, convinced that just because it’s summer in California that must mean warmth: and he told the story to us in a bar in June, wearing a scarf.

It’s the rain this time of year that gives Seattle its reputation, how it plays with the dark, the wind, the sense everything’s about to die. Dawn had a boyfriend before we met named Reggie who used to chide her about the rain, they’d get in arguments about how bad it was and Dawn would downplay it and Reggie’d say yeah, that’s because you don’t ride the bus.

Which is true, riding the bus puts you in keen contact with the weather: how the windows fog over so you can’t see if it’s your stop, the sludge that forms on the floor like the bottom of a canoe, the beaten-down aspect of everyone with or without jobs, homes: all of us wet and wedged in, on the bus.

Reggie was still living with Dawn when Dawn and I got together, sleeping on her sofa. He was in the cast of the production she directed I was doing sound for, an avant-garde reworking of Hamlet they called Three Deaths in Denmark. Reggie was black, and when they took a photo of the cast the light was so bad it’s hard to see him in the back. I had my head shaved and no beard then, and now that I think about it, two of the couples have since split up and the woman playing Ophelia is now with the guy playing Laertes. They switched partners or something, then relocated just outside San Francisco.

I made bad jokes about Reggie being black, implying Dawn’s dad was racist, just happy I was white, and why he was so welcoming of me as the new boyfriend. But Reggie and I were a lot alike, judging by a mix tape he made for Dawn, and some of the funny and wise things he said, Dawn sometimes repeats.

I had to take the bus that November because I’d been moving around a lot and didn’t really need a car or want one. The only times it came in handy was going to the vet’s or getting out of town to camp. Dawn had a beat-up Pinto or something with water in the wheel wells that made a sloshing sound when she rounded turns. She let me use it to drop her at her secretary job downtown and I’d go on to my secretary job in SODO and save her the expense of parking downtown. And when we drive by that building where I’d drop her, I always think how simple and sweet things were, how poor we seemed, how everything was just starting then.

At the lake today I heard the sound of geese overhead, how their cries seemed to fade and fold into the clouds, the sense afterwards in the silence of what’s to follow, like they’re fleeing for some reason we should too: how all that’s fair seems foul, what’s foul is fair.

Categories: musings

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15 replies

  1. Love ‘wet and wedged on the bus’ – as a bus rider, that feels spot on. And the description of Dawn’s car with water in the wheel wells. And that feeling when you see somewhere from your own past and it makes you feel nostalgic for being poorer, having nothing. Still feel bostalgic for when husband and I lived in one room in a shared house, no furniture of our own, but a beautiful big tree outside the bay window and sitting reading there, rain and leaves hitting the glass.
    Grand, Bill

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We like to romanticize our bohemian past. I do it, too. But that sort of thing can’t sustain itself. It’s a young man (and woman’s) game.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gorgeous piece. It’s hard to look back and see how sweet and simple it seemed and we do it anyway. Loved the ending here. Those geese don’t know where they’re going either.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. God, you took me way back with this one! Bus riding in St. Louis was its own circle of Dante’s Hell (capitalized!). And the buses weren’t reliable either. I had to wear thermal long johns in case the Kingshighway never showed up.

    Love the ending, with foul in the presence of literal fowl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, that foul-fowl thing. I knew some would pick up on that, though I didn’t want to go there you know. I have fond memories of the bus, perhaps it was me becoming a grown up I liked. And the fact memory can make things better than they really were.


      • Sorry. It was sitting right there, so I had to bag that goose.

        So right how memory makes some things seem better. Or worse too, I guess. We’re sentimental saps, that’s all …


      • Better to feel and remember I say! Sorry for mixing quotes and plays, too. Shakespeare would be miffed (or not, doesn’t strike me as that type).


  5. I think we need to hear more about your and Dawn’s early days.


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