For some reason when I’m in Portland I feel like I can be more myself, maybe because no one knows me here. I wake and walk down César Chávez to the Starbucks in the cool, marine air. And remember the first time I came, the distinct feeling of this town. Sitting at the intersection with the music mixing with the cars and trucks, in and out like the tides. Standing at the corner waiting for the light, kneading my hands, mumbling.
I woke in the middle of the night not knowing where I was, a strange light from the side, trying to orient myself. Then driving to Silverton, to Silver Falls: three only children walking the rim trail loop, each of us male, all vying for control.
Testicular anomalies in the tree trunks, talking about vasectomies. Bikers on the sides of the trail stopping to catch their breath with their leather vests, their leathered faces. Driving back through the country, Loren DJ-ing in my car, what sounds like Sufjan Stevens but it’s the singer from Mt. Eerie who lost his wife to cancer, has been working through it a couple years now, but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It pulls me in though, or under, a song about a painting with foxgloves and tree trunks, an association he’s making, trying to heal over her loss. And it all goes with the landscape and gray, muted sun: past the farm houses, and small towns.
All the way home to Seattle on Saturday, steeped in the memory of every Memorial day I could remember, ricocheting from one to the other, hard to separate. Stopping to pump gas at some sad-looking rest stop in the port town Kalama, texting Dawn I can’t wait to be home, her writing back “Wahoo!,” and so happy I have her to return to.
Loren and Arthur coming home Friday night: me getting lost leaving the neighborhood bar, taking the wrong axis back. The bartender playing the metal band Testament and me making small talk with her, asking where they’re from, trying to place the year it came out, pretty close.
Arthur swooping in on our conversation and Loren putting him in the other room in front of the TV. Too many fried chili peppers and beers, sleeping on the floor on a blow-up mattress, waking with acid reflux, bracing myself on the coffee table to stand: making the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror, then back out in the gray morning air to the Starbucks, tipping the barista this time, realizing when I got home my fly was down.
Sitting at the edge of our backyard in the afternoon the next day, my new favorite spot under the maple tree, the feeling I had in the mirror weighted down like this tree, these memories.