So there you are. I've heard a lot of good things about you. Yeah. Yeah. Nice to meet you too. Do you smoke? No? Do you mind if I do?
By three in the afternoon I was halfway home. Through the arid edges of Oregon. Into the dessert of Eastern Washington, the dark Columbia river, seat belt burning welts into my excruciating sunburn. Road sign by road sign, the city inches closer.
It's dark when I reach Snoqualmie Pass on 1-90. Rain and traffic and the highway spreads out to 5 lanes. Freedom, by Jonathon Franzen, my 24 hour audio book companion, comes to an end. I surprise myself by bursting into tears with the last line. I cry for every miserable character in the book.
I'd like to make it clear to the reader that, regardless of any conclusion they may have drawn during paragraph 2, I do not actually smoke cigarettes.
And the North Fork was not entirely like meeting the other woman. I take poetic license. Another woman would be a lot worse. She'd be most certainly prettier than me, and more flexible. Still, being left behind for a geological formation brings with it its own serving of confusing ramifications.
But now I'm merging onto 1-5 and swinging around the bend with the city on my left. There is the purple jagged outline of the Olympic Range, the houseboat moored on the private docks of lake union, cars zipping in strips of white and red light reflecting off wet pavement.
There is the University where I went to school, the famous library, almost gothic, visible from the interstate. There's the house where I lived, the ugly half-high-rise dormitory, playing fields, the ave, 45th street crossing, restaurants, smoke shops, Cafe zokas, that will be 4.75 for the cup of coffee please, ridiculous neon bubble tea houses with twelve different kinds of jelly and tapioca balls to choose from, Asian pop music videos on an enormous HD screen.
The Ave above 50th, where a vagrant man threw up on my shoes one afternoon, I think it was deliberate. The 85th/Green Lake exit with its clusterfuck of double strollers, too thin moms bopping along behind them throwing dirty looks around to anyone who dares cross their path and slow down their timed-to-the-second 2.8 mile run. The 2nd busiest starbucks in the world (2nd to Tokyo) my cousins' recently purchased house where I've been sending letters to for 5 months, the CHINA KING buffet where my sister and I would eat after every minor disaster (SARS, 16 day bouts of insomnia, a 1/2 burned apartment, minor mishaps with the stove top burners, unreturned phone calls from boys who should have married us although, in Anna's case, he did marry her after all, worrisome mouth sores, sparsely attended music gigs.)
There's the house where I dug through a pile of my then boyfriend's possessions and unearthed a stack of letters, the parking lot where the car hit me on my bike, the Emergency Room at Swedish where they just about issued me a speed pass, the secret studio where Pearl Jam records, and Dave Matthews. The letters were signed by another girl and dated back for more than a year. The city buses where days in a row I sat next to a different crazy man who bled profusely from the head.
More than six years of small crimes and contentment punctuated with beads of pure joy. Where I lived, age 17-23.
But I don't need to explain to you how it feels to be back.
Whoever you are, you've left a place and then returned. You know what it's like. All I'm really saying is, it's good to be home.