Last week I made the transition, completing the easy handheld move to independence. I couldn’t do it cold turkey and instead treated myself like I was recovering from something, maybe a debutante that went a little too wild, her parents having sent her to a very nice place in the country to dry out and get her act together. I’ve never had a problem with the sauce. I suppose I should be thankful I never tried that anxiety-management strategy.
Since August this has been where I have spent the night, and been happy and grateful to do so. Kevin’s email described it as ‘just a futon’, but how can something given so freely be just anything? I was bringing a cat, too.
It was a great room in a great house, a grey box lost in trees. It reminded me of my grandparents’ place: go down a winding driveway through a tunnel of trees and see the little house like something from a fairy tale. Kevin’s you can see from the street and the neighbors can be seen from the windows, but it is all lost in suburban extra-green quiet.
Why was the house great? The pristine 1979 colors: mustards and oranges, the stained glass in the bathroom window, the washer and dryer the same 1980s Whirlpools my parents had. I never heard a two- or four-cycle engine and only the occasional middle-finger-to-getting-older motorcycle blast down the road. I could walk to a park with trails as deep as Mount Rainier’s past zillion dollar houses under construction again. Back in August I walked to Lake Washington and watched the people like out on the grass and on the breakwall. It seemed about the same as Hilo with its non-beaches and clear water, though the people were very different. It was barely warm here this past summer, but like the Canada of my childhood everybody took their clothes off and said they were hot. I went back to Kevin’s house and wrote on this blog, or fretted about a house, or rang with the strange struck bell feeling of being back in the same place now new from being somewhere else.
This is where I wrote these posts, a little bit of the book I remain intimidated by, looked for houses online. I watched some Stephen Colbert, but not very much. The only table more solid I can remember were the prehistoric wooden slabs in elementary school, in the library, in the back. Their surfaces were pitted and so massive even adults couldn’t move them. This table is much better: wood from nature and solid from time, but human-scaled and accessible. You can tell it was made by people.
Kevin gets the Sunday Seattle Times. Like somebody my dad’s age he still gets a paper paper, but just the Sunday that lasts him through the week. I looked at the comics like I did in middle school, only bits of the rest. When our timing coincided, he would sit across from me, eating cereal and perusing a section. There was something familiar and natural about this in a way that was not like being in my parents’ house, then or now, while they read the newspaper–reflections and echoes of things you know but experienced now in altered combinations. I know this, says memory. You’ve never seen it before, says judgement.
Kevin believes in incandescent bulbs, so the light is warm and rich. Also, I have many receipts.
This is my car’s trunk, packed to capacity in the driveway. The brightly lit garage door is where I paced and listened during lush, energizing calls with friends to not annoy my host (and get a little better signal). Packing it brought back memories with startling clarity: jamming my belongings in 1993 for the first time at grad school, the sky grey and flat outside and the messy spat of snow and weak ice that would scramble traffic the next day something I would avoid by driving into the West Texas night; jamming it again for the second try at graduate school, the only part of that trip I remember being a railway crossing in Idaho with Zappa’s Overnight Sensation playing; all those trips to see my grandparents in the latter half of undergrad, thinking how it was both efficient and a waste for the car to be taking itself, me, and a small bag. This car has been many places and taken many things. Packing it again I recognize these former times and wonder how they connect to now. But only a little. I am more in the now, arranging things to fit now.
It’s funny to leave. Kevin is gone, out enjoying himself I presume, and I feel a little like I’m sneaking out without paying. It isn’t–I kept dithering and not moving to everyone’s amusement–but the Viaduct is back open and the city’s arteries unclogged, and there’s no horrendous commute to rationalize. On a Saturday night I get in the car and go.
The cat is not happy, but the city glimmers in the night. A friend once remarked how beautiful our city is, how privileged to live here we are. We drive over the water and the cat and I have a place to go.
It’s a mess, but liveable. I am the reverse of a hoarder: objects are not yet in their places, not brought in and in and in. There is always something to block when you get started: the Ikea shelves don’t have the right screws; the clothes are dirty and should be washed first; the dryer needs a new plug before it can be moved in place. A million things, all equivalent, none marked start.
Part of it are the echoes. Opening boxes unpacks more than simple items: everything came from somewhere. I got the couch, the table. An aura hangs over things that dissipates a little each day, a little with each revolution in a new configuration. Everything is becoming new.
With something to eat, the cat is reasonably happy. She sniffs, looks around, paws at cabinet doors. She does not move like she is threatened, much more like: Oh, I see. It is acceptable. She finds a tub and sits in it and I empty the trunk again and realize this move was only twenty minutes to a new world, instead of a week.
These are the same two bags that went to Hawaii. Now they are here, full of my old clothes brought to the new place. The bed was given by a friend, and the sheets I put on only yesterday. Everything smells new, fresh, not green and seashore like Hawaii, not ozone and humidity and asphalt baked by the sun from the past. It’s Saturday night, and good times. And they are good. It is okay to be here doing this.
Bit by bit it comes together: the desk I thought had been broken in disassembly months ago goes together in seconds once I put the right bolts in the right holes. The dryer has its cord attached and was light enough to single-manhandle into its place, and placing things against walls lets the little space breathe. I put the desk in front of this window for the view of the neighborhood: a few trees, a Catholic school up the street, the busy street. The streetlight is bright but I don’t mind. This is life anew in the blue sky city, Georgetown under the freeway, everybody going somewhere.