I woke up today and I was off. As I got ready for work I couldn’t stop thinking of strange, inconsequential things. Like can I still remember each of the 33 stop lights between my Tucson house and my office? Was that world still fresh and accessible, or was it being sanded and paved back down to a glossy, compact blur? Can I still name all of the stores that were in walking distance of that little house, just beyond the prickly pear garden and Presbyterian church (or was it Episcopalian?)? How could I have lived three scant minutes from a Dress Barn and only have visited, what, twice? My mind was trying to retrace my steps back to a place I don’t like to go. It’s a little humiliating, this whole Arizona business.
An hour later I opened Timehop on my phone. Not something I do every day, but I pulled into the office parking lot early today and had a few minutes to kill. Usually this is a harmless distraction, like a picture of a cherry pie I made four years ago or a Tweet about falling in love with Jo Ann Beard. Tiny moments I’ve forgotten in the churn of days since. Flotsam discarded, not willfully forgotten.
I started my job at Rogue Brewery a year ago today. I was vaguely aware of that fact, as my subconscious flailing suggested. Last week I met up with a few friends who were in town for the Tin House Writer’s Workshop at Reed College, the same workshop I was at one year ago last week, when my seven-day trip up to Portland turned into a one-way relocation. I watched a reading at the same amphitheater that Matt met me at after 1,500 miles of driving my new car full of all my most necessary possessions up to me. Walking the steps from a time that now seems so long and impossible ago was disorienting. Surreal. I felt like a trespasser on a naive version of myself, possessing more than she could know. Making her feel foolish.
I had so many questions on that first day of work that I barely remember. According to Timehop I locked my keys out of my rented room (now that you mention it, totally rings a bell). I used my Seattle Sounders game self portrait on my new employee ID card (heh, oh yeah). The song from Portlandia played on my iPod while I drove over the bridge into Southeast Portland (good god, get over yourself). I got there too early and stumbled upon the Belmont Goats. The Belmont Goats were gone by the end of the summer, pushed out like the rest of us honest folk who bring vibrancy to a city that now spurns us. They are long departed. So am I.
Recently I’ve met up with people whom I haven’t spoken with since we moved back into our house. Matt and our lives officially moved back to Oregon the week before Thanksgiving last year. Not that long ago, really. I give them the quick version of what happened: we had to live four months apart. It was very hard.
It’s here that I catch myself. This is where I smile. This is where I laugh. I’m getting unpleasant. Shit’s getting real. This cornered acquaintance doesn’t want to hear about the fracture that four months could cause in a life. She doesn’t want to hear of the strangeness I still feel when I tell Matt a story that begins, “so back when you were still in Tucson…” and she doesn’t want to hear one of Matt’s stories of the big empty house he wandered indefinitely. None of them are good. She can’t understand that I put my desire to be home before my desire to be together with the man I married, because that is an uncomfortable truth. It is one I don’t speak and that my husband is too kind to mention. We both want to move past this. We all want to move past.
I can’t, though. I am a writer. We pick at scabs. I obsess on the questions I held on the first day of my ill-fated “dream job” and the answers I’ve witnessed since.
Girl. You are trying so hard. She took like ten pictures with that Portland Mercury, trying to capture the neighborhood, the Bunk Sandwiches, the fact that she’s got her life together when the floor’s falling apart.
I could have been good at that job. That’s what chaps me. I could have been fucking great. Wasn’t meant to be, you can say. Or it all worked out in the end.
We all want to move past.
I am beating a dead horse. I can dissect it all I want, but the blood’s long let out. I try not to think about it too often, wonder how I could have done things differently, if I could have better reached people, if I hadn’t gone to pick those fucking plums. The postmortem madness, reconstructing the crime scene, rearranging the pieces.
Fantastic first day of work at Rogue Ales and Spirits today! I wrote. I still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be here.
Honey. You would not believe. Not even if I told you.