It’s hard to re-enter after the magic of Orcas Island. It’s harder to be in Seattle and not feel the tug of what could have been.
(Would it have been though? How easy it is to idealize all the lives we didn’t live.)
I’m at Molly Moon’s eating ice cream and finding myself making up stories about the time in between – when Joe lived here ten years ago. After he left Boston. After I had left him there.
It’s not ice cream season yet but it’s not not ice cream season either. A sliver of a moon was peeking through the clouds when I parked the rental car and it’s warm enough to not need a coat.
As I congratulate myself for so craftfully pairing strawberry ice cream with a balsamic reduction, I conjure visions of summer nights on a porch in West Seattle and sweaty bottles of IPA. Of a pretty blond playing guitar and the slow burn of a crush. I can’t look away even though I know I should…
Down on the West Coast, they’ve got a sayin’. “If you’re not drinking, then you’re not playing.” But you’ve got the music, you’ve got the music in you…Don’t you?
I haven’t spent any significant amount of time in Seattle since the summer the grapes turned sour. Joe was already long gone by then and I’m not sure I would have met up with him even if he had still been here. The trip west had been a last-ditch effort at saving a relationship that was never supposed to be, but the only thing it did was make it painfully obvious that there’d never be relief at the bottom of the bottle. Things would come to a head a few weeks later and eventually I’d look back and know it was the summer that everything changed. But there’s no way I could have known it then. I’ve never been good at predicting the future.
And maybe that’s why I keep coming back to that West Seattle porch in my head. It’s easier to imagine the happy ghosts of my husband’s past than to face the shipwrecked phantoms of my own.
Ooh, Baby, ooh, Baby, I’m in love…
For all its new brightness, SeaTac’s haunted too. I can’t remember the last time I’ve flown through without some sense of sadness.
Maybe it’s any airport. Yes, jet fuel smells like excitement but there’s always been a note of melancholy mixed in as well. At least for me.
Or maybe it’s simply that I’m not sure I can go home again.
(Can anyone ever really go home again? Where’s home anyways?)
The feeling only grows stronger after a tough phone call with my mother in which I mistakenly bring up the tricky nature of memory while she wonders aloud who has a right to tell what stories. I probably shouldn’t have called her in the first place.
I hang up just as the tears start to fall and I can’t decide if I care or don’t care that I’m crying in the middle of the airport lounge. I land on only caring a little.
I sit in my “upgraded” seat in Comfort+ on the way to Amsterdam and silently curse Delta for sticking me in the middle of the middle row as a token of appreciation for my continued loyalty. I wonder if the person sitting next to the window realizes how much easier it is to hide on the side of the plane. I wonder if my eye mask is effectively concealing my tears and realize it’s probably not. I care even less than I did before we took off.
By the time we reach Schiphol, I can’t figure out which end is up. I know I’m supposed to be heading home and I’m not entirely sure I trust myself enough to know where that is. But the good lounge is past passport control on the Schengen Zone side of the airport, so I stand in line and wait for the border officer to wave me through.
My logical brain tells me I’m overly exhausted. That time travel is rough on a human body and that many people would be cracking after four transatlantic flights in three weeks. That the incredibly intense days I’ve just spent cloistered in creative community is a painful cocoon to come out of. That everything will be OK if I can just get home.
My less logical brain tells me to run. And I spend at least two hours of a five-hour layover Googling flights bound for anywhere other than Belgium. I feel guilty for not loving the place I’m supposed to call “home” and even more so when I think about how much I feel like I should. I’m angry that tickets to Spain or Portugal or anywhere are so expensive and angrier still for being practical even as I’m trying to run away. (I am, after all, the girl who once packed snowpants when running away in July.) I resign myself to getting on the plane headed towards Brussels after Joe makes a deal with me via text: I can leave in the morning if I really still feel like I need to.
We’re sitting at the dinner table a few hours after the taxi drops me off when I remember that I had offered to dog sit over the Easter holiday. She’s being dropped off in less than 24 hours.
I feel both relieved that I came home and like an asshole for even considering not.
But mostly I just feel tired.
I was only allowed to dog sit if I slip-covered all the couches and solemnly swore there’d be no critters in the bed.
But the dog has even more attachment issues than I do and has quickly claimed me as her temporary human. In just a few short hours, I’ve already gained a canine shadow and it’s hard to get her to leave my side. I put her bed next to ours but it turns out her little legs have more spring in them than I had given them credit for. She easily jumps up to burrow next to me under the covers.
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry when Joe announces he’s sleeping in the guest room.
They say it takes a day for every time zone traveled and I’m counting down from nine. I’m having a hard time separating what’s jet lag, what’s whiplash from being here and there and here and there and here again, what’s a creative hangover, and what’s longing for a past that never was and probably never could have been. The space I’m living in is a liminal one and sometimes I wonder if I’m entirely here. I’m pretty sure I’m not.
But I’ve been getting walked around the neighborhood twice a day and sometimes three. The fresh air does me good.
For the time being at least, I feel temporarily human.