Days could just crumble away in this season, if you let them. Work in the morning, wet walks to the grocery store and the bank, maybe a few hours inside a cafe where the windows are fogged over and dreamy. The upside of these dreary months are the shining black nights; they have a certain lilt and timbre about them which all but rock you to sleep. Nothing in the world feels safer than my own bed after 10pm, the light blue sheets, feather comforter pulled around me. I curl up with the dog and keep one hand on her soft body as it rises and falls. In the evenings, I read and read and read. The sound of water sloshing at the windows makes it seem as if I'm inside the hold of a ship. I pretend it's a storm. I'm being sea-tossed. It helps me get to sleep.
I try hard not to let the days dissolve, one into the other into the other, and for the most part I am victorious. It helps to have something to show for the hours, something tangible like pages stacked on top of one another on a desk, or one more ink-drained pen, or muscles that ache from running. The latter is rare. Other things that will substitute as a good filling for passing time: clean clothes stacked inside the closet, the dog happy and sleeping because you threw the ball for her in an empty park that was turning quickly into a lake around your ankles, food you actually bothered to cook and a friend sitting across the table from you eating the last of it.
As it happens, this past week was Thanksgiving. It's bitter to live so far away from your family at times like this. What? No. It's always bitter to live so far from your family. I shared this city with my sister for almost ten years, but at the beginning of September she left with her husband. They moved to New York. For the past year, we'd been living together in a little house North of the city. I said a short, terse goodbye in front of that house and barely managed to pull the car down the block before I started weeping. There's crying, there's sobbing, and then there's weeping. I wept.
Luckily, you don't just let a gaping hole remain a gaping hole. Nature abhors a vacuum. My cousin and her husband and her little boy live across the lake from me, waking distance if I felt extremely ambitious. Thank God for cousins, can we all say that together? I have yet to meet one friend who doesn't have a very sunny and particular spot in their hearts and lives for cousins, the perfect combination of sibling, friend, cheerleader, therapist.
Once more, Seattle is a city of Orphans, self proclaimed orphans who live in the mysterious, glittery, mountainous town, far away from the homes and front lawns where we grew up. We are here for one of three reasons: school (college, grad school ) a love that didn't work out but we stayed anyway, or Amazon. Orphans are adept at drawing together during those times when our orphan-hood becomes stingingly apparent- holidays, winter months, elections, sickness, birthdays, and long evenings in the summer. We put our own spin on the holidays, usually consisting of mashing recipes together, board games and alcohol.
This Thanksgiving, I didn't have to miss my home in Vermont very much, no more than usual, because a crew of the most rowdy, hardy, die-hard Vermonters who ever lived drove all the way across the country and landed in my neighborhood just in time to carve the turkey. The day itself was a total blur: rolling out crust, whipping cream, laughing, story telling, music, and Balderdash. I remember drinking a lot of beer and trying to read aloud a batch of fake movie plots and laughing so hysterically that I couldn't get through the first one. I remember that, and very little else. I fell asleep that night at 8pm.
That was on Thursday. On Wednesday I had Lisa and her whole family, on Friday I had my cousins, the four of us sitting perfectly aligned at their little square table. A had three thanksgivings, which is a good amount for one year.
****Why do we live in this ridiculous city? Why does anyone? This evening I got home from work at 5:30 and it was already dark. It had been raining heavily throughout the day; the girls and I had watched the deluge through the huge, ceiling-high windows at the Seattle Bouldering Project downtown. But by the time I got home, the air was clear and the clouds were lifting. This is often the case, the sky stops crying in time for dinner. In college, my ultimate team practiced each night from 8-10pm. With a few exceptions, the rain had lifted and the sky would be edged in bright pink. Each night, as we ran sprints from one side of the field to the other, we'd feel the claustrophobic weight of the day evaporate, and joy would rise from somewhere inside, somewhere where it had been all along.
By the time we made it to my street, I was kicking through an inch or standing water. The drains were gurgling loudly. The groceries were drenched, my bag pooled with water, my jacket soaked through. And this is the beginning. This is how it's going to be for months and months. Why do we live in this city? Surely we'd choose some town back East, where the cold bites but the sun sparkles hard off of clean snow over this watercolored slush of a city.
I can tell you why I'm still here. Because I've lived here, on and off, for almost a decade. I know this place well enough to pull it tightly around me every night and be safe. I've eaten in every restaurant, sate alone at every cafe, waited in the rain at every bus stop, walked every inch of pavement through the city and every foot of sand along the Sound. Every music hall and library and empty lot and street corner is familiar to me. And I'm never alone here. I may fool myself from time to time, because I am by often by myself. I eat dinner alone, except for on Tuesdays, and I wake up alone. But the truth is I've forgotten what it's like to actually be lonely. And I think- I know myself well enough to know- that eventually I will be in a new place, where I know very few people, and that confusing, hollow weight will once again be pushing down against my rib cage. I'll go somewhere else, eventually, and for a while I will be all alone there.
For now, I'm just so deeply grateful to be here, to be home.