Monday, November 28, 2011


It's a mellow, bluesy kind of feeling to live inside a city that's gone underwater. Everything is silver and slick and dark, torrents of water glide over the sidewalks and rush through the streets. Each damp morning, I sit on the front porch with Earle Gray and watch as the dog goes ballistic for a stuffed green frog. She dashes into the yard, runs in a circle and then stops abruptly when she feels the rain coming down. Displeased, she stalks back up to the porch and demands to go inside, where she spends the whole day beneath my chair, crying and complaining, as if the weather is my fault. As if it's something I chose for us.

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.
Tonight, the clouds promised the same sort of stalemate. Not clear, exactly, but not raining. I walked the dog to the grocery store and we looked at all the Christmas lights that had popped up over night.  The air was mild and soft against my face. I bought more beer and lemons and cream for tomorrow morning's coffee effort. I put the groceries into my shoulder bag and we set back down the hill. And as soon as we left the safety of the market, the sky cracked open and it began to rain so hard I could barely see. It was the kind of rain that makes people inside their homes leave the pots boiling on the stove, and the laundry unfolded across the bed, and the characters inside the movie going about their plot, and gravitate towards their window where they stare, open mouthed at the spectacle, and pity the poor souls who are stuck out on the streets. I know this because I saw them, palms pressed against glass, guilt and relief smacked across their faces as they watched me slosh pass.

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.


Anonymous said...

Crying happy tears at the end of this one.

Caroline Reads said...

Agreed, this is a beautiful post. Lovely descriptions. I'm glad you're happy to be where you are when its so easy to be swept up in the grass is greener.

Kelle said...

Love this post, Melina. You described your place so well. And just caught up...periods while climbing--ba ha ha ha! Seriously, I've been dying to find out how to handle that.

Melina said...

Ha!,yes Kelle, we are all wondering what the F to do when we get our periods while rock climbing. I don't even leave the house anymore I'm so skeered at the thought.

I just made (or attempted to make) coffee and I've got two of your holiday posts to dig I go!


Elemental said...

Beautiful. My heat aches for Seattle. Only one thing about your post baffles me a bit; you mention joy rising up inside you while running sprints from one side of the field to the other. The only thing I ever remember rising up inside while running sprints was the urge to vomit... ;) (Perhaps that's the difference between an athlete and a non- )

Mackenzie said...

This is so perfect. Dang, how do you do keep doing that?! Btw, I finally got to check out SBP tonight and loved it. Look forward to seeing you there sometime soon!

Anonymous said...

oh seattle...4:30pm and it's already completely dark out :(

Ren said...

Nice read, babe...I love your stuff! :) I just posted a blog about how stupid hard it is to get motivated to DO anything this time of year...feeling ya strong here!

Melina said...

I know Ren....I don't know how you do it!


Melina said...

Mackenzie, you're in Seattle now? I can't wait to meet you!


Adriana Iris said...

So I mention you on my latest post. I hope peeps fall in love with you like I have.

Cassandra said...

I love your descriptions of Seattle and Seattle's many "orphans."

Jacqui said...

I forgot to comment on this when you first posted.... but I like. Melancholy and dreamy with the reminder of hibernation season cinching in. Glad you shared what many of us in Seattle are probably feeling!

Jacqui said...

I forgot to comment on this when you first posted.... but I like. Melancholy and dreamy with the reminder of hibernation season cinching in. Glad you shared what many of us in Seattle are probably feeling!