There's no simple solution to something so vague and omnipresent.
The air in Asheville, by contrast, was warm and light. When Yonton burst through the door into my hotel room and threw his arms around me I felt warm and light, too, for an instant. And by the time my friend David and I drove around in the middle of a wicked thunder storm it had stuck, I felt light as a biscuit, I thought I might lift away.
I met first David, a boy of spectacular style and ease, years ago when I shored up in North Carolina to see William. It was late October, Obama was on the cusp of his first election, and I was just over a year free of college.
I didn't have any student loanst, although I never brought it up, but I didn't have a real job, either. That's been the biggest difference between them and me. I've always worked, cobbled together writing, waitressing, front desking; I worked for a year at a failing kayak shop until a good looking rep pulled me aside and warned me that if I ever wanted to make it in the outdoor industry I should separate myself from that place immediately. But my friends- a lot of them- they really work, within the golden trifecta of Seattle employment: Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon. Their debt was big back then but their paycheck was bigger.
I once made it all the way to the final interview in a six month long process with Amazon only to have a jeweled encrusted woman shake her head and say, "We've decided to go in another direction."
To which, today, I have the wherewithal to say Thank God.
I'd dedicate my first book to Amazon for the simple fact that they recognized that I did not belong there.
I didn't have the income that so many of my friends had, but I sure knew how to spend like they did.
Until I didn't. I remember clearly sharing a plate of nachos with three friends after the climbing gym, and one of them raised his glass and said, "What do you think, guys-heli skiing in Japan for new years?"
And I thought, uh oh.
If I were to be honest, I couldn't pay for the portion of the nachos I was eating.
But before I could jump in, before I could apply for a credit card I couldn't pay off, before I could really think about what I was doing, I packed up my things and I left. I moved back to the East Coast, then drove on a frosted October day from Vermont all the way down to a mountain town in North Carolina called Boone to see a boy I'd met on the grand canyon.
Regardless of the boy, regardless of anything, that trip changed everything.
I remember being aware that night that things here were very different. Different in a way I might get along with.
Especially if you live in a city with six month leases and impossible apartments and big competition just to find a place to sleep, and you have to move all the time.
Every day is a marathon. That's how I feel when I wake up on my mattress on the floor. If I can just be good today, and fill every possible second with what needs to be done, maybe by the end of the day I will be caught up.
But the phone is ringing, there's a crisis at work, if I could just clean out my closet, the dog wants to play, I can't find anything, not my keys or my sweatshirt, if I don't work out today I'll lose my good body and I'll be completely undesirable and then what. And on top of that, the lease is coming to a close and I need to find a place to live again in a city that is growing less affordable to me by the second. And I miss my friends. I live in the same city but I don't get to see them in the way I wish I could.
This is why I threw the spoons. That, and the fact that it's been six months since I broke up with Andrew, since I ran to Montana, and I still don't want to go back to that neighborhood, or to the climbing gyms. Even now, when it would be really nice to see him, it would, but exhausting, in its own way. And I'm already exhausted.
I went to Asheville on business, someone above pulled a few strings I want to say, even though I don't believe in such things. And then my boss asked if I could hang out there for a few more days and then go straight to New Jersey to lead another training. I said yes. And so I had a string of days in North Carolina with no work and all my meals comped.
David and I had dinner on the second night.
funniest, happiest days of my whole life.
That was over three years ago.
In Asheville, we have dinner and David offers to drive me back to Yonton's house where I'm staying. There's a huge, soaking, violent rain storm. The streets are flooding and the blue ridge mountains in the distance are flooded with white lightning. "I have to play you this song," he says, "it's a country song but it's a Nelly remix."
Cruise, some ebullient country song I love, a ridiculous hip hop remix. He blasts it over the speakers in his car. I ask to hear it again and again. The storm is drawing closer to us, the lightening changing from white light to violet strokes. I'm hit with the sudden feeling of peace, a happiness like that funny day on the Nolichucky, like a stone has been removed from off my lungs. Isostatic rebound at the cellular level.
As we drive I imagined all of my things evaporating, my apartment in Seattle getting knocked over and turned into condos, just as planned, only I haven't moved out yet. All my possessions are gone, and I don't care. I shrug. I'll buy a new set of skis one day, if I can. I think of all that weight disappearing in an instant. David and his unheard of red curls is singing along and driving me through the twisted streets of Asheville and I'm struck once again with that feeling of buoyancy. The potential lightness of life hits me suddenly and I sit up straight, as if I've been struck.
I think that the weight and the stuff and the debt does add up, inevitably, as you get older.
But I'm not old yet.
I'd completely forgotten that I'm not old yet.