Yonton's house. Where it's always cool, and it's always quiet. A ceiling fan whirs around and gives me something to look at as I'm falling asleep. There are two windows, one smaller than the other, and through them streams the sound of crickets, or cicadas, some sort of soothing insect that sounds like New England. I fall asleep so quickly and sleep so deeply it's as if I pull blankets of water over myself each night.
The last place I lived in Seattle, by contrast, was a cacophony by sunset. The apartment was across the alleyway from a tap dance studio, a country karaoke bar, and a massive construction project that never failed to violate noise ordinances. The downstairs neighbors fought constantly, while the neighbors to my left and my right were always shouting back and forth about the mundane pieces of their day- their shopping lists, what the doctor said at the appointment.
It was a strange place to live, it may have been some type of halfway situation, but I'll never know for sure. I slept each night in a tight crescent, curled around a tiny fan that gave off a hum of white noise and at least the suggestion of air movement, enough to make sleep just possible in that sweltering place.
It was an ideal place from which to leave.
When I first got to Asheville after eight days on the road, we set off fireworks and ran into town for dinner. The next night there was a full moon. We went to a bar that was set up in a burned out mechanic shop. It was roofless, so the moonlight could come in. We danced on the fringe of a crowded dance floor until long past midnight. I was crazy about it- the new town, the warm night, the old friends. And I still am crazy about it.
At one point during that night, my friends needed more cheap beer- it's 1 dollar on tuesdays, so I went up and tried to order four Rainiers. The bartender couldn't understand me, he kept shouting 'what?!' and leaning closer, and I kept repeating myself, louder and louder until suddenly it dawned on me that they may not drink shitty Seattle beers over here. In North Carolina.
That was one moment when I realized where I was, or more to the point, where I wasn't. Most of the time I walk around lightly confused, cheerfully disoriented, wondering where I live and where I lived and what I could claim as my own.
And so on those nights I put myself to bed at 8:30, why not, and watch the ceiling fan spin. I don't feel sorry for myself, or at least I try not to. I remind myself that this is what happens when you do something like move to a new place. It's going to look like this for a while- quiet dinner, crickets, ceiling fan. "What did you think it was going to be like?" I might ask myself out loud, and my voice startles me inside all that quiet.
So I shuffle into the kitchen in my pajamas, and sit across from him at the table. He cooks plenty of clear soups and brown rice which he shares with me. He tells me about his work day, or his training for the freestyle kayaking world championships, which are coming up next week. Then I tell him about my day, how I went hiking or bouldering or worked all day.
Sometimes I leave out that I got terrifically lost on the blue ridge parkway and spent most of the day driving in circles, or how the climbing season hasn't really started so I was the only one at the spot today. Other times, I just tell him everything.
Once, a few years ago, I lived alone in Vermont during an exceptionally cold autumn. On certain evenings, Yonton would read books to me over the phone. I'd sit on the rocking chair next to the wood stove, wrapping the chord around and around my wrist as I listened. Helprin, Keret, Murakami.
You keep a nice space in your memory for someone like that.
Now, whenever something good happens during the day, my first thought is to run home and report it. "I talked to someone at the climbing gym today!" I'll say with great pride. "I went to my first aerial class!" "Guess what- I have breakfast plans!" He always matches my enthusiasm about these things. "Good for you!" he'll say. "Great job!"
So I do walk around a little confused these days, stunned might be a more accurate word, not only because I recently left my whole world behind me, but because I can't believe my good fortune, to be living here now, this town just beginning to crack open, this new place that I love so much.