the wishing well in the coffeeshop

25 October 2012 § 4 Comments

How easy it is for me to fall. The extensive support system that Heather provides is a wonderful illusion of reality. Her radical acceptance of me eclipses that which I have for myself.

I indulge in the solitude resulting from each of her departures. My life zaps into a paused video – operable by remote control, waiting for something to happen. It smiles from the shelf, reflecting a version of me that laughs often and loudly, dances with abandon, and never hesitates to talk to women.

Up there it is safe – between bookends, with context and stories refined to tellable takes and anecdotes tailored to hang jaws and show off my humility. It is highly developed, my shelf-life, and communicates well. Its voice is confident, excited. Has looked itself up in the dictionary many times, and memorized what it found. Shares it often.

24 hours into her absence, I am entirely in my own world again. Every semblance of routine I had yesterday has vanished. If I need not be considerate of others, it is the first tear from the book – the dishes are a mess, and my clothes, instruments, and papers have crawled across most surfaces in her basement suite.

When I am there, I procrastinate, and little else. Every task is a reason to not do something more productive. Instead of cooking I watch a movie. Instead of writing I snack. Instead of trolling craigslist I smoke a bowl, content that the right house, job, bike, and future will fall into my lap, regardless of my active search, as soon as I get my energies in order.

I took three hours from the morning for internet minutiae before deciding to begin the day. On my way out the door, I played guitar, scrubbed mud and mold from a painting of Ganesh with a toothbrush, took a shower, and wrote a note to an old friend. By the time I tied my shoes the sun had crossed the driveway and out of sight form the door, and any chance I still wanted to drive to Seattle today went with it.

I forced myself out the door, said ‘Go’ aloud, and walked to the sidewalk.

When my feet start moving, it is difficult to stop them. So when, a half-mile away, I felt the Marsee Bakery and Coffeeshop calling me, I was surprised and naturally resistant.

The dirty blond kid in a tie-dye shirt made eye contact with me immediately. His eyes had a peculiar and calculating twitch, as if he were recalling a memory.

“Can I help you?” he asked in a casual and professional barista tone.

“Um, what do you recommend?”

“You look really familiar to me.”

“I’ll go with that. Wait. Do I?” I gave the door a sidelong glance.

“Where are you from?” he continued his interrogation.

“The road,” I answered with my new favorite reply.

“I’m from North Carolina,” he said matter-of-factly, determined but still smiling. It was a verbal battle with a predictable end.

“Spent some time in Asheville. I worked in music mostly, at Echo Mountain.” The most prestigious job I’d ever had was emptying the ashtrays of relatively famous musicians, and the first one I told people about.

He pointed his right index to the light bulb above his head: “So did I!”

I searched my brain. I didn’t know his face, but his voice I’d heard before. He worked at my favorite job in North Carolina, perhaps of my life, and I couldn’t place him. Had I blocked out that much? Did the stress I put myself through kill memory cells?

“I’m Reverdy.”

There he was – in my mind, in the studio: a scrawny college student with locks waving like a bridal train. Back then I rarely remembered his name; in the middle of conversations I would lose it like a store receipt in a hurricane.

His hair was shorter, and curlier. His grayish eyes, sharp like holly leaves, did not waver. He wanted to connect me with his friend who toured with YOB, did their sound. “I’ll ask if he knows where maybe you can get a job – wait, do you want to get back into sound?”

I smiled, wrote my info on an order check, and said we should hang out sometime. He took it, said my tea and bagel were on the house, and seemed to have assumed already that we would.

I’d been telling myself that I knew no one in Portland outside the tribe I’d gotten to know since meeting Heather. That I’d find no one here whom I knew and she didn’t. There was the exception of Emily, an ex-girlfriend who every six months wrote me a note prompted by an old memory. Maybe I’d run into her sometime. (Emily I thought about often, fantasized about passing her on the street, and what I’d say if I did, and had seen ‘her’ no less than a dozen times last summer.)

That Reverdy recognized me after the biggest three and a half years of my life said that time hadn’t changed everything, that the contempt I had for myself for disregarding everyone while my life collapsed was probably born of illusion, that Asheville wasn’t as bad as I liked to remember it, and that other good people leave places, too.

It is no art to know where you don’t belong. The beauty is in the search for the place that will know a like spirit as it passes through, and how to welcome them in a way that makes it seems as if it were their idea to land there.

Portland feels my resistance to here, and acts accordingly. She hears that I’d rather be somewhere else, and sees that I stay. She knows like I do that I’ll come around, that I’ll welcome myself into being here, and rewards my small triumphs.

I’m taking it slow. Traveling slow. Flying less, loving more. I want to be present. The least I can gift is that – to Portland, to Heather, to myself.

For you, citylife, I’ve got me. What have you got in store? How will living here change my life? Will I write; will I trump distraction? Will I buy that bicycle, will I thrive in my space instead of trash someone else’s? Shall I pay the bills with a job I love, or one that will simply do for now? Does it matter? My passion is here somewhere. I’m going to go find it.

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