chapter one.

I always pop out of bed at 7 am, even on my days off of work.

Illness, daylight savings time, extreme sedative consumption; none of this affects my inner timekeeper. The same can be said for aborted one-night stands and mild self-inflicted alcohol poisoning.

My clock resides in a deep, dark cavern in my mind, safe from my best attempts at wrangling control. I have waged the most vigorous campaigns in the past, using the best weapons at my disposal: blackout shades, sleeping masks, and over-the-counter sleep remedies (safe and non-addictive!). All proved to be a waste of time, liver function, and dark-toned fabric.

And so here it is, another Saturday morning and I feel as if I have the entire world to myself.

The same tasks must be completed every morning. The order may change–rarely–but the list remains the same.

Water is boiled for coffee.A bowl of appropriately healthy cat cereal is bestowed upon Vivian.
A good face scrubbing is required to remove errant eyeliner from the night before.

The greatest comfort can be found in the most trivial tasks. No matter my geography or age, my face will need washing.

If I’m not drinking coffee–perhaps due to old age or chronic digestive problems–I’ll still need to prepare tea or orange juice. Maybe some kind of gritty instant fiber beverage.

And I’ll always have a cat to feed. Sure, Vivian won’t live forever. I feel terrible saying this, but I know she will be replaced almost immediately after her death.

These chores were a regular part of my life “before.” And they are still necessary “after.” I guess it would be wrong to refer to my current existence as an “after life.” Then again, it feels most appropriate. “New life” reeks of some kind of embarrassing sense of being born-again.

So much ended, but not enough to justify a new beginning. Five years remain until all of my skin cells have replaced themselves. The coffee press is new, but Vivian travelled across the country with me. So did books, clothes, and my bicycle. The furniture was acquired here, new to this time and place in my life. New friends. Most of those from the past are gone.

The curtains are opened, the plants are watered, and my teeth are brushed for the recommended two minutes. I pull on a pair of incredibly ripped and ink-stained jeans and a t-shirt with the neck cut out (crew necks tend to make me feel claustrophobic, but I am much too modest for a v-neck). I swiftly braid my hair and put on my only pair of sneakers: a faded pair of low top Converse with hearts scrawled along the rubber sides in purple marker. I fill my thermos with coffee and soy milk, just before I stuff my keys into my pocket.

Minutes later, I am sailing down Hawthorne at breakneck speed. I do not wear a helmet. Both acquaintances and strangers feel compelled to lecture me about this on a daily basis. “Your brain is your best asset.”

Pedal, pedal around the bend on 12th, and then up the gradual incline to the bridge. I am nearly out of breath as I merge onto the narrow lane reserved for bicyclists and pedestrians. I whiz by a couple in coordinating jogging outfits. A foxy young father with a baby seat passes me in the opposite direction. Otherwise the bridge is empty. No bicycle bells tinnily ring-ringing to signal “get out of my way” and no cars rattling the girders.

I reach the center of the bridge, and climb off my bike. I travel this path every day on my way to work. At least once a week, around the midpoint of the bridge’s span, I am struck by my incredible love for this city.

It’s impossible to feel like anything less than the luckiest as I behold everything around me.

Bridges, one after another, cross the river in all directions. Each one is different. And every resident has a personal favorite.

Off in the distance, a crew team is rowing and puffing toward the end of the horizon. Snowcapped Mt. Hood appears like a calm deity watching over the city.

The hills to the west are the very definition of the word “green” with uncountable trees and ferns and plants no human will ever touch.

Everything is real and completely utterly alive. At this very moment, lava is shifting under the otherwise benign Sno-Cone surface of Mt. St. Helens. Tectonic plates are slowly sliding along one another. People are growing. Many are sleeping. Some are falling in love. Others are meeting for the first time. All are filling their lungs with this city’s seemingly magic air. Daydreams become real. Nightmares are washed out to sea. Even the oldest, driest crone is young and beautiful here.

This is my new life, thousands of miles away from where I began. The day I arrived here, I forgot that I was exhausted. The ache in my chest faded. Breathing was easier. The first thing I did–before heading to my new apartment or searching for some lunch–was buy a pair of cowboy boots. This is the West, after all.



4th Time Around–Bob Dylan


7 thoughts on “chapter one.

  1. janelle says:


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