Twenty Two : Significance

I had a moment of nirvana early this afternoon while standing in the sun behind the house. Squid ran joyfully back and forth, to and fro, biting up stalks of weeds and grass playfully, shaking them about, nibbling, and then spitting them back out at my command. The moment hit me as I took a sip of my peach tea and whiskey.

With cigarette in hand I took a slow drag and exhaled, letting the moment last. Having finally made the leap to quit, but afraid of the failure from cold turkey, I cut back from twenty cigarettes a day to seven. I’m spending the next year setting myself up for the trail, and that means by the end of this month I need to be down to zero cigarettes a day.

But more importantly : I’m spending the next two and a half years setting myself up for thirty.

Thirty is important to me. My thirties will be when life truly begins. I’ve wanted to be in my thirties since I can remember.

Well, that’s a lie.

I remember saying that I expected to live no longer than twenty when I was in elementary. Let’s say since middle school.Thirty is important because people take you seriously as an adult. In the twenties, everyone expects you to be an adult, and act like an adult, but no one treats you as such either way, forcing you into this purgatorial void of, well, twenties. Ten long years of twenties. Ugh. But more specifically, I really started to anticipate it when twenty two came around, because that’s when I realised that until thirty, no one would truly take me seriously. Twenty two holds a lot of significance as a year as well. I moved to Arizona, chasing after Lai for the last time, finding a friend in Eric instead, and then packing and leaving at the first chance I got to return to Oregon, to safety, my family, and to my friends. Something familiar and right and true.

These thoughts led me into thinking about the Pacific Crest Trail and how significant it really is in my life. It’s not just a long hiking vacation, or endurance test, or long hippie camping trip. It’s my coming of age tale. It’s the thing that will usher in my thirties. On June twelfth, two thousand and fifteen, I will be twenty nine years old. I will spend the next three to four months hiking over mountains, burning in desert heat, and walking through thick forests, defining my limits, discovering my fullest, healthiest potential, and then, toward the end, contemplating my next step. My next job, living situation, meal, hike.

The daydream came quickly as I closed my eyes against the sun.

Standing at the edge of a wood that circles a large, crystal blue lake, I stand, Squid beside me, sitting patiently, obediently, her too forged anew in the gauntlet of the PCT, our bond becoming stronger with each day, with each step. The sun beams down on me, my skin tanned and leather, my face covered in a thick, long beard of brown, blonde, and red spattered with dust and sticks and leaves. My hair is long, tied back with rubber bands and a twist tie, pieced together with things I could salvage from other things. The hair, like the beard, has become something akin to the ground I walk atop. I’m wearing a white t-shirt with an unhappy cloud on it, the shirt, like the rest of me – sunstained, dirty, and worn.

A green flannel shirt also hangs over me and down my arms, the sleeves ripped off from who knows what or why at the elbow. Maybe just for convenience. A few speckles of blood can be seen among the common theme of filth. Black jean cut off shorts cover my waste, crotch, and legs to just above the knee. My socks are long, and what once was more than likely white is now brown, sweat soaked and saturated with dust.

The boots that cover them are caked with mud of all varieties, making the weather abused brown leather that much more inspiring. The tops and ankle of the boots mainly just worn leather with a spattering of dried, dusty mud. But the lower the eye drops on these ill fated footwear, the fresher and more intense the groupings of mud become until finally, at the sole, the wet soily earth has all but devoured what the mind can only hope to be good, in tact rubber.

My pack drops to the earth and I take a deep breath, exhale sharply, and laugh louder and more heartily than I ever knew I could.

So different than me now that it startles me back to the waking world.

The sun is gone, and I’m back beneath the gray shade of the city.

Twenty One : It’s All Drag

The weekend was exhausting, I can see that now as I stare out my bedroom window. I pull the mason jar of pink lemonade and whiskey up to my mouth, the jar held firmly between two grasping hands defiant of gravity and its looming danger, and sip feverishly at the cool, pink contents.

Delicious.

The fire in my stomach does nothing to calm my mind. Was all of this necessary? Was pushing myself and my comfortable boundaries really what I needed?

Friday started typical. Wake up, throw on clothes, feed Squid, freshen up her water, take her outside, smoke a cigarette, get in my car (I got a car) and drive to work. Work then proceeded as normal, aside that I have a new assistant, since the last one, The Gimp, fled in terror. The assistant, Red, performs admirably, and within several days should be up to speed and in line with my personal work habits. This is a good thing. Work concludes without anything out of the ordinary.

I get in my car and drive home, do not feed Squid and instead take her out and immediately jump in the shower. I have much preparation to complete. I check my pack for the necessaries, 3DS and charger, change of clothes, sleeping bag, bottle of water, and pack Squids travel bag (my old Patagonia) with her equipment : bone, food dish, food, pull toy, roadkill raccoon. Loading everything into the Subaru, we depart for McMinnville.

Traffic is hell and it takes almost two hours to get there, it’s two o’clock. Shit. I stay for twenty minutes and then bolt out the door and back into the car, heading back toward Portland and onward to Seattle. But I take the back way, old highway 47.

I went by your crazy old boss’ house, Grace… The one we lived in shortly before everything really started to fall apart. Before my car died, before Beaverton. I missed you again for the second time this week. I’m starting to get used to that feeling, though I hate it, and I hate myself for becoming numb to it.

Then the strangest feeling of nostalgia came over me again, a sting I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It happened as I drove through Hillsboro. Lai. My mind ached. All the time spent driving this way, constantly, religiously. I had worshiped that girl in my pitiful way. The way where I abandon everything to chase absent minded. I was a puppy. I was worse than Squid following me around the house. I shed no tears, but smiled for the time spent, and lost, and the experience of Arizona, and how unlikely it would be that I would ever travel to that state again. Fuck the desert anyway.

I crossed them out of my mind when I hit highway 26 to connect to interstate 5 North toward Seattle. Elei came to mind shortly after hitting that stretch of highway, and I struck her out immediately. Not fresh enough to hurt, but still there enough to see the burns. As I edged closer to Washington my anxieties faded and I became one with the machine after two hours of traveling under five miles an hour, allowing me to zone out and focus on nothing but the road.

Eventually though, Tacoma came into view and the guilt of the four years I spent with Elei came back “like a wrecking ball”. I felt cheap, I felt like a scumbag. I felt like a piece of shit. Everything that has happened to me since I ended that relationship has been deserved. The end of that love came with the flowering of the love that grew from Grace, and it was in Tacoma that I had last seen Elei. I hope things have gone better for her now that I am no longer in her life, she deserves it.

Seattle finally came into view and I, eventually, found parking.

I have this funny thing about Seattle. I love it, it’s beautiful. But it doesn’t make sense, and there is no parking anywhere. ANYWHERE. The majority of the people there are fucking awful. So for as much as I love Seattle, there is twice as much “fuck Seattle” inside of me. Also, I’m a Portlandian through and through, which gives me a bonus to being a dick about anything related to Washington by default.

Kellis’ studio was beautiful and I was immediately envious. A large walk in closet that also doubled as a small office, tiny kitchen, adorably small bathroom, and large main living area with a small storage space in the opposite direction of all of this from the door. When I finally noticed Kellis once he opened the door, I noticed he was blue and wearing a blue bathrobe.

Drag, I reminded myself. Kellis is doing drag tonight for his birthday. He was nothing close to done.

Several hours went by and as I watched him and his boyfriend, Philippe prepare their nights attire, I began to question the motives for such an action as drag. The conclusion they gave me was simple. It’s nice to not be yourself for a little while, to become someone, something, entirely new and exciting and different.

I thought immediately of my determined, and possibly ill fated trek on the Pacific Crest Trail with Squid. I am attempting to become someone else, and in the process, leave the old me behind in the woods. Like I always felt I did in the deserts of Tucson, Arizona all those years ago.

Finally they were ready. Beautiful. We marched, stoned and prepared to the gay bar. We walked right in, as if we owned it. No one stopped us. Who would be willing to stop two fierce looking Drag Queens and the strange bearded straight man with them? No one, that’s who. We marched up to the bar, leaned across in sequence, Kellis, me, and then Philippe. We ordered our drinks, got them, and then turned to each other, grinning ear to ear.

I want to go upstairs, Kellis shouted over the deafening music. I nodded in agreement and Philippe walked past me, looping his arm through Kellis’ and they headed for the stairs, I grabbed my drink, my free hand pressing my hat to my head, and walked quickly after them, spilling some vodka red bull into my beard as I sipped. What I remember from there is mainly flashes.

Men in ass-less chaps, spankings, dancing. There was a straight couple there, friends of Kellis. I introduced myself to the girl first, very pretty, and she opened up quickly, the boy lost in a drunken haze of dancing and talking and laughing. They were having trouble. Later I would tell Kellis that if they ever broke up to let me know. I’m a bastard when I’m drunk, apparently. The lesbian who smoked pot with us on the patio and told me that I was the only straight person here and that I was obvious. I told her good, grinning like a madman. By then I think it was past midnight, I had been awake for twenty three hours. I was intoxicated, high, crashing.

We got back to Kellis’ apartment by two thirty in the morning, I think, and I immediately unrolled my bag, crawled in, and slept.

The morning came and we smoked and talked and laughed at the pictures from the night before, then ate and drank orange juice and kombucha. We said our goodbyes around two that afternoon and I departed.

The drive home was treacherous with wind and rain. By Tacoma my check engine light appeared to warn me of some unknown, yet impending doom. I drove steadily back to my parents house in McMinnville to retrieve Squid, but stayed the night instead. Opting to check my engine thoroughly in the morning light, better safe than sorry.

The morning came and I was sorry that I was safe, but happier knowing that things could be fixed there. The oil needed to be replaced badly, the filter for the oil hadn’t been the proper kind. My air filter was dirty and needed to be replaced, and, to top it all off, the water pump had gone bad between getting the parts and getting back to the house.

Now the car sits. Waiting to be repaired.

So now I ask myself again… Was it really worth it? It was totally worth it.

Fifteen months, three days.

Just waiting to be repaired.

Twenty : Glad

I’m glad to know I never really existed in the first place. That this is someone’s hellish dream in which I am just a character, walking, living, breathing, but never really existing as a solid fixture in the plot. An extra.

Thank you for making that even more apparent, Grace.

You made me promise a lot of things when you left :
– I would focus on myself
– I would refrain from getting into any relationships
– I wouldn’t let my depression get the best of me
– We would still be friends

Two months have gone by, and where are we now? We aren’t friends. You saw to that yourself. You don’t keep in touch. Every time I’ve tried to say something, anything, it is met with cold short breaths. Your words like knives digging at my patience, stabbing at my confidence, and ruining any hope I had in love. A concept that now seems so foreign and false to me that I can hardly accept that it exists at all. All my friends “in love” are miserable; so am I.

I’m glad you’re talking shit about me in your underhanded way when all I did was love you. I never yelled, admittedly raised my voice though on the extremely rare occasion that we fought. Yes, I was passive aggressive when you always got your way. But it’s ok. Because it helps me not love you anymore. It helps me see you for who you are. You were selfish, and mean, and spiteful. You were a terrible lover. And you stole. Jesus did you steal. Figurines from peoples houses and thrift stores. Produce from the store or stands. You were unkind, Grace, to me and the people around you. You hated my generosity and my charity, that I would stop and talk to homeless people, give them cigarettes and change, how much I cared for people who didn’t immediately effect me, and how I would drop everything I could to help a friend in need… And you would never admit it. You refused to talk to me about anything going on inside your head. It appears to me that to you, I was just a stepping stone through Portland. A way to survive. That’s how our relationship unveils itself to me now. And I want hate you for it. I want to hate you now.

I’ve spent nights wishing nothing but the worst for you. Unspeakable things that I have never wished on anyone. I’ve sent silent curses into the air for you to never get your childish novella published, that some douche bag you sleep with on a whim during one of your “I want to be a slut” phases knocks you up and leaves you high and dry. But where will that get either of us? No where. Because the truth is, we were both unhappy. We were both turning into people we didn’t want to be. The worst part of it all is that neither of us could either admit it or were willing to talk about it. I don’t know which is which for who, and I guess it doesn’t matter now. It’s over, you’ve moved back to Florida and on to new things, and I’m still here, in Oregon, pulling myself back together, having to redefine who I am after another failed attempt at a lasting relationship. They’re about compromise, and change, and adaptation. At least I can admit that. Looking back on it, all you ever wanted to do was escape, and when circumstances left us in a position where we couldn’t flee Oregon, it was my fault. It was always my fault, and your hands were always fresh and clean. It’s fucking bullshit.

The problem here is really that I’m angry. I’m angry because no matter how much I want to hate you, I can’t. Because there was love between us. At least from me there always will be in some measurement. My only advice to you is to stop being selfish, take other people into consideration before jumping to conclusions or making decisions.

But I doubt you’ll ever really change.