Sixth Summer

My feet are dirty after two hours of bellydance and my hair is sticking out every which way from the scarf in my hair like a dark spiky dandelion. It’s ten thirty and just barely getting dark outside; the solstice was this past weekend and the days have been full with heat and light. Outside my window I hear the low hiss of the cars on the soft evening road.

It’s another summer. Six summers ago I drove up to Seattle by myself from Claremont, California, ready to start my life for real this time, shaky on my feet and feeling inordinately brave for making that trip by myself. It was still the nineties, I was still in my early mid-twenties, I was making a break and starting fresh and could not have been more excited for my future. I drove up the 5, up through the Grapevine, up through the low brown mountains and through San Francisco, through the high desert and past Mount Shasta and into Oregon where they won’t let you pump your own gas. I shot straight north like an arrow, irreversible on my path: a new school, a new relationship, a new city, a new life. For three days I was in between worlds, between where I’d been and where I was going, but I didn’t take my eyes off the road once.

To have been here six summers feels significant because it’s as long as I spent in Claremont, counting four years of college and two years working at my alma mater. Those six years were what I did on the way here; what have these six years been? Where will they fit in the story, by the time it’s over and these years are just so much dust and ashes? “I was six years in Seattle,” my stories will start, “and that’s when I knew…” What? What does it mean to live here, to stay here, to be here, to put my tiny little roots down deeper and deeper with every summer that passes? Now I am one of the ones who can remember when they blew up the Kingdome, when they put in the Northgate Target, when there used to be the Still Life in Fremont instead of whatever there is there now. I’m not a native but I’m no longer a newbie: I still say “the five” instead of “I-5” but now I legitimately have sun guilt on beautiful days like today. I recycle religiously and never jaywalk, just like a good Seattleite. That’s what six years has done, fit me in just a little bit more, made every other city in the world that much stranger.

I haven’t accomplished many of the things I hoped to six years ago; in fact I can’t remember many of the goals I had then. I think I trusted that everything would just sort of work out somehow, but I didn’t how I’d recognize it when it did work out. I always imagined that one day I would just look up and I’d have arrived somehow: education, job, money, marriage, house and children. I never meant to be lazy about getting what I wanted, I just didn’t completely know what it was I wanted. I still don’t. I’ve always been much better at thinking in negatives, about what I don’t want, than about what I do want. I’ve always felt it’s easier and better to absence yourself from a bad situation than to actively seek out a good situation, and maybe this is the summer I decide to reverse that tendency, that I open my eyes a bit more and take a deep breath and just…

It’s really dark outside and I need to take a shower to wash my dirty feet. I’ll leave the windows open to the air and the night and the roar of the road, this sixth summer, this slow evening, this unheld breath.

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