Day 4

Beth told me she read an article which hypothesized that it takes several days for the soul to catch up with the body after flying across the country. So when I slept through the morning commotion at her house and into the mid-morning, the first thing she said when I woke up was: “Did your soul finally catch up with you?” Again, her smile like morning light, although with the grey clouds outside, today she is the sun itself.

“I think it did,” I say, rubbing my eyes.

We enter the morning at about the same pace, which is nice since we’ll be roommates at the MFA residency coming up here in a week or so. But today I have to pack up and head north just a few minutes past Portland into the suburbs of Beaverton where I still stay at a family friends’ house for one week while they’re on vacation. It’s not as “hip” as the city, but I’m looking at 30 days on the road, therefore, this week of privacy will be a blessing that just might make this trip doable without major mental exhaustion.

I hit the road and there is rain enough to fill the weeks of dryness we’ve had back in North Carolina, if only this Oregon water could fall on the soil that makes up my other home. It comes down in sheets at first, the car windshield about as transparent as white tissue paper, revealing an obscure grey tarmac and just fifty yards ahead, a white wall of fog. What faith, I think as I drive along, what faith we have that more blacktop lies at the edge of the fog or better yet, that the edge will get pushed further back the faster we drive. We skid like blind moles along I-5, hydroplaning in the rutted middle lane and laughing because that’s just the way cars move in this land of the perpetually wet.

I’ve been cold since I arrived in Oregon, embarrassed that my southern acclimation has been so thorough as to make me feel like a stranger in my own (former) home. I’ve been wearing my wool cap to try and keep the heat in, but it’s really a fleece that I need. I stop at an outlet mall on the way north and find a cheap sweater that will carry me through the month, hopefully. The outlet mall is traumatizing, though, and by the time I get to the suburbs I am drowning in discontent and flurries of frustration.

Where is all my quickness to be grumpy coming from? Part of me thinks that it is the giant, looming, lack of closure with my relationship with Cass that is coming out in toddler fits at random moments in my day. But enough is enough. Tomorrow she and I will meet for the first of probably two dates. I’m nervous and eager, if that paradox is possible, but tomorrow might be the easier of the two dates as we have the rental car drop off and the plane ticket payback to deal with. If I didn’t live so far away, I might have brought along her black bag, two black shirts, two pairs of underwear, one pair of knee high socks, and tube of chapstick to return. Would I have also returned the phone card? The mixed CD’s that I haven’t been able to play for three weeks? The pictures of us when I thought we were falling in love?

A while back Cass said she wanted to take a picture of me. We were in public at the time and I really hate posing for pictures. I told her I’d just send her one later but she explained: “No, I want to take it because I want a picture of what you look like when you’re looking at me.” That made sense to me, though I still didn’t oblige. Instead, we did a reach around snapshot of the two of us, looking into the camera, presumably as we wanted to look at ourselves as a couple. I hate the picture for the power it holds over me, but it is beautiful all the same. It amazes me how intensely we both fell for the dream and how feverishly we held that dream in our eyes when this photo (Dreamers) was taken.

Tomorrow I will be the only way I can be – strong. I will look at her with affectionate pity and genuine compassion. I will hold my ground and refuse to make this messier than it is. If that means feeling the pain that much more, so be it. The only way to become free from intense emotion is to get so close to it that we can finally see it for what it is – simply energy…not good or bad, happy or sad, just the movement and swelling of a neutral something that obscures action and thought all too easily.

Maybe when dreamers look into the camera as we did they send their souls out through some photographic portal, like Whitman’s spider casting filament after filament into the wind (“A Noiseless Patient Spider). It’s a dangerous thing to through around, and riskier still to send backwards through viewfinders, shrinking the field of vision to miniscule proportions. Love is blindness, and now I see it. How long until I get what I cast away back? I’ll only get it back when I give up the lamenting, and believe that all I need is already at my feet.

Todays’ Pic: Java Nation = Java Hijack! (aka The sign that affirms the death of Coffee People Coffee)

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