[Alternately titled: Story, The Second: The Girl Who Moved To Washington State]
It began simply. A direct message on Twitter first, followed by texts; those texts, in turn, begat plans. With those plans came anxiety and apprehension – I didn’t know you, not your face or your voice or anything else, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to – but also something exciting, a strange and unexpected hope hovering quietly on the horizon. And then we met, conversed and laughed oh so easily, and hours bled across hours. (Evaporating time would become a recurring phenomenon for us.) Leaves boughed low with the brilliant yellow-green of growth, the trail we were traipsing just muddy enough that we each brought a bit of it with us into the evening. An afternoon turned into three days. And then you left.
You came, and then you left. Physically, anyway. You left a piece of yourself here, perhaps wholly unintentionally at first, but daily tethered were we by texts, emails, phone calls when you weren’t sure you could or wanted to keep going, when you wanted to hear my voice, when you wanted to pretend to be upset I was standing with my feet in the Pacific and you weren’t.
But ride off, you did – as you had to, and as I was excited for you to, even as I realized missing you had already most likely become inevitable. Pushed and pulled pedals through the miles of fatigue you insisted on spending yourself on, losing yourself in – and that was your summer. My summer was likewise a blur – of legs treading trails, ogling waterfalls, embracing a new level of busy, but also laden with anticipation, this adorable pterodactyl niece on the way, training for races I wasn’t sure I could really run, a friendship steadily deepening with daily exchanges, so many changes on the horizon.
Some things impending don’t need a name, but we tried anyway: a white whale, an albatross, separate souls adrift in the same sea. Writers both, we’d each our own heads to lose ourselves in with little effort. I tried to think it was nothing, knew it was something; you said you weren’t sure it could be anything, even as you routinely acted as if it were everything.
We staged a great road trip adventure (complete with exclaiming acronym!) and snagged weekends thereafter, kidnapped them from our respective schedules. I fell in love with a small town nestled beneath some of the most stunning mountains I’ve ever seen, and you kept finding ways to keep me there. Thanksgiving became a three-week festivity, lingering nearly to Christmas. Your landlord joked I’d moved in; my friends wondered if I was ever coming back to Portland. What had been a someday, maybe fell instead toward when?
I came home – or to what has these past four years been home – and you followed only a few days later. Co-workers were met, and then a few weeks later, family introduced. Packing became my daily evening ritual; each box sealed was another step from before to after, the unsteady in-between-times past to this happily unwritten present: exciting new terrain to navigate and explore. There are plenty of questions, yes, but it seems like maybe there are just as many answers, even if we haven’t yet unearthed all the right words for them.
The change of address forms are through; this week is my last here, though I’ll surely be back to visit my beloved and eccentric Portlandia, to hug the bodies belonging to the faces of those I can count on missing terribly, to frequent favorite haunts and all the best coffee shops.
In a week, I’ll again be a Washingtonian, nearer those snowy peaks and cold mountain lakes. In a week, I’ll have traded the bustling city streets of Portland for the hard-packed and secluded trails of Wenatchee foothills. In a week, I’ll have traded this stretch of Columbia for that. In a week, I’ll be with you – and for the first time, I won’t just be visiting.