Thursday, June 09, 2005

Going so fast

Fifteen years ago tomorrow, I came to Seattle to live.

I took a train. Two trains, really: one to Chicago, and then another one all across the great plains and the mountains to the Pacific Northwest. I'd researched it and concluded that for what I wanted (get settled in Seattle for a couple of weeks, then hit San Francisco to visit Rosie for Gay Pride weekend), Amtrak was cheaper than a three-legged flight, if I had the time. And back then (*sigh*) I had nothing but time.

So I sat on the train for three days. I slept in my seat, since a sleeper car, however romantic, would've eaten up all my savings. There was a woman behind me with two little boys, one about two and one about four. The four-year-old was all over the place; she was constantly scolding him and calling his name. I can't believe I've forgotten that name now; I thought it would be permanently burned into my brain. At one point, one of the other passengers called his name for some reason: "Tyler [let's say]" he said as the kid wandered up the aisle, "I think your mom wants you." Tyler looked up sharply and asked, "How'd you know my name?" and everyone laughed.

One night the boys were cuddled up with her; the younger one was already asleep and she was trying to settle the older one down. I remember how tender she sounded, telling him about when he was a baby and she used to rock him to sleep. So different from the way she usually was with him. I'd been thinking of her as this mean, scolding, harried mom, and I realized that night that there was more to the story. That there must be more to a lot of stories.

She must have been so tired and worried, I think now.

We pulled into King Street Station early in the morning. I knew where I was going-- a sublet from a woman I'd met the year before (Renaissance Woman, as it turned out), who was travelling in Europe for the summer with her girlfriend. I knew something about the buses, and knew which one I had to catch. So I strapped on my backpack, and dragged my duffel bag about five blocks north to the bus stop.

I stood there waiting for the bus, looking at a huge pink and green sculpture of a flower across the street. That sculpture's still there, downtown; I think of that first day every time I see it. I waited for a long time, maybe half an hour, maybe an hour. Then I rode the bus to my sublet, found the key in its hiding place, and let myself in.

It was a cold and rainy June. I kept waiting for summer to start. the weather threw me off-kilter; on the East Coast it would be hot and humid already. One night I was watching a newscast and they showed a segment about a march on Washington, maybe a March for Women's Lives (remember those?) and it hit me like a slap that I couldn't just do a road trip down to DC, that I was three thousand miles away.

But I stayed. And I'm still here. I'm not sure if I could ever go back, even if RW wanted to, which she emphatically does not. You get used to things. The East Coast weather alone would knock me back.

I was almost 24 that June. A different person, really. Who knew?


Blogger PPB said...

What a great description.
My parents used to take the train with both of us from Chicago to Dallas every year. As they tell the story, the year my sister was 2, she chose to introduce herself to every member of our car (also not a sleeper). "Hi, I'm Little Professor." "Hi, I'm Little Professor". My mom chased her and tried to get her to stop.

She did this hourly.

I can't imagine the stories that the fellow passengers told after her.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Hey! We're both 38! Neat! When's your birthday? Mine is in July. I think I asked you this before, but I can't remember.

Isn't it amazing how in your 20s things just "happen" like that, they just unfold. I don't think I'm so casual about huge moves or big huge decisions any more. Particularly since kids.

7:53 PM  
Blogger elswhere said...

I'll be 39 on June 28. Another proud and aging member of Gen X!

Things did seem to just unfold then- it felt like it was inevitable that I move to Seattle, so I up and did. My dad reminded me, though, that I didn't go directly to RW's house that day-- I crashed with a friend for a couple of days at the start, can't remember why. Probably RW hadn't left yet.

It's so funny; I have the clearest memory of finding the key and going right in just off the train, but it can't possibly have happened that way. (Probably I should put this in an update but am too lazy.)

8:42 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Hey, your birthday is my half birthday!

That's a good story. I wouldn't change a thing about my life right now, but I do miss those days when I was younger and dumber and unencumbered.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Seattle really does embrace a very different perspective, a different rhythm of living from the east coast. Great post.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I want to take the train across the country with no job and savings so tiny that a sleeper would wipe it out. Not that I would pay for a sleeper now--my savings account seems just as tiny even though it isn't. I'm tired of middle age, and I just entered it (I think. Does 40 count as the beginning, or did I enter it before & just now notice?)


5:42 PM  

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