Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Somewhere in Seattle

She is breaking all the rules.

She is wearing a bright, fuschia-pink skirt paired with a deep red sweater, a color combination I would never in a million years assemble. The knit skirt falls softly over the two hard mounds that are her rear. There is a swagger to her walk, a tilt to the hips, that distinctly says, I have just been fucked. Most decidedly, most thoroughly, fucked. As she walks, jauntily, with her left hand she smokes and with her right, she holds her boyfriend’s hand. She is wearing Birkenstocks. Slightly duck-footed. Bare, white legs, no effort expended on tanning them. The back of her head turns as she looks up at her boyfriend. Another inhale on the cigarette. A laugh. More jaunt to the walk.

I want to be this girl.

Following behind, I suddenly do not want to return home. I want to keep walking, to miss my plane, to disappear seamlessly into the Seattle foot traffic. I do not care about my children, my loving husband, my job. I want to be a street person, no responsibilities, no worries.

There. That building. I can stop in there, tell them I’m a writer. What do they need? I can edit their brochures, remove unnecessary apostrophes, add commas where needed. Surely that would be enough to buy my dinner each night at the market? And then some. Enough to hand a dollar to every homeless person I meet each day. I will be the Seattle benefactor; from whence she comes is unknown, to where she goes, a mystery.

I understand. I understand the need to flee.

I turn instead into the same small Italian restaurant where I ate last night. Thomas, the young waiter with shining brown hair the length of my own, smiles at me. “She’s back!”

“I know,” I say. “I meant to come in for an Espresso this morning. I’m just a little late, is all.”

“I accused some lady this morning of being you,” he says. “I told her, ‘Hey, I waited on you last night!’ She was like, ‘You did not.’ It was totally embarrassing.”

“Well.” I flash a smile to this boy the age of my own sons. “I hope she was totally gorgeous.”

“She was. Are you sitting in the back again tonight?”


He guides me to the back room and I sit, the only one in the tiny enclosure. One wall is glass, beyond which is a room full of furnaces and people—a glass-blowing studio.

Last night there was a beginner class going on. Tonight must be the advanced group. The instructor stands to the side, hands folded, and merely watches. There is nothing more she can teach these people. They have possibly surpassed her in talent. I order a glass of Riesling and a dish not found on the menu, which Thomas seems delighted to make to my specifications.

As I watch the glass-blowing, I am entranced. The students tonight are all men—some hardened, looking like the type to sit astride a Harley, embittered by divorce and fleeing into the hard edge of the wind. Others are the age of my son Logan. I watch them dip their tubes into the molten glass and then expertly twirl the glowing orb against a steel plate, rock music pulsing in the background. There is something innately moving about this—the juxtaposition of huge steel furnaces, heavy blacksmith tools, rugged men, and the fragile, delicate shapes they so painstakingly create. They blow into the ends of the tubes, use heavy, tong-like clippers to stretch the soft glass. A horse emerges, its mane flying in imagined wind. A vase. A bowl. A mottled orange mushroom enclosed in a glass orb.

Thomas returns with my dinner, conveniently packed to go.

But I do not want to go. I want to stay here, here in Seattle with the men dressed in black shirts and cargo pants and Vans and who care about art. The boys who insert shapes into the hot glass rather than needles into their arms. One boy wears the exact shoes Logan asked for last year for Christmas. I ache for Logan. I want him to be here, to put his pain and his fear into the furnace and have it emerge a radiant mass waiting to be shaped into something beautiful.

Me too. I want to wear fuschia pink with red and not care about anything but this very moment. This here, this now. I want to smoke and be fucked and have a firm butt and walk duckfooted and white legged and Birkenstocked and not to worry.

Most of all, not to worry. I want to stay here, buried somewhere in Seattle, where it’s okay to break the rules.


Friday, August 04, 2006

More of the story

Hmm...where to begin?

His dad went down last weekend and bailed him out, gave him $400 for hotel rooms, and came home. He stayed there, because really, how can he leave? We don't even know what state his probation is assigned to. What a mess. Meanwhile, last week when he got arrested, his probation officer was away on vacation, so was unreachable. This week her mother apparently died, so she's not in this week either. Logan tried calling her all week, to no avail. So his case is just...unsupervised, I guess you could say.

So here's his story. Keep in mind he was REQUIRED to be in the state on the 16th, and then given no place to stay and no instructions other than they were "working" on his case. So there he was, stuck in this state 800 miles miles from home with no friends, no place to stay, no relatives, no money—and not allowed to leave. By chance, he learned that an acquaintance from high school lived about 100 miles away, so he went to stay with him. Orin.

This is the phone call:

Him: Me and Orin, we came home a couple nights ago and the apartment was padlocked. The guy who rents it, Bill, I guess he hadn't paid his rent for like, months, so the landlord just locked the place up.

Bill was gone somewhere for a couple days, so me and Orin (WHY does he not know how to say "Orrin and I"?) went to stay with Orin's mom.

Me: That was nice of her.

Him: Yeah, she's pretty cool.

But all my STUFF was in the apartment. You know, my laptop, all my clothes, everything. (Which is precisely the same number of items I had packed into a box and Fed Exed to him a few days earlier since he went down there with nothing, thinking he'd be coming right back home the next day.) So then after a couple nights we were walking past there and Orin saw that a window was unlocked. So he decided to see if he could get in.

I didn't help him. I said I didn't want anything to do with it, so I stood in the yard and talked to this girl I like.

It was one of those old windows—you know the kind you push up to open?

Me: Yeah, I know those.

Him: And it just shattered when he was trying to push it up.

But I said I didn't want anything to do with it (you already told us that, kiddo) so I went and spent the night at that girl's house (parental groan while simultaneously thinking: thank god, an alibi).

So the next morning I went back there and went inside to go to sleep.

Me: You climbed in the window?

Him: No, they opened the door from the inside and let me in.

Me: Who did?

Him: Orin. So I went to sleep, and like 10 minutes later the cops came.

Me: But the cops said you were drunk and passed out when they got there.

Him: Not me. Orin. He had been drinking, and there were open containers around and stuff. He was kind of passed out.

Me: Then how did he let you in the front door?

Him: No, someone else did. Anyway, I didn't do anything wrong! And they're charging me with Burglary, which has like a 5-10 year prison sentence. But that's crazy! I didn't even take anything. Oh, and I broke my ankle.


Him: Yeah, we were wrestling, me and Orin. They wouldn't take me in the jail until I went to the hospital. It's fractured, actually. I'm in a boot.

Me: You broke your ankle wrestling? That's hard to believe.

Him: (coldly) Well, that's what happened.

Me: Logan, I don't know what to say. This is all crazy. You've told me you hurt yourself "wrestling with friends" on a number of occasions. I don't know a lot of 21-year-olds who wrestle this much.

Him; Look, I've gotta go. Can I call you back?

Me: Logan, don't cut me off.

Him: Mom, I've gotta go! I'm driving a shift, and it's hard enough to drive a shift and talk on a cell phone, and I have a broken foot, too, and a cop just pulled up behind me. I'll call you later, okay?

* * *

Sigh. And such is life for me right now.

I haven't told him yet that one of his very best friends from when he was about 9 was killed last weekend in a hit-and-run. I went to the wake, and there, plastered on posters filled with pictures through the years of the boy, was my own scrawny little Logan, grinning and silly, arms around his pudgy buddy, a look of adoration on his face. That got me. Where they were then, innocent, silly, grinning, and where they are now: one in a casket and one teetering on the brink of prison. Gulp. When the boy's red-eyed parents asked how Logan was, I just...I just couldn't answer.

What I didn't say to the mom, as I held her tight and cried, was this: So many nights I have lain awake fearing this very thing—that I would be standing at the side of an open casket looking down at my beautiful boy inside—and I'm just. so. sorry. that it happened to you.

I went back and looked one more time at that picture. How does this happen, anyway? How do they get from there to here?

I wish I knew.

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