Away from Fear

I’m getting messy again.

Last year was so hard. I was coming back from a back injury and the financial hit of not working shook my sense of security pretty deeply. And I was reinventing myself, again. And it was awesome. Awesome! I can’t believe the life I get to live now…

But fuck I was in terror a lot of the time. And I got kind of used to keeping things neat. SO neat. Sun, Mars and Mercury in Virgo neat. If you don’t speak astrology, just know that Virgos are renowned for being the most retentive, perfectionist assholes in the wheel. That’s not how we would say it, of course. What we would say is “It’s a rough job, but someone has to be in charge of quality control.” And we would be right. And also, at times, assholes. So take all of that and add a financial crisis and a tiny bit of performance pressure and multiply it by three planets and you can see how I got a little more locked down last year than in any other ordinary year.

Thank the goddess for myth and painting and fashion and marijuana (as long as I’m telling the truth now) and Sunshine the dog and my sweetheart and the seasonal glory of Longfellow Creek. All of which helped me rock last year while also running all the fucking trains.

And also that man. Who was there through that year. Who I just broke up with.

All of this I occurs to me on Friday night. I’m sitting across from my beloved best friend of more than 25 years, who has answered my 911 call to combine a debrief of my total emotional turmoil with a check for head lice, which is seldom featured in the joys of parenthood section of the catalogue.

All clear on the louse front, btw. So, our evening being cleared of a session with Ridd, we go for sushi and I tell her all about the break-up and the missing limb feeling that was not going away and how I want to try and get my need met without taking my ball and going home and how I’m not sure if there’s even still a chance because he has stopped responding to my texts.

I am only crying in the middle of my favorite sushi restaurant a tiny bit.

At least I’m also drinking sake. And eating a seared albacore nigiri with garlic sauce that is, in my opinion, the finest piece of sushi in Seattle. I know. Big talk. But you go to Mashiko in West Seattle and try it and then talk to me.

Our waiter Steve, who has become a friend over the years, comes by with the red violin roll, ahi tuna with cilantro and red chilis and something green. Can’t remember now. Possibly because Steve takes one look at my face and says, “Keep the sake coming?” And he does

Tracy says, “Why does this break up feel different? What is it that matters? Is it who he is? Or how you are with him?”

I think about it. It’s not simple. “It’s both,” I say. “Who he is, is part of who I am with him… I don’t know what happened. We used to be able to do this.” I take a sip of sake. We were drinking nigori- opaque and pearly in the bowl shaped glass. It is like drinking from a crystal ball. “We worked it out, early on. I would say to him, ‘I’m going to say something vulnerable now.’ And he would turn and look at me, and sort of settle his shoulders and say “Oh. Thank you! Okay. I’m ready.”

And I would tell him what was happening. And he was there. Every time. But... I stopped doing that. Maybe six months ago? I stopped saying that. About the same time I stopped writing

Yeah. Maybe about then.

Why do we forget the sweet things, the things that are so easy at the start? Why did I stop taking risks? To speak, to try... I did. And the sweet feeling got a little bit less. And I took less risk…Did he also? Maybe. Hard to say when fear is deciding.

That’s what dying looks like. Neat maybe. But quality? No way.

I take another sip of sake. I am forming a plan. It might be a terrible plan, though. It’s not neat. I won’t look good. I’ll probably look terrible: wild-eyed and fearful, worried. Insecure.

Plus, I haven’t showered or put on makeup in days.

I don’t care. “You know Trace, I’ve been so careful for so long. I’ve been so fearful and so focused, but I’m tired of letting fear decide. I think it’s time for me to get messy with my life again.” I look at her. “I’m going over there.”

Tracy nods and downs her drink. She takes me home and keeps me company while I pack, which isn’t much: some clean underwear in case I stay and the shaving cream and Tums he has been keeping at my house in case he tells me it really is over.

I drive to the ferry and wait, looking out over the sound. I stay in my car as the boat carries me over the dark waters and I am willing to be hurt. I am willing to not be in charge. I am willing to try and fail, because I can stand it now. I can.

I drive down the roads to where he lives. I park and get out and start up the path to his door at which point it occurs to me for the first time, What if he isn’t home?

“I’ll wait,” I think. 

Then, What if he isn’t alone?

I don’t care. Riskier to let fear decide.

He lives in a townhouse facing a huge courtyard that will one day be filled with mature trees- sixty-foot Pacific Dogwoods and Red Alders shading ferns and salal and snowberry. But for now, the trees are young, just over a year in the ground. It is dark, they are thin in the low light. Some died over the winter. Some are showing new leaves.

His porch is the third to last on the right.

Is there a light on? No. Not upstairs in his room. Not the kitchen light in the fron


But as I get closer, I can see a faint gold wash coming out of the door and as I turn onto his porch, I see him on his couch, in profile. This man. He is playing a video game.

I knock.

He turns his head, looks for a moment before he sees me. He rises and walks toward me, smiling a sideways smile but also shaking his head slightly.

I take a deep breath. This is messy, but it’s real.

He opens the door.