Before I even started

working on my recently completed manuscript “The Book of Kelly,” eight years ago, I started reading memoirs like they were going out of style. I couldn’t explain it. I read “Liars Club,” by Mary Karr, as well as “Cherry” and “Lit” (just to name a few). I just knew that like reality tv shows, which I also watched obsessively, there was a draw to reading them. When I started writing, it made complete sense that I was reading memoir like a maniac and subconsciously doing something to help move the writing process along.

Flash forward to last year, after my break up with my ex, I needed something to really focus my energy on – so I did something that I had been thinking about doing for years: buying a rental property.  I threw myself into working with my accountant to get my taxes together, finding a mortgage broker and a realtor team, to help make locate a rental property. I spent six weeks aggressively looking at properties and making offers that fell through or I was outbid. I finally found a property, bid on it and won.

After the homebuying process was over, I had some renovations to do around the property, so I found someone to work on ripping out old carpet, taking wallpaper out of a bedroom, painting and taking down an oddly constructed room in the garage that the previous owner had built.  I also had to interview and locate a property management company since I didn’t want to handle the day-to-day operations of a rental.  From start to finish, I spent five and a half months working on the project.  I loved every minute of it and decided to start planning on buying a second rental (in due time).

I took a minute to breath and then was off to Portugal for a few weeks.  When I came back from Portugal, something changed: I didn’t feel like I had to take on another giant project.  Buying the rental property had served a purpose and filled a need.

My job got very busy and I placed a bunch of clients into jobs right before summer began.  I took some time off from my writing workshop group where every week like church, I brought seven pages, read them aloud and received feedback on my writing. I was off and running, making sure my clients had everything in place: work uniforms, schedules, knew their job duties, how to clock-in to the time clock, etc. Once again, there was something to fill the void even though I was learning to live without it being filled.

I found an outdoor patio set around the fourth of July for half price.  I purchased it and spent the holiday weekend reading on my new outdoor sofa. My cats came outside with me and we spent the sunny afternoons reading and laying around.  Work slowed down a little bit and once again there was some room to just relax.  The rest of the summer was like that: reading, riding my bike, and going to Powells or Broadway books to buy books.    Sometimes I read 2 or 3 in a week.  I started reading historical comic books and graphic memoirs.  I read personal essay collections that were sort of like memoirs. I didn’t want the summer to end: it was the first time in a long time when I was just relaxed.  I didn’t run around trying to “do.”  I blended into the sofa cushion.

I went to Maine with my mom and stopped in bookstores in Portland and Freeport. I purchased 4 or 5 memoirs at a time. I continued reading at our airbnb’s or VRBO’s. I took a side trip to Boston and stopped at the Harvard Co-op in Cambridge and bought more books. I read in my hotel room after walking 10 miles around Boston.

While I was reading voraciously, I felt something changing – happening – within me. “I think I’m getting ready to write a follow – up to the completed manuscript but I don’t know what shape it will take or even what I’ll write about.” That thought kept running through my head.  I told my mom about it on our trip.  I told friends that I visited in Rockland, Maine about it. I told my maternal cousins about it during a mini-family gathering in Massachusetts. “I don’t know what the manuscript is going to be about yet, but I know it’s brewing,”  I told them.

I came back from my New England trip and threw myself begrudgingly into a licensing certification for my job. I thought about buying another rental property. I started thinking about anything but that stupid, boring certification. I put buying more rental property on the back burner.  I read some more in my downtime.

With the certification almost done I went back to the east coast – this time to New York to see friends. I went to Greenlight Books in Greenpoint, the Strand in lower Manhattan, Shakespeare and Co in mid-town, and McNally Rand in Williamsburg. I read six books in two weeks – mostly sitting on park benches in Riverside Park, Fort Greene, and Central Park for hours at a time.  My outdoor sofa set not available, I settled on park benches.  I watched the leaves change, runners, bikers and kids with families. I checked my phone, but mostly I read. This time, I found myself reading mostly, personal essay collections.

I had a lightbulb moment and decided I probably would be working on a personal essay collection as a follow-up to my completed manuscript. I came back from all the park benches in New York and re-joined my writers group – this time, I brought personal essays.  All seven pages of them, like clock work.

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Alien travel


I arrive at Pdx and try to check in. I have everything ready: my carry on, checked bag and passport that doesn’t expire for 2 years. First I’ll fly to Los Angeles and then onward to Sydney.  The Delta agent tells me I need to have a visa. I silently freak out in my head and the muscles on my face are loose from fatigue. I find a seat near the check in counter and submit an 18 page visa application on my phone that I didn’t know I needed to submit. I check my inbox over and over and over for results. My flight to Sydney is in 6 hours and I don’t know what I will do if it’s not approved.  I go through security.

PDX is deserted and I find a seat in concourse d in a nearly empty seating area.  A bunch of young workers plop down twenty feet from me.  Annoying people flock to me like shit. A workers radio squeals and echoes as they laugh. I decide it’s time to move.  I move away to another deserted area near the Starbucks. It’s quiet.

On the plane from Pdx to Los Angeles I pay 8 bazillion dollars for shitty WIFI.  My approval is granted for the visa.  I’m relieved and scared at the same time. I’m not as scared as when I went to Stockholm by myself on my first international flight a few years ago that scared me. On the flight from JFK to Stockholm I sat next to a woman from Quebec City who was super friendly and told me where to go in Stockholm. We chatted for a few hours and in the middle of the night a Middle Aged man shushed us.

When I travel I feel like an alien on a space ship. Time is warped. There are generally airplanes everywhere and radios and cars driving on the Tarmac. Years ago my sister and I travelled to Korea.  When we landed in Seoul it felt completely bizarre seeing planes that looked familiar but had different logos. It was hot and humid when we got off the plane. Sweat ran down my leg while my sister and stood in line at customs.

The flight to Sydney is 13.5 hours and I barely sleep. Maybe 20 minutes. We land and I’m a hot sweaty mess in customs just like in Korea. Yoga pants, long sleeve shirt and plaid flannel over my shirt – too many layers. It’s long lines for customs and me nervous that somehow my visa wasn’t processed correctly.  It’s fine.  My passport is stamped and it’s off I go to pick up my luggage.

A drug sniffing dog inspects my bags before I leave the terminal.  It’s a black lab and responds to treats.  I want to pet it but I know I can’t just like the dogs that assist my blind clients.

I find my way to my Airbnb with out getting lost on the train and 10 minutes of walking. The airbnb is 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and common area. It’s nice but not fancy. I set my stuff down and realize there are two dogs in the backyard waiting for me to let them in. They are bichon frises and the boy dog is bigger with blue collar. The girl dog is smaller and a little more high strung with pink collar.  I let them in and I’m down on the ground playing.  They wiggle between me and my legs and wind their way around my back.
“You guys stink,” they both have brown hot spots on their backs and paws.  I sniff the brown spots but realize it’s me that stinks after 28 hours of traveling.  I shower and collapse into bed for a 3 hour nap.

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Writing luxuries

I’ve been feeling a bit lost with my writing. I need to pitch my work in progress, The Book of Kelly, to more agents but at the same time I feel called to work on the follow up untitled manuscript. I sent my query letter off to a well respected query letter editor and she sent back some changes. I’m excited to carve out some time to attack it and resend to more agents.

Being stuck is a luxury problem especially at this point in the game. I’ve spent years balancing writing it and working my paid job but I’m also ready for it to bring in some dividends.

I might be looking into an MFA program as well in creative writing. I don’t really need the degree but I feel like it’s something I would like to have. I also think it might help me with the follow up manuscript. I’ve been in workshop groups fairly solidly since 2010 but I also feel pulled in another direction. Part of me feels like I’m ready to move beyond them.

There’s a lot up in the air right now.

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Extra strong

On vacation in Manzanita you go to sleep before everyone else at 9 Pm. Your sister and brother in law watch a movie. You hear the sounds from the tv before you fall asleep. You wake up at 5:45 am and the house is quiet. You make coffee, just like at home and make it extra strong.

Like jet fuel your ex always said. Your coffee tastes like jet fuel.

You hover over tax deductions at your computer so you can get your taxes done and work on purchasing a second rental property in September. You yawn and drink a second, third and start on a fourth but never finish it cup of coffee.

Taxes done you start in on the book you bought 17 hours ago. You are 167 pages into it. Even on vacation you achieve.

This inner drive to achieve has been there since you started your business in 2005. You never wanted to work for anyone but yourself so you work and work and work do you don’t have to work at a corporation or small business that’s not yours.

But it’s more than that.

You need to be the best at whatever you do-read the most books, write best manuscript, place the most clients. The voice in your head tells you that even if you are tired.

Your six year old niece wakes up and comes into your room.

“Good morning!” She announces in her pink nightgown with what you think are eyes and long eyelashes all over it.

You don’t care about make up to succeed. That’s the stuff of marketing and getting insecure women to buy make up to feel good about themselves.

Last week in the mail a doctor that advertises face lifts on the radio sent you a piece of mail about tummy tucks. You got your black Sharpy out and wrote “fuck your fascist beauty standards,” crossed your name and address off and wrote return to sender on it.

On the way to your first client you dropped it in the mailbox anonymously at your local post office.

Your niece doesn’t care about my accomplishments. She wants to beat you at candy land.

“Cheaters never win,” I say in a sing song voice while she “shuffles the cards” in secret. Somehow Queen Frostina is always the card she seems to draw.

I let her win.

I’ve resigned myself to not being the winner in board or card games. I get to be human for a change.


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The things I overlooked

I’m about to hand off another finished (and hopefully….hopefully) final draft to my editor in a week or so. This morning I dug out what might be the follow up manuscript. It’s 330 pages of mostly material about dating. I haven’t opened it in nearly two years. I remembered it as not that great but in actuality it’s not terrible. It’s workable. Case in point-this excerpt:

I went on a date with a guy from Tinder.  Alex.  He was 7 or 8 years older, 6’4, a little heavy set but cute.  He owned a bike shop in N. Portland.  I didn’t know what to do with myself after Brandon broke up with me.  I was sad and trying to move on.  Dating seemed to be the next course of action to get over my sadness.

We met at Hungry Heart for coffee and a walk around Montavilla.  I got there early and ordered an Americano and an apricot scone.  I was nervous and paced around the tiny shop.  I grabbed a lid for when my Americano came up on the counter.  I found a Portland Mercury.  I was back to this internet dating again. Meeting some dude from Tinder or OkCupid at a coffee shop for a date that I was hoping would lead somewhere but didn’t really know.  Not one of my many dates had ever worked from Internet dating. I set the Portland Mercury on a table and flipped through the pages.  I looked around to see if I recognized him walking up.

“Small Americano to go,” the barista shouted.

“Thank you,” I walked up to the counter.

“Kelly?” Someone said from behind me.

I turned around.  It was Alex.

“Oh hi,” I held the cup in my hands.

“I’m Alex,” he reached his hand out.  “I’m going to get a latte.  Be right back.”

“Ok,” I walked back over to the Mercury and flipped through the pages.  I looked through it but I couldn’t tell you what I saw. I was too nervous.

Alex and I walked around Montavilla and I tried to focus on him because he was the new frontier.  Brandon didn’t want to be with me anymore.  It was time to move on.

“I was always the fat kid growing up,” Alex took a sip of his latte.

“Oh really?” I wondered if Brandon would see me with Alex?  I looked for his green hamster car.  His Surly bike.

“I have type I diabetes now as a result of not having good diet when I was a kid,”

“Oh what do you have to do to manage that?” I liked learning about new disabilities since it was what I did for my day job; except I worked mostly with adults with cognitive disabilities and autism.

“I have to watch what I eat and check my blood sugar a few times a day,”

Could I live with someone with type I diabetes?  Yes.  I was adaptable.  This wasn’t going to be difficult.  I had learned to deal with Brandon and his chronic lateness.  I was flexible. That’s what dating had taught me: I can adapt.  I may think I can’t but I can.

It was a nice day and we found a garage sale. He found an old board game for $1.

“We should hang out again,” he said at the end.

“Definitely,” I said. “I’ll text you.”

Alex and I met a few days later at Roost on Belmont Street.  When I got there he was about halfway through a bourbon on the rocks.  I knew the smell and color of bourbon even if I hadn’t had a drink in 15 years. Alex seemed distracted and focused on the menu instead of me.  Our server came up to the table.

“Would you like anything to drink?” He asked me.

Alex drained the bourbon.

“I’m fine with water,” I tried not to be distracted by his focus on the bourbon and not me.

“I’ll take a second bourbon on the rocks,” he set the glass down and the ice clinked.

“How was your day?”  I had only been there a few minutes and already he was on his second drink.

I ignored it.

“Oh it was alright,” he seemed bored now.  “It’s just still really slow right now.  Give it a few more weeks and it will be crazy.  The bike repair business is so seasonal.”

“It’s hard when it’s so slow, right?”

“Yeah.  I should come up with a marketing plan to bring more business in but I just don’t have the drive anymore.  It’s different when your business has been around for 17 years.”

My business didn’t really have slow or busy times.  There was always work to be had and I didn’t have to do marketing anymore. People just knew me and sent clients my way.  If anything I had too many clients.  It had been like that for years.  I liked staying busy and the fear of work running out as a self employed person was always lurking in the background.  I never turned down clients fearing they were going to be my last.

The waiter brought me a water and Alex his bourbon on the rocks.

“What looks good to you?” He took a sip of the bourbon.  The ice clinked in the glass again.

“I think I’m going to get the steak and fries,” I loved steak and fries. I didn’t cook at home but if a restaurant had them on the menu I was sure as hell gonna order it.

“I’m going to get the pork chop,” he took another sip of the bourbon.  Actually, no, he took a big swallow.

The waiter came back and took our order.

“Oh I’m getting a little bit shaky and tired,” he picked the boubon up and then back down. “Hold on.  I need to give myself some insulin.”

“Ok,” I didn’t know what was happening.  He seemed to have it under control.

He fidgeted with a little black bag on the chair next to him.  The restaurant was busy but not terribly so.  I looked around.  The waiters didn’t seem to notice him sticking a needle in a glass bottle and turning it upside down.  I did.  I wondered why he was doing it at the table and not excusing himself to go the bathroom.  The people at neighboring tables didn’t seem to notice.

He lifted his shirt up a little bit and I looked away.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the needle.  It was going into his abdomen.  I couldn’t watch myself getting a shot or other people.  It was too traumatic.

“Ok,” he put his shirt down.  “I should be better in a few minutes here.”

“What does it feel like when you go into shock?” I was genuinely curious again.  I wanted to know since I worked with people with autism and not diabetes.

“It just makes me feel really tired,” he put the glass bottle and needle back in the black case and zipped them up.

Our food came, he finished his second bourbon shortly after and paid for dinner.  Even though he had stabbed himself with a needle that didn’t stop me from wanting a connection with him. I was willing to overlook it if he was going to help me get over Brandon.  The loss of another doomed relationship.  It was just another thing I was willing to overlook.  I could roll with the punches and date someone diabetic.  I could learn something along the way.

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Shifting into high gear

It was a sunny Monday night in late June and I was riding my new Rivendell bike over Mount Tabor.  I had been thinking of buying a Rivendell for years.  Brandon, my ex-boyfriend, had introduced me to the owner of the local Rivendell shop when we first started dating years ago.  They were the anti-bike bike. I had been riding a small, used compact racing bike for years.  I loved that bike but I wanted a second one that was more of a relaxed, about town bike.My new Rivendell was large.  I sat up tall on it.  I was in my blue floral, Uniqlo drapey pants that I loved. I ordered multiple pairs online because at $15 a pair they were a steal.  The closest Uniqlo was in Seattle and I always made pilgrimages to find them if I was traveling: NYC had several, so did Lisbon where I bought some on my most recent trip abroad.After working a long day with back to back clients and being stuck in my car aka coffin I was out just for a leisurely ride.  I shifted into the lower gears to make it up the hills on Tabor. There were people on Tabor taking evening walks, going to the dog park and sitting out on the park lawns getting ready to watch the sunset.  I broke a sweat.  I liked overcoming obstacles, even in my off time.I got to the top of Tabor and shifted into higher gears.  The hard part was over and I was starting to head down hill.  I noticed a red truck behind me. I took the lane because I wanted space going down the hill.  If I crashed for some reason I wanted a large berth.  The wind made my drapey, Uniqlo pants blow in the breeze.  I looked back and the red truck was following me close.“Fuck off!”  I yelled. I turned a corner and was picking up speed.The car revved its engine.  It was getting closer to me.The driver was trying to hit me.A woman with brown hair and glasses was walking on the side of the shared road space and started waving her arms above her head.  My heart was racing.  The driver ignored her.  He was nuts.  She stepped out to block him.“Stop! Stop!” she said and threw herself on the hood of his car.I turned my head and the driver had stopped the car and got out.  There was a blur of sandy brown hair and he wanted to chase me down.I kept biking.Other people started yelling.I had to get away from this crazy pants. I bombed down Lincoln street and thought back to when Brandon and I had just started dating. We had just left his house to go on a bike ride somewhere. A car drove too close to me.“Fuck you!” I yelled“Kelly! You can’t just yell at cars,” his face scrunched up.“Yes I can. I yell at them all the time,” I liked using my voice to make myself known.“No. You can’t. Don’t you understand? You have to think about me now,” he raised his voice. “You’re placing me in an uncomfortable position where I have to defend you. I don’t really want to have to do that.” The red truck was nowhere in sight. I came to a stop at 60th and there were no cars.  I kept peddling.  My heart was racing. Maybe I should turn down one of these side streets so he can’t find me?  No.  It will be fine.  He won’t find me.  I kept going down Lincoln Street.  Cyclists rode past me.  They didn’t know what I had just gone through.  I wanted to yell and warn them that there was a crazy pants trying to hit cyclists.  I thought about Brandon and our interaction with the driver. Brandon had had a point.“You don’t need to protect me. I can protect myself,” I remembered telling him.  I always took care of myself.“It doesn’t work that way,” he said back.“Dude. It’s fine.” It started to rain.“Kelly,” he stopped. “I don’t want to have to break up a fight between you and a driver.”“You won’t have to do that.” I gave up because arguing was pointless with him.  It led to nowhere.  Hours and hours of wasted time.A psychic had told me I was a loner in this lifetime.  I had told Brandon my deepest, darkest secrets but I never told him about what the psychic said. I thought I had gotten rid of the driver and his red truck.  I was bombing down a small hill and turned to look back.  There was the red truck.  I jumped up on the sidewalk with my bike. I grabbed my cell phone and started calling 911.“Get the license plate!” I heard from somewhere.I stepped out into the street with my bike
“KLG 212,” I yelled out with the phone pressed to my ear.
“Got it!” The male voice said back.The driver parked his car and slammed his door.  He stormed over to me. I got back on the sidewalk with my bike.  It was between me and him.“You can’t take the full lane!” His face was red, sweaty and he had large pores.He wanted to punch me.“Yes I can!” I took a step back.The driver spat and lunged at me. Someone started yelling.  It was the same voice that wanted the license plate numbers.  I took a step back and let the Rivendell fall against my calves.  A peddle hit my foot.The driver got back in his car and drove away. A guy with dark brown hair and navy shorts came running out from his house.I took my helmet off and threw it a few feet. My adrenaline running I picked up my bike and felt myself shaking.“911 what’s your emergency?”“I’ve just been assaulted,” I shouted at the dispatcher and picked the bike up off the ground. The paint was chipped.“Did you get the license plate?”
“Yes. KLG 212,” I said slowly, my voice still raised.
“What did the driver look like?”
“Sandy brown hair, late 40’s.” I remembered the pores, the red and sweat on his face.The guy with the dark brown hair was standing next to me.”I can be your witness.”I nodded at him.I told the dispatcher what happened on Mt. Tabor, the woman who threw herself at the car and this crazy pants who hunted me down and wanted to hurt me.”Do you want to press charges?” The dispatcher asked me.”I don’t know,” I didn’t know what to do. I needed to collect myself and calm down before making any decisions.”Well, if you do just give us a call back.””Ok,” I hung up the phone. “Are you ok?” The guy with dark brown hair and shorts asked.“Yes,” I started crying full on. “That guy chased me down all the way from Mt. Tabor,” I wiped the tears from my eyes.“That guy was unhinged,” the guy with dark brown hair and shorts said. “My name is David. Do you want to come sit down on my porch for a little bit?”I hesitated.“Maybe just for a minute,” I pulled myself together for a second. “This is so embarrassing.”“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. That guy was nuts.”“He looked like he wanted to hit me.”David carried my bike up the stairs that led to his porch. The house was three stories with a wooden swinging door.“That guy was a coward if he wanted to hit a woman,” he set my bike up against something. “I’m happy to be a witness if you decide to press charges against that guy.”“I’m Kelly,” I pushed my hair out of my face.  I was sweaty and knew my face was red. I thought about Brandon and the incident with the driver a few years ago.  “You just get so angry.  You’re a very angry person.”  He had said.  I hated when he said that.  It had a ring of truth to it but I didn’t like him pointing it out in me. “My wife and I are just making dinner and you’re welcome to sit on our porch as as long as you want,” David said.“Ok,” I held my helmet and sat down on a wooden chaise lounge.  It looked expensive.“You wouldn’t believe the stuff we see on this street,” David said.“Would you like a glass of water?” A woman came out the front door wiping her hands on a dish towel.“I think I’m ok,” the adrenaline was slowing down but I knew I was still in shock and didn’t want to bother these complete strangers.“My name is Jennifer,” she held out her hand.“I’m Kelly,” I shook her hand and got up off the expensive looking wooden chaise.“Do you want to come inside and use our bathroom?” Jennifer said.“Maybe? If it’s not too much trouble?” I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I wasn’t ready to get back on my bike yet.“No trouble at all! Come on in,” she said.“Ok,” I didn’t know what to say.  The adrenaline was making me pump out pat phrases.  We walked through the dining room.  There was a dark wood built in and the table was set with placemats, dinner plates and silverware.“We’re just making dinner and getting ready to watch Queer Eye.  You’re welcome to join us.”“That guy spat in my face,” we walked into a light and airy kitchen with subway tiles for back splash.“What? Oh my god!” She stopped in front of an island where she had cilantro, spices and tofu out.“Yeah, isn’t that crazy?”“Here use our bathroom.  It’s right over here,” she showed me to a bathroom but it didn’t have a mirror.  I wanted to use a mirror to see where the spit was so I could get it off of me.She showed up a few seconds later with baby wipes.“I might just use these.”  I took two out and wiped my face and neck down.  “I don’t think I’ll be telling any drivers to fuck off anytime soon.”“Well, to go to that level of crazy isn’t normal,” Jennifer said.“I know.”  I tossed the wipes in the trash, made it home by bike and called the police back later that night.The crazy pants driver was arrested and spent the night in jail.  I took care of myself with the help of a few kind strangers.

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New fiction

Long Beach

You and Brandon have been together 10 months.  You have seen so much of the world you but want to see it with him. All 6’2, New York/Boston hybrid accent, Italian, brown eyes and salt and pepper hair of him.

Brandon’s sister has a condo a block from the beach in Long Beach, NY. He wants to go in July when the Atlantic is warm enough to swim in.  You know nothing of swimming in the ocean: in Oregon the water is always freezing and the only people who go in are surfers with full wet suits.

At PDX on the way to JFK you and Brandon go through security fast.  20 years have passed since he’s been on a plane.  You flew to Japan and Korea alone two months ago and Boston before that.  You know exactly what to do.  You try to go slow.  He moves at Brandon pace.  It drives you bonkers.

He touches his fanny pack.

“Did I pack my phone in here?”

“Yes,” you say irritated.

In your checked luggage you pack “Kelly soap” for your friend Tanya’s five-year-old daughter Fable.  It’s coconut soap that you have been giving to her since she was a baby.

The two of you walk together to your gate with the fancy bike backpacks you purchased at the specialty bike store on Hawthorne.  You have the same model except his is brown and yours blue.  You set your stuff next to him at a seat at the gate.  When you come out of the bathroom he is standing in front of the restroom entrance with your blue backpack.

“My laptop,” his voice cracks.  “I think I left it at security.” He shoves your blue backpack into your hands.

“Ok.” You are intentionally calm.  “Let’s walk back.  It will still be there.”

“I need to go find it.” He runs away from you.

You walk fast.  In the distance you can see him at the TSA security kiosk.  When you catch up with him he is in front of the grey bins stacked high at the end of the belts.  He goes through all bins with a TSA agent and finds it at the bottom of one of the stacks.   You knew it would be there.

“If you had just slowed down and not gone through security so fast this wouldn’t have happened,” he tells you in front of the TSA agent. You are embarrassed but know he will get better after you have travelled through more airports together.

His sister, Nikki, picks you up at the airport.  She drives the two of you to her condo to meet her husband, Billy.  He doesn’t seem very bright.  Theirs was a rushed marriage.  Brandon didn’t attend the wedding because he knew it would be a train wreck.  All four of you change into swim suits.  You walk to the boardwalk and out onto the beach.

You swim six, seven, eight feet out to the waves.  He shows you how to jump when the waves roll in so you won’t get smacked in the face with water.  He holds onto you as the warm ocean moves around you. The sun bounces off the water and gives you a sunburn. You don’t care.  You are in love.  You stare into his eyes.

Planes fly by overheard.  Long Beach is on the flight path to JFK.

“United.” You point up.  “Ryan Air.  That’s a discount Irish chain.”

“How can you tell from so far away?”  He is impressed.

You just know.

After the beach the four of you walk to the Shake Shack.  You’ve been to a few Shake Shacks in other locations because they have good burgers and shakes. You walk back to the condo.  Nikki and Billy walk a few feet behind you and bicker.  Brandon doesn’t like the Shake Shack because it’s not organic.  Or vegan.  Or healthy.

Both of you take the Long Island Railroad to Brooklyn and spend a few days exploring and meeting up with your friends.  He doesn’t know anybody but you have a lot of friends in Manhattan and Brooklyn because you went to college upstate.  You meet Tanya and Fable, at an Italian place in Cobble Hill.  You give Fable the Kelly soap and she ignores it.  Even though Fable has just met Brandon she jumps on him and loves him instantly. All four of you walk to get ice cream after dinner and Fable rides on his shoulders.

Your friends become his friends.

You come to back to Oregon from Long Beach and return to work and heat and more heat.  He tells you about Broughton Beach on the Columbia: you can bike there.  On a 100-degree day he packs a cooler full of beer for him.  You pack raspberries and blueberries for both of you.  You fill your water bottles with ice and water.

You bike the 205 and Marine Drive bike trails and hot and sweat drips from everywhere: shorts, neck, pits and under your helmet.  Almost into your eyes.  You find a spot away from Broughton Beach where there are only a few people.  You walk down from the trail with your bikes.  He finagles a way to stand your bikes up side by side in the sand.  You set your towels down and there are planes overhead.

“That’s a Delta plane,” you say. There was blue on the underbelly.

Another flew by.


You walk into the water and the slimy sand sinks under your feet. He is ahead of you.  You watch your bikes and phones from the water.  It is hot and you sink into the water even though it’s cold.

You hold onto him as the waves lap quietly around you.  There are goose bumps on your arms. A motor boat goes by and makes bigger waves.

“Look at Mt. Hood.”  He turns you toward the 205 bridge.  It is dirty snow and grey set in the orange sky.  “We should rent a cabin there next winter,” he says.

“Sure,” you say to not stir the pot.  Fuck Oregon.  You’ve seen that mountain 19 million times. You want to see the world.

He doesn’t want to see the world.  He doesn’t like it when you go to D.C. for the Women’s March, Atlanta to visit your cousin and to upstate NY for your college reunion.  You have long drawn out conversations and fight over the phone in every city you visit.

You’ve had enough.  In upstate NY you force his hand and tell him to break up with you.

A few weeks passed and you were back in Brooklyn near Atlantic Terminal.  You stayed with Tanya and Fable.  You brought the Kelly soap and Fable grabbed it out of your hands when you first arrived.  She didn’t mention Brandon.  You forgot your walking shoes in Portland and had to buy a pair of Nike Air shoes at Modell’s. You walked back across the street and found an empty seat in front of Barclays center.

The sun was starting to set.  There was a Shake Shack.  You squinted at the outside seats. It was dark and shady and you could barely see the tables.

You tied your new shoes and walked away.

Planes flew by overhead.

WOW airline.

Open Skies airline.

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