The Hornet's Nest Part II: This Shit Rules

The party’s over, a CD skipping, it’s the same song repeating, grows more grating with each passing second…and the walls retain a resonation, laughter and conversation, it was fun while it lasted, but now we should be going. I hope everybody’s had a really good time, the hospitality’s partaken, my head is flying, my hearts racing to keep up. I hope I haven’t overdone it, I hope my body can take it, I hope I make the occasion, it’s only this fucked up I start realizing all this living is just dying and if these are my friends, if this is my home, if this is how I spend my nights, how I communicate and demonstarate a love of life. My eyes roll into the back of my head and if these are the last words I ever said; NO, I’m not ready to die just yet.

I am in my hometown driving a gas guzzling Chevy Impala, and I’m kicking myself for leaving my coat in San Francisco. March in The City is a beautiful time when the sun starts to peek through the fog and San Franciscans don a multitude of oversized tortise shell sunglasses to shield them from spring. It is balmy and breezy, and in the day I can be seen in a mini skirt and flip flops dragging my laundry across the street, running into my neighbors and remarking on our great fortune—“Dude, it is fucking GORGEOUS today.” It is this time of year, despite our rent, our wages and cellphone bills that we take to the streets with our skin parched from winter to wage war on our hermit lifestyle and empty refrigerators. We sit on our rooftops and admire the view. We take every day as our own and languish in daylight beers on some patio at some bar well into the evening. Everyday seems like the first day of the rest of our lives.
In Seattle, it hailed this morning. Hailed.
Despite the weather, I have finally come out of the dregs of my hangover, managed to get some caffeine in my system, bought a new hoodie, and hightailed it up north just outside of city limits. Even in the hoodie, I’m fucking freezing. I can’t wait to get home.
I left early from Georgetown fearing the gridlock I-5 can turn into even in the early afternoon and that, as I always seem to, I would get lost. I was given very specific directions the night previous, but I’m still afraid they’ve fallen on deaf ears.

“Okay. So just…you know that one road off the freeway?”
“Whatever. Yeah. So then you go left on that street by the McDonalds, and a take a right before the Mexican Restaurant.” She’s gesticulating grandly as she explains, turning her hands this way and that, eyes rolled to the top as if she’s imagining how to get there.
“ Cool. 2-Oh-fifth to Ballinger Way to nineteenth-north-east. Gotcha.”
“Yeah, Whatever. Anyway, it’s all curvy and stuff, but you take that past the Safeway, and go left like…six blocks down.”
“Six exactly?” I’m getting worried.
“No, like…there’s the Safeway, and then there’s like…just houses? OH! That’s where the turn lane starts. Take the first left after that.”
“Yeah, and then you go for a while and it’s curvy, but it comes back around, and you go right where you see the Middle School.”
“What Middle School?”
“My old one.”
“On twenty-fifth?”
“Yeah, whatever. So just go past it, and then when you see it, park in the second parking lot. The Second Parking lot. I’ll see you and come over.”
“Cool. Will your boyfriend be there?” I’m smirking as I say this.
“Omigod. Whatever.”

I didn’t drive up here alone. In fact we started out in San Francisco as three on a warm sunny day, and after dropping Mary off in Portland, it was just Benny and I taking the three hour commute to Seattle that I had driven so many times in college.
“So how do you want to split up the driving?” Benny’s driven but a three hour leg so far, and feels bad about not contributing more.
“Nah, it’s cool, homes. I got it.”
“You sure?” He’s shocked.
“Dude, I used to do this drive up to three times a week. There and back. No big—in fact, I’m kind of looking forward to it again.”
“It’s fucking pouring balls out here. Can you even drive in this shit?” He was pointing out the inclement weather. It was raining fucking sideways. True story.
“Have you seen my fucking arm dude? I can drive in this shit. Proper.” I am of course pointing to the display of hometown pride tattooed around my left bicep; it’s the Seattle skyline.
“Good point.”

It is one-hundred-sixty-eight-miles from the Columbia river to the southern most limits of the city of Seattle, and I spent the three hours explaining to Benny how locals get around.
“Okay, so the city’s shaped like an hourglass, twelve miles long, and two miles wide in the middle with I-5 and 99 running north to south.”
“Uh, huh, and Ballard? Where my friend Megan lives?” He’s making ties between neighborhoods with nothing to bear any of it on. I’m trying to do my best.
“Yeah, that’s where I grew up. On north-west-sixty-fifth and eleventh-north-west.”
“Okay, so it’s in the Northwest part of the city?” He’s getting it.
“Yeah. North of the canal.”
“Okay, so Megan says she lives on fifty-eighth-street-north-west. Is that far from where you’re going tonight?”
“No, not at all. I’ll drop you off there and I’ll be right over the hill on Aurora and Winona, right off north-sixty-eighth. But Megan…she doesn’t live on fifty-eighth-street-north-west.” Now I’ve confused him.
“What? I mean, that’s just what she told me.”
“No I mean, she lives on north-west-fifty eighth. The directional modifier comes first so you know it’s a street. Streets all run east/west, avenues north/south; but we never say ‘street’ or ‘avenue’. You just know which one it is by where you put the north or south or southwest or whatever.”
“So that means?”
“That means that Megan lives on north-west-fifty-eighth and seventeenth-north-west.”
“Yeah. Okay, whatever. So the whole city is divided up into sections like that?”
“Well, yeah. Except for Downtown. There it’s just ‘fifth’ or ‘Pine’ or whatever.”
“So if you were Downtown, you would just be like…‘I’m on fifth-street’?” I laugh at this.
“Oh, hell no. First of all, you’d be on fifth-avenue, but you’d never say that. You’d just be like, ‘I’m on fifth and Pine’.”
Dude. Whatever.” He’s completely over my local’s jargon.
“And Benny?”
“You always say the street or the numbered road first. Always. Even if the address is on the avenue or the named road. You don’t want to sound like a tourist or something.”
“But I am a tourist.”
“Yeah, but you’re with me.
When Benny and I finally made it inside city limits, when Tukwilla and Boeing are behind us, when the freeway turns and reveals the rain laden outline of Downtown and even my own breath catches in my throat, he is beside me dumbfounded.
“Wow. This is beautiful.”

The next day I pick Benny up on east-twelfth and Columbia so we can get drinks at a restaurant my old friend Kyle manages now. I pull up, we hop in the Impala, head through China Town and Pioneer Square to arrive at that tricky spot between Downtown and Belltown. I park in the lot on First and Stewart.
“So this is Pike Place Market?” I laugh at this as well.
“Yeah, but we just call it ‘The Market’, kiddo.”
We walked in and the place is beautiful. Kyle greeted us in a suit and tie, eager to wrap his arms around me in the brotherly way he always has. I’m riddled with glee as I do the introductions.
“Kyle, this is my friend Benny from Lower Haight. Benny, this is Kyle. He dated my ex-girlfriend and then we worked together at the Circus.”
Kyle and I laugh at this. We have a solid but spotty history, if that makes any sense at all.
“Wow, Miranda,” Kyle steps back and pauses as he says this, “You look beautiful. Benny my man, you are lucky to have her down in San Francisco. You have no idea how much we miss this girl up here.”
I am speechless, but Benny takes the lead on this one.
“You have no idea how often I tell myself that exact sentiment.”
I can naught but smile at them both.
“You ever think about moving back home?” This is the same question Kyle always asks me.
“Allright, I won’t push it. Benny, where are you staying? At Lauren’s with Miranda?”
“No, at my friend Megan’s house on north-west-fifty-eighth and seventeenth-north-west.”
I am suddenly very proud.

That evening saw me down on Airport Way with my ex Woody, all curled up in a booth like no time had passed at all. This is the part where we pretend that I don’t live far away and that I love him very much. We are drinking local lager and shooting the shit as exes might, but more accurately like a couple might.
“How’s San Fran treating you?”
“It’s hard, like always. Not like here where there is so much time and ease and comfort. The City is kinetic and fast—I don’t get a lot of time like this, like…without my phone ringing and it’s work and there’s some problem with payroll, or like…you know, just hanging out with a couple of people. One person.”
“So you’re not seeing anyone?”
I decide not to tell him that there was a musician in my bed recently; that he left me for his ex-girlfriend that was visiting shortly. I don’t tell him because I am realizing that I am now that girl. Damnit, I hate that girl.
“Damn. San Francisco. I don’t think I could live there. Too expensive, you know? Too crazy for me.”
“Yeah, I hear you.”
“Well, that’s my girl, not scared of anything. Living in Downtown fucking Frisco, flying all over the country all the time. Damn girl, I don’t know how you do it sometimes.”
“I’m scared of some things.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Like bees.”
“That’s retarded.”
“Well, it’s true, kiddo.”
He shakes his head, and I can tell that he doesn’t believe me.
“You ever think about moving back home? We sure miss you here.” This is the same question Woody always asks me, and I am trying to imagine what it would be like; to be wrapped I his arms every night, to walk in the same bar every Friday hand in hand, to have him there to kill the bees that fly into our apartment. I can’t stand the idea of moving back here, but the notion of being adored is more tempting than most.

I-5 is fairly clear, but I’m still pushing my 2:30 deadline to follow the shady directions I was given and arrive at my destination; no turn-by-turns, just landmarks derived from the memory of someone who has never driven a car. She’s only fifteen, my niece that is. Her name is Alexis.
I get off at Highway 104, also known as two-oh-fifth, switch lanes. Right on Ballinger. Got it. Right on nineteenth-north-east, before the Mexican restauraunt. Done. It curves around, and by the time I reach the Safeway, I’m actually on fifteenth. Cool. There’s the turn lane and…oh, right. Left on north-east-one-sixty-eighth, that’s what it’s called. I follow this a ways as the arterial switches back, take a right, the Middle School looming on my right. Some houses and trees…and goddamnit, it’s 2:35 as I’m passing the first parking lot, and as I’m pulling into the second parking lot, the second parking lot, I’m realizing that I could have gotten here at least fifteen minutes earlier, three exits on the freeway sooner, two turns and I would have been early.
I park the car, turn off the blaring punk rock and remove the key from the ignition. One Chuck Taylor and then two hit the pavement, and I am crossing the asphalt locking the car with the electronic key lock over my shoulder. The Impala beeps twice and a group of young hipsters are eyeing me with jaws dropped to the ground, glancing first at my tattoos to my car and back, and when I finally spot Alexis coming down the stairs with her backpack and long legs and gait and stature exactly like mine I realize why they stare. They think I am one of them. A student here at Shorecrest High. I am suddenly adored, and yet I realize that the sacrifice of being cool is that to be so, people must assume I’m ten years younger than I am. Huh.
“Hey! Auntie Ran!” This is what my nieces and nephews call me, and she is yelling to me from across the way.
“What’s up, kiddo. Where’s your boyfriend?”
Kiddo?” She’s totally disgusted at this.
“Hey, I call everyone kiddo.”
“No you don’t.”
“True story. Swear to god.”
“Kay. Whatever. What the hell were you listening to when you pulled in here? I could hear you at the front of the school.”
“It’s a song called This Shit Rules. Sorry, I was doing a little bit of what I like to call Rocking Out.
She’s laughing at me, but I have something else on my mind, and dare to ask the question.
“Where is he?” I have heard a lot about her boyfriend.
“Over there in the red sweatshirt. Come on, let’s leave.”
“Dude, What? I would let you meet my boyfriend if it were me.”
“Fine, you’re lucky I like you.”
Near the front door there is a bevy of pubescent boys huddled and making plans and high-fiving each other. The boy in the red sweatshirt is among them, laughing and carousing like a boy his age might. He turns and sees us approaching, and he has these big blue eyes that turn electric when he sees Alexis return. I am reminded of the way Woody looks at me.
“Lexi, I thought you left.” He’s looking at me sideways.
“Hey Nick, this is my Aunt Miranda.”
“This is your Aunt?”
“Sup. I’m Miranda. Good to meet you.” I feel terrible for this kid as I say this, as he’s shifting in his tennis, clearly worried to be overly affectionate to my little Niece for fear of my dissaproval. Poor thing. You should see him though; he’s adorable in his discontent.
We go to a little coffee shop just off campus, and when we get there, Nick is already there with a bunch of their friends.
“Oh, Nicks here.” I spot his red sweatshirt and blue eyes from the rest of the crowd.
“Yeah, whatever. It’s cool.”
“Aren’t you gonna say hi?”
“Dude, whatever. I’ll say hi later.”
An Americano and some sugary caramel monstrosity later, were sitting at a little table by the wall, and we are conversing as I do with all of my girlfriends, except we are only using the word ‘fuck’ in the expletive form. C’mon, she’s fifteen.
“So, This one time?” She is explaining to me about the time her and Nick broke up. “I get to school this one time and Nick walks right past me. And then my friend Amanda is all like ‘omigod, is Nick not talking to you?’ and I was thinking like, omigod, what the hell is going on.
“Yeah, and then what? Wait…what the hell?”
The story slowly unfolds past first period, second period, past text messages shooting between several hundred teenage cellphones under desks in classrooms all over campus. Finally, her friend Forrest had to pick her up, throw her over his shoulder and set her down in front of Nick during lunch.
“So then Nick was like, ‘talk to me’ and I was like…’No’.”
“What? Why wouldn’t you talk to him?” Even though this whole event is far in the past, I can see my own determination in her furrowed brow that looks just like my own and her fathers.
Because I had nothing to fucking say to him.
And there it is. All of my own isolationist bullshit wrapped into one little sentence from the mouths of babes. I wish I could tell her everything that I have done and witnessed and experienced from the same mentality, and yet from the way she brags about it, I know it would only further her cause, add more fuel to the fire for marginalizing people that care about her.
“So he finally called you?” The story had convulsed through another fifteen minutes, and we are at the part where it’s after school.
“Yeah, and he was like ‘omigod, I’m so in love with you and you can’t leave me’ and all of this stuff like that.”
“What?” She honestly doesn’t know.
“He’s in love with you?”
“And do you love him?” She pauses for a long moment before answering.
“I don’t know.”

The night before, Woody walked me to my car after our public display of couple-dom, after our domestic lagers and catching up, and after I unlocked the car and the Impala beeped twice, I turned and threw my arms around him.
“So, you gonna go meet the boys at the Duck?”
“Yup. I’m sorry, I have to.”
“But you’ll be over later?”
“Of course I will. I’ll call at bar time. Answer your phone.
He promises me he will, and I am off, and twenty minutes later I’m at my favorite bar on Aurora and Winona, and I am surrounded by people that love and miss me, and I am adored. I love being adored.

I am telling this story to Alexis.
“Yeah, so then one beer turns to two, and bar time turns to after hours, and I finally call Woody right before three.”
In the morning?” She’s wide eyed at the prospect of this.
“Yeah in the morning. And guess what? He doesn’t answer his phone.
“No fucking way. But he promised, right?”
“Right. But whatever I mean, he loves me but…”
“What?” I honestly don’t know what.
“He’s in love with you?”
“And do you love him?” I pause for a minute before answering.
“I don’t know.”
“Hey, Auntie Ran? Do you ever think about moving back here?”
“No.” This time, I’m quick to answer.
“But why?” Wow, no one ever asks me this.

I realize what I’ve missed. I see her face so much like mine and her hips that swing like mine when I’m hopping off a curb, and the offhandedness with which she treats her boyfriend who is still across the room from us. I realize that my nomad lifestyle and selfish search for god-knows-what has left me unable to watch her grow up, and I’ll never get that back. I know it. I can’t even try to regain it as my siblings have tried with me for I see in her the same will and drive that I myself have, and in it I see no room for apologies. No room for making anything up to her.
And then there’s San Francisco, where the freneticism is tangible, where every first of every month is a trial, where fear and fearlessness go hand in hand, where triumph comes only with struggle, where the hills dip into the valleys and back up and on to the Pacific ocean and where nobody fucking loves you and yet a day spent not living is a day you’re just ready to die.

“Auntie Ran?”
“Why won’t you move home?”
“I guess because I’m not ready to die just yet.”

A couple hours later I’m at Sea-Tac, and then I am on a plane, and then I am on a little bus that takes me to the BART station. I call Benny.

“Hey, Benny. I made it home. You still in Seattle, or have you made it to Vancouver yet?”
“Nope, I’m in Seattle at a bar on north-west-sixty-fifth and sixth-north-west.”
I am so proud.
“The Tin Hat? Omigod, I love that place.”
“Yeah, but they just call it ‘The Hat’.”
“Nice. Have fun tonight.”
“Hey Miranda?”
“Yeah Benny?”
You glad to be home?” I don’t pause at all. Not even for an instant.
“I’m so glad to be home.”
“Benny, I love it here.

Of this, I am sure.

[On a side note, Woody’s name is actually Alexis, because he’s half Russian. Woody is his middle name. As fitting as this may be, I have not yet found the appropriate way to enter this fact into this story. I only see it fitting if I cut Kyle completely, as I wouldn’t want to push this more than fifteen hundred words more, a thousand of which I've already conceived but need to sleep on. It's almost five, dude. The Hornet’s Nest: Part I did get re-written, although I won’t post it. No need. The story is basically the same, just better now. I know I never post pieces this long anymore, but I feel it important for the afore mentioned to be able to read this, specifically in this way that it initially came out of my head. Especially Alexis. Myricks, not Lopez. –M]

1 comment:

Sam said...

I miss you. I think more than that I miss US.
And, other than that, I don't know what to say.