Rumors Part Two: Eight Years.

When I lived in San Francisco I flew up the coast, as I often did, for a few days. I was staying in Georgetown, and the morning after I flew into Seattle I woke early and showered and drove my rental car downtown in enough time to arrive promptly at the correct counter on the correct floor in the correct building by 9:00 am. When it was my turn in line I presented all the correct forms that were correctly filled out, three forms of ID, and $135. It was all quickly collected, copied, and returned to me minus the money. I was given a slip of paper that directed me to return at 3:00.

That afternoon, after having lunch with my then very favorite ex, Mark Huntsman, I returned to the very same floor of the very same building. There were others there for the same reason as I, and we were shuffled into a room in the back where I sat for a long while. When my name was called I stood, answered "no" to a simple question, and was handed a couple of forms. I went back to the counter I had arrived at in the morning, presented these new forms to the clerk, signed my name three times, and was given three official copies of the order that I had requested bearing the official seal of King County. I turned to leave and checked my phone: It was 5:00.

It had taken me eight hours to change my name.

That night I met some of my North Seattle crew at The Duck. Jeremiah was working, and my little brother's ex-fiance was there with my ex-boyfriends' ex-girlfriend, and Peter Smith and Jen and maybe Rice was there or something, I don't exactly remember. But it's all so weird to me because I thought I remembered everything: I remember where I had lunch that day and what I ate, I remember the color and make of my rental car, the temperature outside, what I wore, the price of the tattoo I had placed on my right middle finger that evening and my tattoo artists name. But then it is just shy of five years later and we, us two, are passing the rainy night in bed under a heap of blankets and punctuating the dark with our whispers, and you tell me that you remember the night I changed my name, because we spoke that night at the bar, because you were there. And I have no recollection of you being there at all.

My hometown always does that to me; it seems enchanting when I visit, and I only ever specifically remember the things that contribute to it feeling fantastic and all the other ancillary stuff seems to evade me after I leave. Is that why you keep going back, too? I mean, I don't even exactly remember the first time I met you, but I remember already knowing you when I was there in '04 and '05, and I don't even remember exactly how it happened but I remember living on Beacon and having this crew up north and somehow it just all came together. We all came together. Or, at least, that's how I chose to remember it, I guess. But I've been thinking about us all lately, and dude, were any of us ever really friends? I mean, now, with so many lines drawn and people falling out and moving away and moving back and all of this in-fighting, it's just so hard to believe that we ever were.

Back then Jeremiah was infamous for being the most divisive of us. Remember? He'd kick people out of the bar and slept with everyone's girlfriends and always had some rotating absentee roommate that he loved and another one that hung around that he always talked shit about behind their back. We all saw this and thought that we were exempt, or maybe we were targeted, but it all seemed largely inconsequential and I remember that none of us ever really behaved like we really cared. I, for one, didn't care at all.

I'm not sure, but I think we were all like that: drunk and selfish and short-sighted, and I don't think that we were fucking monsters but I think that we tolerated each other because we all behaved similarly. Don't you think?

Remember John? Jake's bandmate? I dated him for an entire month while my girlfriends vociferously disapproved. They hated when he came over to the house and they hated when he showed up at the bar and, quite frankly, they just fucking hated that guy. I didn't care so I didn't listen, which isn't that strange, I suppose. But it is strange, I think, that the reason I didn't listen is because I knew, the entire time I was dating him, that he didn't mean shit to me. And when I was finally bored with him I let one of our little squabbles escalate to the point where I could rationalize never seeing him again. And I didn't. See him again, I mean. But I'm not really like that anymore.

That's not to say that my old lifestyle, maybe our old lifestyle, isn't still very fucking seductive.

It's so easy not to give a shit, to fuck some string of boys and drop them as easily as you found them, to oh-so-conveniently not be available when they call and never have to say goodbye. It's so easy to have a huge, fun circle of friends that you never feel the need to hold accountable when they act deplorably. It's just so fucking easy to be twenty four and in love with no one but yourself and have your whole little life rotate around one little bar, and I wish I didn't miss us all from then but I do, and I guess I feel so reckless these days that I needed just a bit of that back.

That first night I saw you at The Duck, when I arrived with my niece on her 21st birthday and I followed you to Jeremiah's new house while they ate next door, that night it was just so easy to forget everything that I know has happened in my absence between then and now. And I sat on Jeremiah's sofa and drank a canned beer, and all of your goddamned faces just made me want it all back, all of it, all of us. But as soon as I was headed back down 38th to Fremont I realized that I live with Jeremiah's ex-girlfriend, Jenna, and I dated his brother, Ben, and they're all only barely speaking again, and I was friends with your ex-wife but maybe no longer, and I would still love to see Jeff but I've heard that somebody or another hates him now and I can't even remember who, and Shannon will probably never, ever speak to me ever again even now that I hear that she's married and has a kid or something, and Jake's wife keeps him extricated from everyone or at least that's what people say, and Gavin has moved to California and Mike is in Japan and everyone left here is fighting and everything I knew of us, for me, is so absolutely gone. It's gone because we have all changed, yes, but mostly it's because I have changed. I just can't tolerate some of the things that I used to.

I moved to San Francisco from Seattle on my niece's 13th birthday, so though it may have taken only eight short hours to change my name, it would appear that changing myself has taken eight long years.

"The beginning is the easy part," you told me, and had this been eight years ago I would have agreed with you, "that's the part where you are getting to know each other. When you're falling in love."

I always enjoyed our late night pillow talks, probably more than I ever mentioned, and when you said this I remember being so struck by your strict earnestness that all I could muster as a reply was a "hmm". I was so struck, you see, because in our now disjointed circuit of friends, rumors abound of your dishonesty. But you already know that, and you probably know why.

The beginning? Easy? If you give a shit then the beginning, for me, is just as hard as the end. There's all of this uncertainty and there's no plan at all, and the best you can hope for is that your feelings don't get away from you; that you can still explain to yourself how to feel and your body and heart will respond in kind. Does that ever really happen? If you're me then it doesn't, and you get too caught up to be rational, and you might get stuck between some boy and your girlfriends who are warning you against him, and then he finally does everything Jenna said he would do with such perfect accuracy that it's as if he's following a script she wrote for him, and you're left pining for those days when you could just stop answering his phone calls and smile politely when you see him at the bar and pretend that nothing ever happened until one day it seems like it didn't. Of course you're not me, and this isn't eight years ago, and now after all these years of our acquaintance you have become privy to new me: the one who shows up at your house in the middle of the night and wraps her arms around you and tries to explain to you, as sweetly as she can, why she can't see you anymore.

"I will miss you for days," I remember telling you, "until one day I won't."

I know you think I handed you the shit end of the stick that night, even if you were relieved, but it should make you feel at least a bit better knowing that I had just enough time left in Seattle to have this happen to me, too.

"No, I'm glad you're leaving. It's good you're going," you said to me one night, your cheek resting on the same pillow as mine, and I could just barely make out your eyes in the dark, "it's best that we part on a high note. When everything is still good."

"No, that's insane," I replied, "haven't you done this before? All of this sex and airplanes; it's best if something bad happens, that way you're not left at the airport with all of these 'what ifs'. Wondering what could have happened if you weren't leaving."

I was right, wasn't I? We seem to have parted perfectly, because I'm all the way down in New Orleans and we just spoke yesterday, and I asked you what you thought all this means; all of these cities and relentless traveling and our restless hearts. You told me that something, someday, might make me stay somewhere; but if you had seen me, at Sea-Tac the day I left--had you seen what I walked from--you might think differently, and now, like a script that I wrote for myself, I'm left with virtually no plan at all and a whole chorus of what ifs and I'm constantly wondering what I do and do not deserve.

But this isn't really about him, Blaine. This is about you, and about me, and about something that divides us from everyone. It's about all the dirty cities of the world in which people like you and I maintain different circles of friends, and it's about this whole odd scenario where all these separate worlds rarely cross. If you're anything like me, and you are, then you take some pride in this; in picking up and leaving and being comfortable on the road, but where you and I diverge is that I don't want to love this, and that I have learned how to say goodbye.

Goodbyes hurt, Blaine. They do. But we're older now, we've changed, and one day I want to want to settle down somewhere, but in the meantime I have come to grips with saying goodbye. And you should too, don't you think? I mean, it wasn't so bad when you said goodbye to me, was it? That very last night before my flight, you handed me my box and hugged me and said you hoped to see me soon.

"You'll see me," I said, "I don't know where, but you'll see me."

I don't remember the day we met, and I don't remember you specifically ever being around although I remember you around all the time, but the first time I remember seeing you, really seeing you, was that day I drove by in my ex boyfriend's car, the little blue one, and I saw you squatted in front of a drug store in Wallingford. I remember everything about you that day: what you were wearing and how long your hair was, and I remember the way your face looked and how your mouth wrapped into an "oh" as you realized who was calling your name from the drivers seat of a moving car and how you raised a tentative palm in my direction. The whole thing must have lasted, what...a second? And yet we both remember this day, I know because we whispered of it mid one of those long, long nights only a few weeks ago.

Now would normally come of couple of paragraphs were I would leave you some advice; this is the part where I would be explaining to you how and why you should be saying your goodbyes and not breaking ties on a whim and coming to grips with being hurt sometimes. But you hate advice and wont listen, and I know you just well enough to know how goddamned stubborn you can be sometimes. I could write a book about all the things I don't know, but this; I am right about this. We may forget, every single time we leave, why we are never satisfied being there and this may always bring us back, but now isn't the time to speak of this. In August, when I have left New Orleans and driven up through the middle of the country and flown back out west from Chicago, maybe then we can sit down together, maybe during the day or over beers, and we can speak then of the weight of all of our miles and the value of goodbyes.

That is, of course, if you haven't left already.

And in that case, then I implore you to please, pretty please, don't leave that place again without saying your goodbyes, because if you're anything like me, and you are, then you'll be back sooner than you think.