Have a Seat, Sir

“You seem to have developed a cycle,” she said, “Where you go somewhere for a few months, realize it’s not what you thought it was, and then come back.”

“I want to know how you are. Not ‘how was your day today or how is work going,’ but how you really are, deep down.”

“You need to work. That’s what you need to do.”

“I need to work. I know I just need to work.”

I leave Group Health Everett and head towards my car. I have just interpreted for a man from Bolivia. He had something wrong with one of his legs.

It’s getting hot outside and on the radio they say it’s going to get up to 90 in the city. I get on the freeway, which I don’t like. I don’t like the freeway. I don’t like going fast. Maybe if I was on a country road in the middle of nowhere and there was no chance of running into a cow. Then I might like going fast. I like moving fast. That much is true. But I don’t like driving fast. It’s too stressful.

Back at the apartment I check my phone and see there’s a message from my friend Davey. We’re supposed to go to Japan together. I don’t know if I want to go. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t want to go with him or just because it doesn’t feel right. I feel like I rushed into buying the ticket. I kind of made myself buy it. And now I’m thinking maybe I want to do something else, go somewhere else, always go, go, go.

I smile.

I play with Mimo the cat for awhile. Seriously, Mimo, if I’m going to dangle this feather in front of you I want you to attack it. I want this to be fun for me, too. Why do you go and sit there like you’re going to pounce and then you never pounce? How is that fun? What kind of cat are you?

“Remember that time you went to college?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you go?”

“I don’t know. That’s what you do after high school.”

“Remember that time you went to Spain?”

“Yes, of course. I remember on the first day we were there I went to the store and accidentally bought red wine vinegar. We got drunk that night and danced to R. Kelly. I was corrected on my pronunciation of the word ‘ron.'”

“Why did you go?”

“I don’t know. I had just gotten rejected from college. My friend was going there.”

“What else did you do there?”

“I sat on the couch every afternoon with a girl named Estefania and smoked Chesterfields. I learned more Spanish from her than I ever learned at school. And there was Manuel. He played the guitar. He told me one night to put on his leather jacket. ‘Don’t be stupid,’ he told me.”

“What else?”

“We went to Cadiz one time. We took the train. It was peaceful. In my diary the next day I wrote that riding the train to Cadiz was like riding on the shoulders of a friendly giant.”

“Is that the computer that got stolen?”

“Yes.”

Who am I talking to right now? I think I’m talking to myself. I’m imagining I’m having a conversation with myself. For some reason my other self is more brooding, more critical.

“What about when you lived in Victoria?”

“You mean when I lived with C but I lied and told my parents I was living in a house just down the road?”

“Yes. How was that?”

“It was wonderful. I helped a guy named Zach build decks. I developed tendinitis in my thumb after an entire day of putting in deck screws. And then I remember on Valentine’s day after work we stopped at the grocery store so we could get flowers four our girlfriends. I got red roses. He got yellow roses. So stupid. I didn’t realize red roses are really over the top.”

“When was this?”

“This was 2008. Spring.”

“Good, good. I think I have enough to go on. We’re almost done here. I just have one more question for you.”

“Yes?”

“Has it been worth it?”

“Has what been worth it?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He laughs. Then he gets up to leave.

“OK, fine, fine, sit down. I’ll talk to you.”

He’s silent. I realize I have nothing to say. I’m thinking about that time I ate the burrito in Poland. Sorry — the kebab.

“I’ve got to run,” I say. “I just remembered I’m only parked in a two hour zone.”

And this time he gets up to leave for real.

Zumba

A cup of hot liquid sitting on top of a copy of Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. Shirtless. An envelope that says passport photos. A thermos. Some colored pencils. A computer. A lamp. A cat. A bulletin board with various things pinned to it. One is a name tag. One is a globe. One is a picture from the teenage years.

Laughter drifts in from outside. It’s dark outside. It’s cool outside.

A notebook with a novel probably halfway finished. A watermelon candle. A pen. Some interpreting orders. A Delta credit card bent in half.

The table is black. The keyboard is dirty. On top of the table there’s a booklet that says, “Small-Incision Cataract Surgery.” Cataracts in Spanish are “cataratas.” That one’s easy. So is small-incision. So is intraocular lens.

The aloe plant reaches out its tentacles to touch me but it will never touch me. No one will ever touch me. I’m alone and I like it that way. I will never leave this room. I will never stop listening to Gymnopedie by Erik Satie. I will never stop typing. Never stop drinking this hot beverage. Never stop sweating. Never stop looking around me. Never stop wondering if I’ve messed up the cast iron skillet. Never stop wondering when the good song’s going to come on. Never stop thinking. Thinking about the couch. Thinking about the girl.

There was a time when I was so proud of the bubbles. “Look at the bubbles,” I would say to the people. Now I don’t even think about the bubbles. I don’t worry about whether the water is hot enough or not. Because I’m always drinking it alone. It’s not meant to be drunk alone, but what do I care. No one here drinks it. And now I have my thermos. And my Gymnopedie.

One time I was in Uruguay and I was convinced I was going to go to a zumba class. I showed up. It was night and it was cold. There were some women there, obviously waiting for the zumba class. Suddenly I felt self-conscious. Was this just for women? Did only women show up? Would I be a laughing stock? Here there were men playing volleyball. Men and women playing volleyball. That was a real sport. But zumba wasn’t. Oh God, I had to get out. So I did. I walked along the river. And then I ran along the river. I did the stairs a bunch of times. I passed teenage kids who had probably stolen at some point in their lives. I saw the black horse by the bridge, standing silently in the moonlight. I sprinted. I could hear the music coming from the gym where they were doing zumba. And I wondered if I was missing out. But it was too late. I couldn’t enter now. Now it would really be embarrassing. And then my run was over, and I headed back into town. Who cares about the zumba. I went back to my room. It was quiet. I sat on the balcony. I read a crappy book. I read some more. I read and I read and I read and my room didn’t smell great.

And then I went to bed.

Me, Myself and I

The heat has gone from Seattle and all that’s left is a cold breeze and my foggy head. I wake up and greet Mimo, who’s looking at me from the hallway with her liquidy eyes.

“Hello, Mimo,” I say, “How art thou?”

She doesn’t respond.

I struggle to get up. I know that as soon as my foot touches the floor I have to get up. This is how I do things. Foot touches the floor, I get up.

I need to shave this morning but I can’t find the razors and figure they must be in the car. The car is parked far away. Last night parking was a nightmare. I had to walk at least 10 blocks with two backpacks and a surfboard and a bag full of presents I’d been given for my birthday. One of the presents was Book 5 of My Struggle. It fell on the ground a couple times, and I felt terrible. When I got back, Mimo the cat looked confused and not that happy to see me. I emptied the compost. I changed her litter box. I fed her. She started rubbing against my leg.

The razors are in the car and I find parking directly across from the apartment. This is a million dollar spot. Maybe I’ll take the bus to Bellevue today to interpret. I can’t give up this spot. The reason people don’t park there is because they think it’s a bus stop and people are idiots. They see the chipped, faded paint and they wonder if it’s still a bus stop and they think, “I don’t want to risk it.” And then I see the same spot and I think, “I want to risk it all.”

“Ooh, ooh, it’s just me myself and I. Solo ride until I die.”

I walk upstairs and boil water and rinse the thermos my sister gave me for my birthday. This thermos is a game changer! Hot water for 24 hours! Cold water for 24 hours! Then I take the mate over to the table, shake the mouse so the computer comes out of sleep mode, and begin to write.

There are two types of writers in this world: Those who try to please the reader, and those who don’t. I desperately want to be the latter.

Concert Pour Deux Voix

I leave the house and walk down Summit Street.  The air is cool. It’s already fall. Of course it’s not yet technically fall, but for all intents and purposes it’s fall. There might be one more hot week. Maybe two. It will sort of feel like summer — actually it will completely feel like summer — but something will be just slightly off. The sun will set too early. The air, when the sun goes down, will be too brisk. This is because it’s fall.

My goal is to go to Volunteer Park and run. At least I think that’s the goal. The goal is physical exertion. I hate running and secretly judge people who run. I think, Why don’t you play soccer? Or play basketball? Why don’t you fence? Why don’t you play chess? Why don’t you do anything but run. Running is not natural for the human body. Sprinting is natural. Sprinting until you feel like you’re about to cough up blood. But running is not natural. Because running is jogging. Jogging on hard concrete.

Volunteer park is alive with runners and I sprint. I pass a girl who looks at me. I’ve seen her before. She’s a Capitol Hill native. She has no idea who I am but I know who she is. She’s known in Capitol Hill. She must be known.

I go up by the reservoir and again I sprint, this time going up the stairs toward the Asian Art museum, passing a girl who looks like she has Middle Eastern heritage. I imagine talking to her. I imagine saying, “What are you thinking about right now?” Then I imagine her saying, “You’re a creep.” So I don’t talk to her. Instead I watch a golden doodle get aggressive towards a golden retriever that’s plodding happily down the sidewalk with a neon orange tennis ball in its mouth. I contemplate going up the water tower but decide against it. There will be boring couples up there, looking out at Bellevue and making inane comments. Better to find a flat patch of grass and sprint like the wind.

In Trader Joe’s, I buy a peach and some sardines and a Gala apple and a bottle of sparkling water. I see a girl who looks Russian and want to talk to her. I want to ask about her eyes.

In Elliott Bay Books I read a book called The Interpreter and it’s wonderful. It’s written without regard for the reader. That’s the way real authors write. They don’t care what the reader wants. They do what they want. They dictate what is good and bad. It’s also special for me because I’m currently working as an interpreter, one of the least glamorous jobs on the planet. Why is it not glamorous? Because if it’s glamorous, then you’re doing something wrong. A good interpreter is a ghost. The doctor and the patient look at each other, they talk to each other, and somehow they understand each other even though they’re speaking different languages.

Oh, one thing I forgot: When I was walking down 16th on the way from Volunteer Park to Trader Joe’s I imagined writing this blog. I imagined narrating everything I was doing in that exact moment in present tense (“I turn down 16th and see a kid smoking. I hate the smell of cigarettes. Despite this, I will probably have some General snus when I get back.”) And then I imagined narrating everything in present tense until finally the narration caught up with my current, actual present tense, which is of course sitting at a computer typing. The narration would end, “I type this sentence on the computer. Then I type this sentence. Then I type this sentence.”

And then it would end.