So here I am in PDX, the place where everything broke. In some ways this is good – I get to see my awesome kids, which is a huge plus – but being here makes me anxious.
Although I didn’t live here very long, the city holds a massive spot in my timeline. In Dr. Who terms, my brief life in Portland is a “fixed point” on my continuum; whatever else I could go backwards or forward and change, those months still have to happen.
Portland, as you probably know by now (gods know I go on about it enough, here and elsewhere), is where I learned a) that change had to happen RIGHT NOW and b) how, sort of, to go about it. It’s where my life of not playing football broke my heart, among other things. Some of them are stories I can’t tell you, because either I’m not ready to write about them, or because I don’t want to write about the people involved (or, mostly, both).
But it’s also the city I visit every spring, when the rhododendrons are explosive and ubiquitous, when everything is layered with the marvelous dank smell of fallen trees and moss. For all the pain that happened – the pain I caused as well as the rest of it – it IS the place where I found myself. The stepping off place for my quest, if we can get our Joseph Campbell on for a minute.
Of course all of that was a minute ago.
I have reached a point now at which not all of the kids’ friends and their parents remember what happened, if they ever knew. There are still sometimes those sideways looks, but now it’s just as often that a friendparent is thinking, “Boy, he’s not very tall,” or “Ah, so that’s the far-away dad.” I no longer wonder whether the baristas at the various Starbucks I used to haunt are judging me. In fact, this trip I have broken my Sbux pattern, because I have finally found a local coffeehouse that holds ZERO negative attachments for me. I have never sat there wondering how I became the person who could screw things up as badly as I’d done. Or parked on the street alongside it just so I had someplace to sit and cry.
There are a lot of places in Portland that I still drive past, all these years later, that make my chest hurt and my eyes burn. Having one place that’s safe here, that was never part of the firestorm, is a gift.
What it’s most like, a lot of the time, is that Cowboy Junkies song, “This Street, That Man, This Life.” The song talks about the ways in which a street, a town, a man, and a life are haunted by what’s come before. It’s not a very happy song, even by Cowboy Junkies standards; one could be forgiven for thinking it’s mostly about a murderer and his victim. I guess I could go look that up now but…but Portland is hard enough without that.
Like the man in the song, I wear my skin “like a dancer wears her veils.” The scars and tattoos are my narrative, and they’re proof that my skin is mine. That I choose how to wear it. That I’ve made choices like that for a while. Portland is scarred the same way, where I’m concerned. Like my tattoos, I’m going to have to live with that (not that I regret the tattoos – just sometimes there are a couple that make me mildly squinchy some of the time).
One of these days I will write about my kids. Well. Probably I should restate that. One of these days I will write about being a dad, and anout how being trans (and the act of transition) radically changed me as a parent.
Anyway. One of the great things about Portland this time is that I have time to write. So. I am going to go pull up a table at the marvelous coffeehouse I found, listen to some music, and get some words going on the Extremely Awesome Work in Progress. I will try to remember to stop and smell the rhododendron.