Your past, your romantic past, is a shadow. Like all towns, Port Angeles was a combination of rain and clouds, sun and mist, with a chamber of commerce, barrooms and boards of directors, the known and unknown. No one of course is completely unknown. I was known for my tragic love life. She had found another man, a backwoods man, living on the land but not above a night on the town, who according to her would wipe snot on his pants, a statement of poverty or thrift or anger against the niceties of society. All of us heated our hovels with wood but only the rich burned hardwoods, me and probably this guy were softwood gatherers.
There were few aspects to my life. First, I can remember a nook in the kitchen of the house I shared with a beautiful faceless woman who wore a ring in her nose where I wrote and watched flocks of unidentified birds comb a tree for seeds. This particular day the sky was blue with clean pillowy cumulus clouds floating toward Puget Sound. I believe all the poems written in that nook have been forgotten by their author.
Nights, for entertainment, I would wander the aisles of the supermarket, admiring everything and buying nothing. I had no money. The fluorescent lighting, clean straight neat shelving and floors, warmth and the fact I could identify nobody attracted me. I lived on cream cheese and honey sandwiches eating them leaning against the kitchen sink. Thinking go back to New York City which is what I ultimately did. Drove cross country nonstop three days and three nights seeing and feeling nothing.
I populated P.A. during the Reagan recession inherited from Carter. I’m unclear how presidents affect your life but good or bad, democrat or whig, alive or dead you’ve got to get a job, which I did. I supervised the living arrangements of developmentally disabled adults in what I thought were humorous contexts that gave no offense. They were beautiful and incorrigible having regular sex without protection. Normally harmless they’d sometimes have altercations with their neighbors. I balanced the checkbooks, paid the bills. Supposedly teaching living skills, I had few of my own as evidenced by my sleeping on the floor, I had no bed. One mature woman colleague judged me a short-timer living a useless fantasy about big cities. Still lost in my own history, still didn’t know the calculus.
I had a dog, Shade, black lab, leftover from my near-marriage until she realized I had no economic prospects, no interest in further sex or her logger boyfriend, and a complete inability to translate or imagine nesting and gestation. My homework comes to me in daily disconnected increments. Shade lived in my gray van, a Dodge slant six, which I could never afford to fix. Once the driveshaft disconnected from the rear axle and I tied it on with rope. Drove 60 miles on a knot. Shade was hyper and sad, both. He smelled bad but was a good dog with a lonely heart. When my wife who wasn’t a wife finally found a boyfriend who wouldn’t wipe snot on his pant leg they took Shade to British Columbia where I believe he runs free on a vast estate by the sea. I once beat Shade like a slave because he attacked a small dog out of frustration and loneliness and until I had kids and started saying and doing things just as bad to humans it was the lowest meanest moment of my life. The farmer who saw it will never forget or forgive it.
Having confessed all this there’s just one last fact to tell. The mountains were cold, the waters clear, deep snow and shadows.