When I was six years old, I became convinced my mother would leave and never come home. Sometimes it surely felt like I was right. Months and months away and then a visit only to leave again. And when she was home she felt guilty for being away and would overcompensate for not being there. She loved her job though, and I loved that she loved her job, so she kept going back.

My father was another story. He would come and go on birthdays and holidays and maybe a phone call once or twice but never anything really tangible. He had met my mother in London, took her out for drinks, took her home and then didn't see her again until my fifth birthday.

I didn't even know his name when he came. He had a funny accent and dressed in suit jackets with jeans and white t-shirts and smelled like old cologne. Older than my grandfather, older than the wine cellar, older than the whole town, old, but sweet and good. His face was young, a beard that traced perfectly down his jawbone and lightly across his lip, barely touching his nose, glasses worn high on the bridge with small little frames that covered his eyes and nothing else.

His eyes were a soft brown and it is obvious that this is where I got mine. Same with the smile. All gentle and understanding and happy. Lips together, no teeth, ear to ear.

Robert.




Ten years old and here is Elliott again. In summer, cool, wet, Oregon summer, playing jacks in the front yard of the castle.

There are many stories that start off like this: Him and me in the front yard all day long, playing, playing, playing. Sand and rocks and grass and humidity. Sweaty little bodies and smiles galore.

It is hotter than normal one day while we are making mud pies in the front yard. We are getting all dirty but loving it because we are kids and that is what we do.

He says, "Lets go swimming." and it is a good idea so we do. We run and run and run until we reach the pond on the back of the castle's property and we run off the deck and jump in, knees tucked up to our chests, making every big splash we can.

Splash splash spalsh water in my eyes, water up to my chin and in my ears, moss between my toes and I can barely touch. "I am drowning, I am drowning" and I wave my arms around, "Help me, Help me."

So Elliott jumps in again with all the splashes and swims to me and I push water up all in his face and say, "Got you." and we laugh and laugh and laugh.




Seventeen and alone in the basement of the castle, afraid of a storm. This is long after Elliott has left and there is no one here to protect me. It is the first time I ever made a phone call to my father. And somehow he talks me out of my fear, using a calming voice that I would later learn to use as well. He uses the science of the whole thing explaining that it's all just cold fronts and warm fronts and clouds and electrons. Nothing to really be afraid of.

We end up talking for hours until the rain is gone and the sun is out again and this is the first time I remember really connecting with my father. Across seas and telephone lines but in this moment he is the closest person to me and although he is miles away, I can feel his warm body hugging me, keeping me safe.




Twenty-two and in Seattle for the first time, amazed by all the bright lights. I have seen them all before but this time, they are mine for the first time, so I soak them all up, treating each one like I may never see another one like it and hope they keep shining forever. It doesn't matter if they are stoplights or business signs or streetlamps, they are all mine and they are all beautiful.

"Thank you beautiful city," I say and it sounds corny but I feel it so I justify it by spinning, arms out.

"Thank you thank you because you are beautiful and you are all mine and you will always be mine no matter where else I end up."

And in months I find myself saying the same words to a boy named Ryan. Beautiful and bold and brooding. Played guitar like a well-oiled machine but with passion. Wrote new songs to capture my heart everyday. And kept doing so for years.

They both still have a part of me. Seattle and Ryan. Mine. Always, in small ways.




Kate is sitting on the couch on a Saturday night waiting for me to get home from work. She has already made the popcorn and rented the movie. A favorite movie of hers but she has so many favorites so I don't remember which one this is or what it's number is on her top one hundred movies of all times list even though I wish I could.

Our couch is soft and velvety and this is the way I imagine her skin feeling when it has been long times since I have felt it. Dark red and reminds me of the castle basement. And I come home and find her stretched out there, arm resting on the back and feet propped up on the arm rest waiting for me, and I plop down and try to memorize this moment so that years from now I can tell the story of it.

For the first time I tell her, "I love you." And then there is this kiss and fireworks like no other kiss has given me before. Fireworks and apple pie and Fourth of July celebrations because this is love and it deserves excitement and applause and everything it can get because love like this doesn't happen often.

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