I'm close to karma debt, mordel and their family these days. They are family, in all the ways that matter. Back then, I was terrified, and I was running, and I didn't know what to do with all the feelings I was suddenly having.
Thinking back, I was very close to having a panic attack at karma debt and mordel's dinner table. I was overwhelmed, and frightened by the intensity of feeling things I hadn't felt in years. I was thinking about things I hadn't thought about in years. In reality, I was emerging from sublimating myself into my identity as a data center geek. There had been large amounts of trauma in Virginia from my job.
Three weeks into my road trip, I was still rolling over and checking my phone for pages. I was still connected to Virginia ticket queues, so I could see just how bad it was. A week later, when a major outage took out a large portion of the cloud hosted Internet, I had nightmares of being flown back to work in the same windowless, grey buildings. As it turned out, this was a legitimate fear - this was something that had been discussed by management.
For the time being, I slept poorly (though, not for lack of excellent hospitality), and woke up dazed, confused, and feeling disturbingly like I was home. The house was quiet, and it was late morning. I knew that karma debt was at work or school - that mordel was likely home - and that I could effect an escape from the house quietly if need be.
Escape was becoming a very familiar refrain at that point. I'd spent a lot of my adult life running away. A lot of things have been good to run from - my mother, with her mental illness, spreading the pain and bad cognitive habits to her children and those around her. My job in on the East Coast, which made me angry and anxious and sad. Nerd communities. Terrible ex-boyfriends and an anemic life in the Twin Cities.
I got so used to running away that I never really noticed when I started running away from everything.
I was ready to keep running. Christine must have been a fluke - someone so vibrant, so amazing, and awesomely patient.
For the first time in a long time, I looked at a person and thought, “god, I want to be you when I grow up”.
But these people in Eugene? With their hugs and their vegan chili? With margaritas shoved into my hand and a riot of children and happy husky dog and warmth? Who even were these guys?
This of course, was how I ended up walking down to the corner bakery with mordel and the youngest daughter, confused and babbling my way through conversation. At this point, I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember how quickly I got back on the road and went to go have lunch with GhettoAardvark.
Who the hell was this blue-haired nerd, anyway? Energetic, cheerful, just as welcoming, and for some reason, here was someone who’d opted out of tech and would end up pretty excited about making pizza. We had this amazing conversation drifting around E2, gaming, music, random herbarium crap, and Oregon food.
I remember that we ate at McMenamins, one of the local restaurant chains, and that it was great.
It was late noon when I came over that last hill before Portland, and the entire city spread out beneath me. To the east, a white peak, starkly symmetric: later I would learn and love Mount Hood. To the north, a great, sulking caldera, ominous beneath a brilliantly blue sky. A series of bridges, black iron, red girders, a single swooping arch, pale blue - the Fremont. Guard towers on what I later learned were lift bridges - Burnside, Hawthorne, Morrison. The blue ribbon of the Willamette, winding between east and west.
My throat seized up, something punching me straight in my atrophied, depressive brain, a surge of some kind of something like homesick, some sort of crazy love for a city I did not know and had never visited, and I kept driving.
I drove east. East over the Willamette, east down I-84, east towards that volcanic cone, and I put Portland behind me as the afternoon slipped into evening, and the trees faded away into scrubland and desert. I followed the broad swathes of the Columbia River, reassuringly blue and green.
At sunset, I reached the confluence of I-84 and I-82 and turned north, going deeper into the desert. West of me, the Umatilla Chemical Depot was a series of earthen bunkers in ominously regular lines. North of me, the Hanford Site.
There were no trees, no plants but sagebrush, and the hills were naked and shone in the light of the setting sun. And here was where I had come to make my home.