Before landing on Austin, Seattle was a contender. I loved the cobbled streets, the massive market so full of colors and sounds and smells and people, the proximity to the ocean, the mist crawling over the juts of land cupping and curving the metallic gray water. I loved the rain. I loved the restaurants. I love everything about it. I had been twice, once with my mother, and once alone to see if that's where I wanted to live - and had I not been thinking about many other things, had I not been preoccupied with a breakup, I might have had enough room to have chosen that damper city, that older one, that one moving at a more steady and slow pace than this one, this one that I'm sitting in right now. I tell people I flipped a coin. And in many ways I did. The weight that pulled it down towards tails was the warmth beckoning me from the depths of winter in the Indiana December, the proximity to my brother and his wife and his children and the frequency that my father passed through this southern state. And it was my feeling of joy and "rightness" that I felt walking around on my solo trip here last August causing me to weep unexpected tears of joy knowing that I had found my next place, my next home.
But as I talk to people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and experiences and income levels here in this oasis of blue in a sea of red, I bristle when so many more than I would have thought bash my second choice city. They say it's too expensive. They say it's too wet. They say it's too far too stuck too cold too quiet.
Seattle doesn't hold a tender place in my heart because of its market or its weather or its people or its restaurants or its history. It holds me fast and will forever be one of my favorites because of a bum.
I was supposed to go there with him, my boyfriend, the man I had lived with for over a year and dated for two. He was supposed to come with me to see if that's where we were going to move. But he didn't save for it. He didn't show any interest. He didn't care.
So I went alone.
I felt like it was a preview of how we would live our lives if I stayed with him - him never having being making thinking saying feeling enough and me going ahead and doing it alone. My heart broke on the plane and was only able to be held aloft in my chest with the thought that I would soon be seeing the rain-soaked and impossibly green and emerald city at the tip top corner of our country. I would be there for three days. It was raining when I arrived, typically, and comfortingly. It was the same Seattle I knew. The same Seattle I loved. The same Seattle that I came to introduce myself to, like a friend who was hoping for more, trying to make a great friendship into something bigger, something more meaningful, something more permanent. I made no plans to look at apartments or jobs. I just wanted to walk around the city by myself for a while. Airport to cab to hotel to shower to Queen Anne where I paid too much for a tulle skirt that made me proud of my hard work over the past year with my trainer but silly wearing it without any occasion. But I decided to wear it anyway. I planned to take myself out to a fancy dinner and eat escargot and drink red wine and do all the things that I liked and wanted to do.
But I was sad. And for some reason I was scared walking around the city at dusk, a city I had been to before, and a city so much less threatening than London, where I lived alone and younger and more ignorant and unwise to the ways of the world. I kept telling myself how silly I was being. Keep your head down, you're almost to the restaurant. And as I looked down at my feet, counting the steps and regretting the decision to wear that ridiculous skirt, I saw a dirty hand waving down near a pair of even dirtier army booted feet. And I looked up and saw a homeless man, his eyes wide with concern and his head and face encircled by a long beard connecting to his wild hair giving him the appearance of a lion, a crowning, dusty and wiry mane.
"Lady! Lady! Hey!" he said, waving his hands wildly at me. I didn't fear him because of the number of people around but wished he hadn't chosen me to pester for change or to spread along the word of the apocalypse.
"Yes?" I answered hesitantly, hoping to keep walking without too much of an interaction.
"You dropped something!"
I had only brought my wallet and wondered if my hotel key had slipped out or my phone had fallen out of my jacket pocket and frantically looked around, circling, spinning in my skirt, the wind whipping my hair, my heart pounding, worried that what I might have dropped was important, would be stolen, would be lost.
"What? What did I drop?"
I gave him my best grin, ear to ear and full of teeth and a twenty dollar bill.
I smiled wide for the rest of my walk to the restaurant, no longer looking at my feet but the people and the windows and the buildings. I drank good wine, and ate great food, and talked to funny servers and bartenders. I felt warm from within as I walked back to my hotel - no longer scared - no longer sad. I kept smiling.
I will go back to Seattle. I may even live there someday. And because of that city I learned that a smile an attitude an outlook a perfect day is something that you pick up take on make up envision and project for yourself. And we all drop our smiles from time to time. Just don't forget to pick them back up