Her name was Mary

Saturday I read a text while on lunch break from a writing workshop.  While walking my dog I learned that a favored cousin had died, that it may have been as long as a couple weeks before she was found.  The small words on my phone almost sat me down on the wet sidewalk – once again my dog kept me moving.  Nobody can see a tear in your eye if you eat alone in a dark corner of a pub, this was working until I was invited to sit with the group.  I chose to save the news for later, join them and float in their conversation’s.  I succeeded in not thinking about her very much and did the best I could with the rest of the day.  As I began the three hour drive home over the bridge guilt clutched me for being able to put myself first.  The tortuous lone drive home on wet roads through dark trees seemed like an appropriate time-out.

Sunday I learned that she left a note – she had chosen this ending.  It felt like an asthma attack in my head.  As this sad ending becomes another of life’s unsolvable cruel riddles that ride in on the monster we simply call “Loss”; I will focus on what I can.

Mary was ten years older.  Being another only child gave us a special bond, our club of one’s.  Most years we got together on my family trips back to North Dakota.  Mary lived on a huge farm alive with animals, horses being her favorite.  This contrast to living in a small Washington town appealed to me.  One Summer I was given three little ducklings to care for at my Grandparent’s farm.  Years later we’d meet for dinner and a night on the town to catch-up, a highlight of my annual visits.  Mary’s adult life revolved around taking care of elder family and helping other friends, she seemed to delight in the role.  Certainly as they passed away, chunks of her went with them and loneliness soaked in.

My cousin had a huge heart.

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Her name was Mary.

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Nobody Likes A Coward

“It doesn’t rain at the end of July, the forecast is wrong.  My motorcycle trip to the coast won’t be cancelled.”  I declared one beautiful sunny day.

“Okay, well yes it’s raining, but it’ll stop – it is July.”

Mike stared at me in silence.

Are Norwegian’s more stubborn that Swede’s?  Ah who knows, I laugh at such things.

We put our rain gear on in silence and rode out into it.  My open-face half helmet allowed the drops to hit me with a blinding sting.  Twenty minutes later we stopped to buy a better helmet at the Harley Davidson shop in Tacoma.

“You riding in that?” asked the pretty cashier.

“Yes!”

“Where to?”

“The coast.”

“Oh – really?  Be careful!”

After the monsoon experience on Interstate 5 we stopped at a Barbecue Restaurant to warm up, eat and pour out our boots.  No one said anything – everyone looked.

“It’ll let up, has to” I laughed.

“Sure, it’s gonna” Mike laughed back.

After the winding roads and fresh tarred construction we stopped for a beer at a Peninsula Dive Bar.

“Cheers to stubborn!”

Clank!

***

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As always I learned while enjoying the “Rain” writing workshop at the Fort George Brewery on January 23rd 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

Moment where you feel something

Mechanical grinding opens the garage.  A chain driven start – always the same opening for what the day has to offer.

Cool grey, warm light, biting dark, wet air, wind?  All possible varieties of a new day experience.

The wonder of a dog as the door rises… leads this human spirit down the path.

Liquored in Astoria

“Well isn’t everything more fun with a crazy bitch!?” flies out of the mouth of Mark the merchant marine, as a drunk couple finally stopped quarreling and left in a cab.

“Why yes it is!” laughed Erica the bartender.

***

Earlier I had taken a nap to put a break between a long day and a social experiment.  More than the rest, I wanted to look through the lens of not really feeling like going out, but doing it anyway.  Walking in the rain, across the street to the Workers Tavern, washed my face and cleared my head.

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The creaking door and wet stained wooden floor greeted me.  I eyed and claimed a stool at the bar.  Moments later a guy (who could be Neil Diamond’s son) sat down next to me and said, “You a fisherman?”

“No”

“Oh, I’m a merchant marine.  Anything exciting going on in here?”

As a quarreling couple brought their issues back inside from an herbal smoke break, she plopped down on the vacant stool between me and Mark.

“Really…Really!  You’re really going to do this – Now?!” barked the guy. “The cab is here.”

Silently she stared forward while I ignore them.  He moved closer toward me while pounding her with various forms of “Really!”  As suddenly she pushed back from the bar and marched outside, followed by her guy.

In the following silence I sat and watched drops slide off my beer and run into carvings on the bar.  As the words ‘Toys for Tots’ filled I noticed a sign behind the bar, “Those caught carving on the bar will be fined $100 – funds to be donated to Toys for Tots.”

Three guys rushed in like waves and landed on empty stools on the other side of the bar.  The older one seemed to lead, whether by blood or air he acted like their father.  After about an hour of noisy conversation with other locals the muscular one who’d been staring at me walked over and put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

“We’ve gotta stop all of this shit…” and something about “..Paris” was all that I could understand.

Father figure grabbed him and the other guy by the shirt and ushered them toward the backdoor.  He growled at them, “If we can get out of here without a fight – I can go snuggle with my wife.”

Through the evening I made eye contact with a couple of senior locals, a smiling logger and a silent disheveled Santa.  Their eyes reflected a weathered ‘Seen it all before’ look, quietly they sat and sipped.

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Four hours, four beers and a shot of Crown later – I’d lived in another dive bar story.

***

I enjoyed the experience of another writing workshop “Dive Bars and Dark Stories” on Friday the 13th November 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.