Departure, Arrival

I’m sitting in the Dublin Pub with two good friends, Will and Paul. We’re drinking pitchers of Henry Weinhard’s, waiting for the Fabulous K-Tels to start playing. They’re one of our favorite bands in Portland, playing old R&B, like Booker T and the MG’s, and a few dated surf tunes. The band brings us three together, strengthens our bonds. It’s known for that among our other friends. Wednesday is K-Tels night, a guys’ night, the night we three go out and talk guys’ talk. It’s a different sort of evening than the weekend. We have no dates, no need to entertain, no restrictions. Guys’ banter takes care of it all.

Tonight is more intense than usual. I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go to college in Boston. Will and Paul don’t have this in common with me. They’re staying in Portland. It’s very cold outside and it has just snowed. It heightens our moods, increasing my sense of future departure and separation.

The K-Tels are tuning up. They go into a long up-tempo instrumental. The singer introduces the three-by-four linoleum dance floor in front of him. He does this every Wednesday and we laugh each time. The singer is particularly cool. We feel he’s one of us. A fourth member of our table who’s standing ten feet away. I catch my friends’ grins. It’s a good night, my last night. The band is hot. We drink more beer and listen.

The band goes into an old surf song, one I played on record for Will and Paul two nights ago. Will looks at me and jokingly makes a hang loose symbol with his hand. I laugh. My feelings of camaraderie intensify. For a moment I wish that I had a few more days, but I will leave in a matter of hours. I’ll miss the comfort, the intimacy that friends and familiar places create.

I know I can’t stay. If I did the days wouldn’t be like tonight. My dissatisfaction with quiet Portland has put a strain on my friendships with Paul and Will that we’re each aware of. Tonight is good because the strain is gone. I’m leaving. We all know this and are glad of it, happy that I’m going, but sad that I’m leaving.

*   *   *

My dad wakes me up. I feel like I never made it to bed. It’s 5:30am. My plane leaves in an hour. It’ll be close. I almost fall into the shower with my eyes closed. I don’t shut them again. As my dad and I drive to the airport, I know I’ve forgotten things, but won’t know what they are until later, later when I need them. I concentrate on what they might be. It’s a vent for my tension. I’m nervous about saying goodbye to my dad. We’ve spent a lot of time together during my past eight months in Portland, time that we missed after my parents divorced a few years back. It makes me sad to leave him. I know he would like Boston.

*   *   *

The plane lands and taxis to the gate. I stand, walk down the aisle and into the terminal. It’s vaguely familiar; I’ve been here twice before, but need to read the signs to find my way to the baggage room. I’m excited. There are new faces around me which give me the feeling of untapped potential ahead. I feel challenged by a possibility of permanence, something that was missing in Portland.

*   *   *

I’m in a bohemian bar that reminds me of home. I checked into my dorm room and dumped my bags there earlier. I order a bottle of Bud, familiar no matter where you are. I descend into the bar’s basement. A punk band is thrashing. I find out what their name is, the Pajama Slave Dancers. I like their sound, they have personality. I think of the K-Tels and feel that this place will become familiar, too.

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