My City

I’ve been a busy girl. I just moved, I’ve enrolled in classes and have an appointment with the academic adviser next Friday, I’ve been keeping updated on my blog and I’m still working on my new website. Between all that and working more than usual at my graveyard shift job I’ve been too distracted to write more. I’ve had this particular thought in mind for a while now, since the first time I rode my bicycle home on a Sunday.

There’s something about this city. It’s not too big or busy, like New York. It’s not too small and shallow, like my home town. The water and the skyscrapers and the distinctive sight of the Space Needle…. coming into town from the North you see Queen Anne and the Space Needle painted against the sky. When it’s a little cloudy and the sun is going down, it really does look like a great impressionist painter came along and casually filled the canvas. The Seattle skyline really is kind of like impressionist art: when you get up close it’s kind of messy and smells funny, but from a distance it’s beautiful. The details really come together to form this aesthetic of grace. The buildings fall away from the Columbia tower like the robes of the Virgin Mary, offering a focal point and then pleasingly uneven lines to draw the eye down. From Alki the Great Wheel and the waterfront is almost accentuated by that tall, graceful, almost protective skyline. At night it’s even more incredible. The stark brightness of human engineering is softened by distance and rendered more lovely than any picture could capture. Coming into the city from the south, down from Beacon Hill, the city almost looks shorter and more industrial. You can see the sports fields and the great industrial complex of SODO. The highway hasn’t yet incorporated itself into the city and you’re closer, so the flaws are more apparent. You can see where the homeless have made their beds, almost looking down as if into someone’s bedroom, an urban camp-out driven by rejection and poverty. You can see and hear the cars merging, stopping and going, creating a waterfall of red lights and a roar of honking horns and swishing tires. It’s so alive and so broken at the same time. The greenery is separated by swaths of asphalt and steel and rubber. There is only a moment on the 12th avenue bridge where you can look towards the Sound and see the sun, the clouds, a glimpse of that painting. The Virgin Mother is looking away from you, protecting the other half of the city, not this one. Not the half with the smelly under-bridges and trash bins. You can see a moment of her glory before sinking into Chinatown which, while it has delicious ethnic foods, is the worst smelling part of the city. Now we’re close to the painting and the flaws come out. For me, the flaws of the city make those painted moments all the more beautiful. I love that a million people from a million circumstances live here. A bus ride takes me through a dozen cultures, sometimes all at once. It may be a little weird, a little scary sometimes, but this city is my home. I will always love this place. It’s where I first really felt like an adult. Seattle has been my rite of passage and I feel as though I’ve passed admirably.

This all started because riding my bicycle through Seattle at seven thirty on a Sunday morning is surreal. It’s not too bright, it might even be cloudy. It is Seattle, after all. The lighting is exactly what a director is trying to portray in a post apocalyptic world. The pedestrians you meet are few and far between but friendly and unselfconscious, and the streets are clear of vehicles. It’s chilly and maybe a little clammy, but cycling warms me up quickly until the cool breeze is welcome. There is no hurry. There are no worries. The city is…. not dead, but still asleep. She hasn’t woken up yet and everyone knows the joy of being able to observe a lover while she’s asleep. Her hair is tousled from the night before and you can smell the scent of her skin and yours mingled, and the warm, salty, distinctive aroma of the two of you, mingled in the sheets. Her breath is sweet and acrid. Her clothes never came off all the way but they aren’t exactly in place anymore so you can see some things you might not during the day. She’s not self conscious at your gaze because she’s still recovering from the night before, the wild night and the passion after you poured yourselves into bed but before you fell asleep. She is beautiful because she is yours and because this morning you don’t have to share her with work or school or her best friend or even her cat which she loves. She is yours to smell the scent of your love on and to touch a wisp of her hair. I take my time. I stop on the bridge and turn around to look at her. She is mother and sister and confidant and lover. She is my city.