Many of you who last week read my freshly-pressed post, Broken Hearts & The Road Not Taken, wondered what happened next, after leaving my life in Maryland behind. Here begins my story of the road taken.
CHAPTER 2: When I arrived in Seattle, I had two suitcases, $100 in cash and little else. Just five hours earlier, I had been standing in the JFK terminal, where my parents, older brothers and younger sister had all gathered to see me off. Of course, my parents didn’t want me to go, and I could see it in my mother’s forlorn face. But in the end, they supported my decision, though my papá did buy me a round-trip ticket. “Just in case you want to come home, hija,” adding, “It’s never too late to change your mind, tú sabes.”
We took snapshots by the terminal gate. There was my mother, whose eyes glistened with tears, and my father, whose anguish for me simmered just beneath his strained smile, while my siblings joked, teasing me one more time. César, my oldest brother, laughingly warned, “Timber–watch out for the lumberjacks!” Which is how we Medina’s imagined Seattle to be—filled with lumberjack men in plaid flannel shirts, amidst a forest of enormous, felled pine trees.
As I prepared to board, I turned around one more time to look at them, trying to memorize their faces in that single moment. It was as though I was heading west in a stagecoach—and not in a jet—and would never see my family again. I was Laura Ingalls embarking on a new life. A regular pioneer gal. Only instead of Pa and Ma at my side, it would be G, the man who had once left me for another woman. We were starting over, the second time around. Westward, ho!
I didn’t know anyone in Seattle but G. I had no friends, no relations, no job, and no bearings. I would be living in his home and dependent on his income while I looked for a job. His car had a manual shift, which I did not know how to use, but what difference did it make? I had no place to go. Seattle was a long way from my east coast-centric life. I was almost 24 years old and all that was familiar wasn’t here. Westward, ho, indeed.
In fact, my only knowledge of Seattle was that the sky was supposed to be the bluest of all skies. This from an old TV series, Here Come the Brides about three lumberjack brothers, and their lumberjack pals, who were lonely because there were few women in town. So they had them brought in, a bevy of mail-order brides via Pony Express or something like that, and I couldn’t help wonder if history was repeating itself. Anyway, the lyrics of the show’s theme song went like this:
“The bluest sky you’ve ever seen, in Seattle.
And the hills the greenest green, in Seattle.”
And though the sky didn’t look any bluer than the skies back home, the annoying ditty kept going through my head during my first few weeks there. G met me at the airport and was all smiles, excited to show me what was to be my new home. As we drove to the house he lived in, he pointed out landmarks: Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound and the Space Needle. No matter where I looked I saw greenery–certainly the “greenest green” as the song indicated–that I felt at once how prominent a role nature must play here in people’s lives, something I’d never given a thought to before. Here, it was impossible to take the abundance of nature for granted, and soon I was mesmerized by the mountains, the dense and unusual foliage—such as the monkey tail trees and foxglove—the deep colors of the bougainvillea, sweet peas and bleeding heart flowers, the steep hills, and the countless bodies of water, visible wherever you turned.
We’d be living in the University District, by the University of Washington, where G was working in a lab, within walking distance of the campus. G was renting a room in a house among a row of similar homes with ample porches and roomy kitchens, though this particular house was located just under a freeway off-ramp. G told me how several months earlier, a bus took the ramp too fast, hurled off and slammed into a neighbor’s backyard. Everyone on the block was shaken by the late night crash and stumbled out of bed to watch the removal of the totaled bus. Luckily, there was no one on board except the driver, and he survived with barely a scrape and a broken rib.
As we approached the street which I would now be calling home, I felt a pang of dread. As happy as I was to see G, I wasn’t looking forward to meeting my new housemates, Stan and his girlfriend, Jeannette, and, most of all, Marigold, who may or may not have dated G prior to my arrival. I had suspicions but G assured me that he and Marigold were just good friends. And just like that, brushing aside my unspoken questions, he grabbed my bags from the backseat of the car and led me inside.