I love writing endings almost as much as I love reading them. The only problem is that I hate tying up loose ends. I see short stories as snippets in my characters’ lives, and unless they die, I can’t imagine tying a neat bow on their lives or stories. So imagine my discontent trying to write the end to my Portland story. I moved out of Portland today and drove up to Washington for a week of R&R at my parents’ house before relocating to Brooklyn. As I drove the same highway I’ve driven dozens of times in the last two years, I tried to figure how best to sum up my time and experiences in Portland. I couldn’t, really. It’s hard to write your ending when you’re already thinking of your next beginning.
She drove away in the morning, drinking her last cup of Stumptown coffee. The night before was supposed to be an end, but it was a false start. Two years in this town over.
The sky wasn’t raining like it did the day before. That seemed like more appropriate weather for her goodbye. Today it was thick, lazy clouds with no sign of a sun break. A lethargic goodbye, like they had this morning. Of course there was a boy. There’s always a boy when there’s a goodbye.
The other day on the radio she heard “Goin’ Mobile,” “Rambling Man,” and “Like a Rolling Stone.” She sensed a trend. This wasn’t the first town she had left behind. She didn’t intend for it to be the last. She had a silly superstition about Elton John’s song “Tiny Dancer”: if she heard it on the radio, she thought it was going to be a good day. So when it came on the radio when she was about ten minutes outside Portland, she smiled and turned the volume up a little louder.
She didn’t cry; she had already gotten that out of her last week after the first attempt at goodbye with him. It was an accidental goodbye, a fight. An implosion. She cried a lot that night–for him, for her, mostly for the end of things. She teared up a little, sure, while she sang along to the song. She was scared, which is a natural emotion, but not an easy one. It’s important to have a soundtrack for these kinds of things, something to look back on. She’s not sure what she will remember years from now when she looks back on her time in Portland: her education, her friendships, or her many romantic missteps. Perhaps it will be the realization that she’s getting older and can’t keep making the same excuses she could before.
Portland is better for her as a town for transition. It’s easy to stay here, even easier to wind up here. But not for her. For her it’s the kind of town you enjoy before it spoils, like a summer fling. It’s the kind of town you pass through on your way to somewhere else. It’s her first time heading east. She doesn’t know if she’ll put roots down where so many foundations have already been built. She knows she’ll miss the wildness and freedom and pioneer spirit of the west as she heads toward a land of heritage and traditions. Maybe she’ll settle there; maybe she’ll come back. She would like to think that she can do both. It’s hard to choose your ending when you feel like you’re still in the middle of the your story.