I still remember smelling Oregon for the first time through the rolled down window of my Toyota Corolla. I remember driving over the imaginary line that separates it from Nevada, seeing the mountainous region of southern Oregon and realizing my journey was nearing its end. Previously, I had spent several nights in Salt Lake City mingling with the Mormons. They scolded me for smoking cigarettes on the sidewalks, so I left their sacred city and headed west on Interstate 80 through Nevada.
I reached Winnemucca and stalled for awhile, knowing that my final destination was looming just 70 miles north of where I was. I don't know why, but I felt nervous about meeting her. Would she reject me like the forty-nine states before her? Would memories of my birth crash against me like the coastal waves of her winters? Would she be as beautiful as I imagined her to be? As accepting? I had left my mother, dispirited and crying, to come all this way in search of something. It was time to find out what.
I began my northward drive along highway 95, and exactly one hour later, entered Oregon at a nondescript location on her underbelly. And just like that, my travels were over. I had driven for thousands of miles, ventured through dozens of states, encountered myriad moments along the way, and little did I know my journey was actually just beginning.
Oregon gave me a new place to call home. I fit in quickly and without even trying, the residents were open and inviting to outsiders, unless of course you hail from California, but even then they're fairly nice about it. The weather is suiting to a guy like myself who enjoys jeans and a hoody and doesn't yearn for record setting hot summer days. I enjoy wine and beer & everything alcohol and this fine state supplies me well with its many local vineyards and breweries. I enjoy books, bars, coffee shops, beautiful scenery and interesting people, and as fate would have it, Oregon offers these things in spades. I quickly found myself delighted with my destination and intoxicated by her appeal. I began a two week letter writing campaign in which I described my current state of bliss and sent the letters to random out-of-state addresses. I wanted to share my new found happiness; I wanted everyone to follow me here!
Time crept forward and eventually I started working again, and that was when I met her. Where one journey ends another begins. I had just come in off a trip from Washington, my mind was scattered and all I could fixate on was drinking a few cold beers. I hurried into the office with paperwork in hand, ready to breeze through it and disappear downtown to my favorite bar stool, and that was when I first saw her. She wore tight-fitting blue jean shorts with threadbare wounds over both pockets and a wife beater that hugged the curves of her breasts and thin body. Her face was epic beauty and her smile told me things I wasn't ready to hear. Our eyes locked and our feet burned holes into the carpet as we stood there staring at one another. In that moment I saw the next four years of my life displayed like dozens of little red flags, all flapping wildly in a westerly Oregonian wind. I got lost in the eyes of a girl who would soon become my life, my lover, my sin. I ignored the inevitability of the pain that she would cause me and accepted my fate as something tragic.
I fell in love that day. I finally found my muse.
I still remember the two of us spending all our time in a car that doubled as my apartment. We made love in there. We slept in there. We ate dinner in there. We discovered a brand new world in there. We became inseparable in that car. I still remember how we'd drive up and down Lancaster Avenue every evening, laughing hysterically to Dane Cook, retelling his jokes out the window to strangers at crosswalks. My god, that was over four years ago now. That was back when I still thought Dane Cook was funny and that you and I were going to last forever. I may not have you in my life now, muse, but I still have Oregon and I still have my way of expressing sadness and regret, you can't take that away from me. You only lasted for a brief moment in my life, but these words of mine will last forever. I loved you, muse, truly. Why won't you come back to me?
I know you're out there somewhere, reading what I write. You're still the reason I write. I just want you to know that.