I had to put a state-line between me and him.
It doesn’t matter who. There were several. And my father.
It was two weeks before my twenty-fifth birthday.
I packed a small rainbow duffle bag of clothes and sold
my car for two hundred dollars.
When I arrived in Portland, I went straight to Powell’s Books,
a homing pigeon. I bought a hardback copy of The Little Prince.
A man in the poetry aisle invited me to coffee. I declined.
In two weeks, I found a room for rent. Two hundred dollars a month.
A small attic room with a pole in the middle of it. Someone loaned me
a single mattress and a chair. I was doing alright. I worked at a deli
with a massive cheese counter. I became a cheese expert.
I lived in the Hawthorne District, hip before there were hipsters.
I went to my first Starbucks on Hawthorne Street. The coffee tasted
like dirt to me. Undrinkable. But there was this bakery. Tiny.
Just a bit of room for customers in front of the giant glass case.
I went for the carrot cake. Just the way I liked it, but I never knew
until Portland. Warm. No raisins for pineapple. Whipped cream frosting.
I sat on a wooden bench in front of the bakery and ate it. This was when sugar
was still good. It hadn’t been given such a bad rap in the media. By scientists.
I enjoyed it without feeling guilty. I stopped feeling bad about myself in Portland.
Everything was new. I had sadness lodged in me, but I let it come out at the movie
theaters. I went to sad movies and cried. I drank wine in my room and wrote poems
about cheese. I wrote letters. This was before computers. This was when people
picked up the telephone, made a phone call, got a busy signal, and then tried later.
This was a time to enjoy cake. I was twenty-five. The cake was warm. And the fall
days lasted forever. San Diego was another world away. There was nothing cake couldn’t fix.