I walked into the storage room at work today and was hit with the scent of ocean. I smelled salt and wet sand and camp fires and dune grass. I experienced recall so vivid I was stopped dead in the centre of the room; the smell of beach was so strong I couldn't breathe past it.
I remembered Mom and Bill getting married at Rockaway Beach in 2000. I was Mom's matron of honour and Colin stood as best man for my dad. Colin and I had been married before my parents and we thought it was cute to give them marriage advice, as though they didn't know how to behave in a relationship.
A woman had been walking along the beach and stopped to watch the wedding. Later I found out that she and Colin had spoken after the ceremony, and Colin had spoken to her about me, talked about me as though I was a goddess and he was the luckiest man alive. My mom stayed in touch with that stranger-woman, and she cried when Mom told her that Colin had died less than a month after the wedding.
I remembered Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport; I went there with the guys and Steph a few weeks after Colin shot himself. They took such good care of me, those guys. They made sure I ate and slept and laughed, and that I wasn't alone when I cried. I think they worked out a schedule or something, because one of them was always with me, always knew when to come find me and talk to me. We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and talked to Goody about her new book. The hotel is in a large, rambling monster of a building; each room is named after an author. Rooms are furnished with period pieces and the decorations are minimal and appropriately themed. There is a shared bathroom and no room service. There are also dormitory-style rooms, with bunks bolted to the wall on suspension chains. There is a library and sitting rooms and a terrific gift shoppe. The path leading to the main entrance is lined with flowers and trellises, and looks like a proper English garden.
I was numb on that trip, so tired and half-dead feeling, but I loved it, loved being there with Waltzer and Aslakson and Stephanie. I loved Goody and the way she asked me about Colin's death with clinical interest. She had no pity or sadness for me, just that curiosity and interest.
I remembered the day I scattered Colin's ashes at Haystack Rock. Mom drove down with me, just the two of us and Colin in his white box. We ate at the tracheotomy pig then drove down to the water. I walked out by myself, as far as I could go which wasn't really very far at all, and sent his ashes off into the tide. I only sent half of him off, really, but he was a big man so even split in half it really was quite a lot. I remember thinking that for such a large man he had been horribly reduced. Reduced by pain, by anger and fear and bitterness; reduced by a bullet and a furnace. My large, protective, obnoxious, delicious Colin, reduced to a couple pounds of ash in a white box because he couldn't live with his own broken-ness.
It was one of the first things he told me, where and how to spread his ashes. He told me knew straight off that I was the woman who would deal with his remains. I was eighteen when he told me that and I thought I'd never have to do it. But I memorized it anyway, because he wanted me to.
I remembered our beach trip in 2001. Ross and I had been dating for just a few weeks, RHG and Rudimentary for a month or so longer. The guys went down a day ahead of us and spent some time together, drinking scotch and being fools. Then RHG and I drove down to join them. We stayed in Manzanita, in a two bedroom house; we drank and played on the beach and hung out together. RHG called Rudimentary "Early" and I would collapse into giggles.
I remember Cannon Beach, and the Cannon Beach Hotel. RHG and Rudimentary had the room next to ours. We ate at a horrible sea-food restaurant and watched live glass-blowing.
I remember another house in Manzanita, a big three story beach house we rented with RHG, Rudimentary, Waltzer, and his girlfriend at the time. We made a big dinner, all of us bringing something different and yummy. We stayed up late and drank and laughed and enjoyed each other. RHG got sick and vomited all over her room.
I remember day trips with Ross, long walks up to Cape Disappointment and around old military installations. We photographed lighthouses for my mom, because she loves lighthouses.
And I remember my wedding. His family came, from California and Seattle. They made a reunion out of it, and celebrated old Uncle Earl's 70th birthday. They gave me endless hugs and called me "Mrs. Ross" and welcomed me to the family. They gave me top notch advice and said it was okay if I didn't always remember about being nice.
Some of my family came too, my grandmother Claire from Sacramento and Sam, my former step-dad, who I was awful to as a child. I used to hide from Sam when he was to take me to school. I had a water-bed, you see, and was always small enough that I could pull the mattress away from the frame and roll my body into the cavity. I'd cover my face with the pillow and point my toes so they wouldn't stick out, and stifle giggles when he would run frantically from one room to the next afraid he'd lost me for good. I used to sneak up to him when he'd read the paper, real quiet and slow, then hit the paper into his face. I'd shout loud and scare him when I did it, so he screamed like a woman and tossed the paper into the air. Sam never got mad at me when I did stuff like that; he'd chase me around the house and tickle me until I would promise to never do it again, but he never got angry. I always broke my promise, and did it again the next day. In retrospect, I guess he enjoyed that game as much as I did.
And our friends, who have seen and shared so much pain and happiness with us both. Friends equally during bad times and good. The friends who don't hide from the pain or the negativity, but who pushed through it with me. They were there to help me through my pain after Colin's death, and they were there to celebrate my happiness with Jeff. They were there, smiling and joyous and loving as if they knew no other way to be.
These memories crowded around me in that void of time between the last heartbeat and the next, and I wanted to lie down on the floor in the storage room and never come out.