This was my Oregon ID from my six months there in 1996. I left Illinois with a friend from college when I wanted to run from my past life and start anew.
I had worked hard in college until my final semester when I made up for how straight laced I had been by diving deeply into drinking and smoking. I had a lot of fun,l and became the center of the theatre department party scene, but it never quite felt like the me I knew.
Portland was fascinating to me. It had an incredible number of homeless teens and brew and views (movie theaters where we could drink beer). The weather was perfect while I lived there and I was fortunate to live not far from the gorgeous Shakespearean rose garden. Every day I rode my bike to work, oftentimes before most everyone else was awake since I worked at a deli and often had to either bake the bagels, or open the restaurant.
After three months, when my friend from
college couldn't make a stable living he moved back to Chicago and suddenly I lived in a city where I knew no one longer than the time I'd been there.
I dated my landlord for a while when she separated from her husband, but it was an off relationship based in mutual loneliness.
I've read my journal from those days and it is dark. I wrote a lot about feeling invisible. I frequently wrote about women I had loved previously and wished I still had in my life. I even wrote songs which I've never done before and never since. Most of the writing is trying too hard; like an artist looking for a muse but not quite finding a rhythm.
During my time there, I befriended a cook at the restaurant I managed. He was a bad boy, a few years older and part of a serious Portland gang. He had the tattoo of a rose on his back with a razor blade cutting the stem like it was a throat.
I took time to listen to his artistic side and honor his creativity and in exchange he took a shine to me and always made sure I was okay. I felt safe with him until I saw him fight with a member of a rival gang. He bit the tip of the other guy's nose off. Not long after, he was caught robbing a convenience store and was sent to prison.
Though he was troubled, I appreciated how gentle he always was with me. I've tried to find him since but haven't yet. I'd like to know how he is. He hurt people and he did things society has deemed worthy of imprisoning, and yet his kindness impacted me in a way that won't allow me to judge him.
After about six months of living in Portland, my best friend from college let me know that a group of our class was meeting in LA. It wasn't a hard decision for me to leave Portland, and yet, I do look fondly at my time there. It certainly taught me how much loneliness can stir depression in me.