Jim is excited that I’m here. He loves this place.
I’m standing on the deck of a co-worker’s home outside of Seattle, on the Puget Sound. The sky is only a shade lighter than the slate waters. It’s drizzling and I’m worried that my hair will get frizzy. But yes, the hills with their 1950s-style houses in pastel blues, yellows, and pinks remind me of tiered gardens, and through the mist I make out blue-green firs and the beginnings of fall oranges and reds.
“It is beautiful,” I tell him.
We almost moved here, me and Jim, before we got married. It was 1989 and I was a year away from finishing graduate school. I had spent almost eight years of my adult life as a college student and decided to go on for a PhD. I loved college life.
I wanted to walk briskly all my mornings across green lawns and past a duck pond, have all my days punctuated by the sounds of a chapel bell and students pushing their way out of musty buildings.
I applied to University of Washington. Jim had come here several times to bike the San Juan Islands and Vancouver. More than once he rode down the coast and across to New Mexico. I pictured Seattle as young, hip, and progressive.
Besides, my favorite weather was rain. It made me introspective—gave me melancholy without the sadness. People warned that Seattle’s constant drizzle was different from New Mexico’s infrequent thunderstorms, that I’d outgrow my fondness after a few days. Yet I insisted I’d love it, and if I didn’t, it wasn’t for forever. Just long enough to get me to another university to teach.
I got to work pulling together my application. I was so confident I’d be accepted that I told Jim to put in for a job transfer with REI, the company he worked for back then. I didn’t bother to visit the university doctoral program or talk to its advisors. I simply sent off my package and waited to hear back.
I remember calling the head of the doctoral program after I got my rejection letter—it was the first time I talked to him. He told me they could accept only two students, that the competition was fierce. He mentioned a young woman from Stanford with a 4.0 GPA. I cried for days, sure that my life was ruined.
After graduation I took a job with the local university. The bubble burst after six years. I discovered the college campus was not the place for me—I strained against the bureacracy and emphasis on credentials.
In all those years since that initial sting of rejection, I never pined for Seattle. I filed it away as a city I’d someday like to visit. We talked about coming here for our honeymoon, biking all around, but Jim hurt his wrist and we took a road trip to Jackson, Wyoming instead.
Now here I am. Did I really once dream about getting my doctorate in Seattle and becoming a professor? If it weren’t for Jim’s excitement about my finally being here, I might have forgotten about it altogether.
Nah. I don’t even know why I said that.