The gate agent in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport finally had mercy on me. I had been delayed six hours out of Toronto. And I missed every flight to Seattle that night. The delay was infuriating at the time. A dent in the plane. A missing mechanic. A tow truck stuck in the snow that was supposed to get us unstuck from the tarmac. The agent pleaded for me. He begged. He tossed out flight connections around America like baseball statistics. And I don’t know what favors he cashed in but he got me as far west as Las Vegas with a voucher for a hotel and a taxi.
Despite the fact that I had been up for 24 hours and had slept less than 3 hours the night before, I didn’t care, the Sounders had finally won the cup. This year, of all years, the Sounders did it.
I was more confused than excited when Roman stepped up to take the penalty. Why was our hulking center back taking the penalty? A man known more for keeping the ball out of the net than putting it in. I asked Kapena if this was the one to win it. He nodded. Roman takes a few steps back, kicks the ball with power, and we roar.
As we waited for the train back to the city I was more shocked than emotional. There were no more challenges to face, no more dragons to be slayed, no more pages in the book to be read. Our annual ritual of painful losses had finally ended.
We took possession of our house one day shy of our four-year anniversary of our first date. Our cat Miles, having only lived in one level apartments, quickly learned how to use stairs. Escrow and signing paperwork gave way to painting, housewarmings, BBQs, gardening, and s’mores with the neighbors. Our neighborhood listserv now provides us with new sources of entertainment. In some ways Columbia City reminds me of old Capitol Hill. A neighborhood on the precipice of change and reinvention. A neighborhood slowly marching toward the future.
As we get older, the particulars of each year blend and meld with the past. Did we go to Portland that year? Or was it the year before? When was our trip to the Hood Canal? Specific details lost to the passage of time. But I have a feeling that Alex and I will remember 2016. It still feels out of place saying, “My wife.” So much so that when I went to urgent care a few days ago the intake nurse asked me who took me there, I replied, “My friend-I-mean-uh-wife.” And if you want to see all of the wedding minuate, you can check out of wedding photos: https://tonyasgari.client-gallery.com/#/NickandAlex
Canon in D filled the Great Hall as our friends and family stood in the summer sunlight that poured through the old lead windows. When I turned around on the stage, I saw my life flash before my eyes. Friends. Family. Co-workers. Work wives. So many memories flooded back. Years and years worth memories. And after we kissed for the first time as a married couple, granted by the power of our Rent-a-Reverend, we exited the stage to Star Wars Throne Room. A nod to the playfulness we wanted on our big day.
One of the last wedding presents we received this past year came from my friend Rachel. Rachel was the cool girl. She was a rebel. She had the courage to always say yes to things. Unless it happened before noon. She would dare you to do something. And if you hesitated, she would do it before you had a chance to decide. Any awkwardness she had was overshadowed with grace. And any weakness was countered with confidence.
I remember warm summer nights with Rachel in the park. She would run through the sprinklers in her barefeet. The smell of freshly cut grass hanging in the air. I remember days on Greg’s Father’s boat. When he would throttle it up. I remember the glee she took with a perfectly timed Red Shell in Mario Kart. I remember the time in college I flipped on her hazard lights in her red Honda Prelude. They wouldn’t turn off. I thought she was going to kill me.
Rachel didn’t make it to our wedding. I was so looking forward to seeing her one last time. See Rachel was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer. One so rare that only 100 women get it each year. The night of our rehearsal dinner she was in the hospital in Seattle. The next day she was back in Richland and soon after she was in hospice. She died in late August. She had just turned 34.
I met her brother in Bellevue and he gave me her wedding gift. A red picnic cooler or as I now call it, “The Rachel Fleshman Memorial Picnic Cooler.” I think she would have appreciated the dark humor. If there is one lesson I have learned from Rachel’s friendship is that you should live life as you want to. To be present. Life is too short to question the choices you have made. Too short for regret. And we should all let the wet summer grass cover our feet as we walk forward throughout the night.
My last bet in Vegas before heading back to Seattle was at the roulette table in the Luxor. I changed a $20 for chips and put it all on black. She fired the ball into the wheel and we watched the numbers blur as they spinned. The wheel began to slow. And I stood there waiting, optimistically, about what was to come next.