Mt. Vernon

The Perseides

There’s something about August. Every year I spend the first four days reminding myself my father’s birthday is coming. Then it’s August 5th and I’m surprised to realize it’s my father’s birthday. Some years I’m able to deal with it, but this was a year where he got a frantic voicemail late in the day.

It’s the second week of August and I’m an audience member, sitting on a blanket, waiting for Titus Andronicus to start. I’ve hitched a ride from the director and two of the actors from Seattle. I’m in the Rexville-Blackrock Amphitheater for one of the last performances and I am struck by how this is one of the most Pacific Northwest (PNW) things I am doing before I leave town. The director and one actor are previous neighbors and they take part in Shakespeare Northwest nearly every year. I’ve made it to their performances at least three times in the four years I’ve known them.

I’m still not sure if this year was more significant because I’m moving so far away or because they know me so well. I have an affinity for tragedy, especially the ancient Greek variety. For a few years, I was working my way through an unpublished dissertation on infanticide in ancient Greece, but only my ex-husband ever heard earfuls about what I was reading. It was dry and I didn’t finish. I hope whoever picked it up from where I donated it thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Now the entire world knows, so I’m expecting amazing ancient Greek infanticide articles in my Gmail account. Please, don’t disappoint.

I’ve watched both individuals practice and theorize about the plays they’re presenting every year. Often they’ve started with a radical theory such as presenting Romeo and Juliet as a primarily woman cast in the wild west and I’ve witnessed it morph into another fantastical retelling re-framing how we can think of classical literature. I’ve also listened to how frustrating this process is. So when they offered a ride, even with how busy I am, I made it a priority. Hearing about backstage gossip and how the cast has changed their approach from opening until the night’s performance offered me a connection not everyone gets to experience. So many artists are pouring so much love in projects close to their hearts right now and it’s inspiring.

My therapist and I spend a lot of time talking about what I need to do before I move across the country, what I need from moving, and what specific things I value in the people with which I surround myself. She finds what I consider very PNW fascinating. She’s insistent I need to do as many of these things as I can without overwhelming myself. She also has a knowing look about how many things I do. At some point, I looked up and found this tree.

The warped stage (referred to as a death trap by my friends), the amphitheater and this tree made me realize that this may be the most PNW thing I’ll do before I leave. It is a proper PNW summer day with some sunshine, showers here and there around town, some overcast gloom to finish the evening and I am chilly. I forgot a hoodie, so I buy a new one. The play is over because everyone is dead. If you don’t already know, the PNW has a lot of death on its mind; even this is fitting. I’m incognito sipping on a beer (inappropriate and not allowed, but also absolutely a PNW thing to do). And this tree. Pine trees will always make me think of the PNW even though most pines do not appear similar to the pines here. That’s its own separate, strangely heartbreaking blog post.

As it gets darker, the pine stands out less, someone turns a floodlight on to help the actors, and I am wandering off from everyone to find the stars. A lot of friends and anyone who follows me on Twitter has heard me lament, “I can’t believe I’m giving up the stars again.” It’s obvious I’ll leave New York City from time to time, but it’s also so wonderful to look up and suddenly there are stars. I find myself in the grass remembering The Perseids are happening and see one shooting star in the first thirty seconds. It is a lucky moment.

This was the beginning of the closing ceremony and it began as unexpectedly as many phases of my life do. I realized this meant I was approaching my anniversary with my ex-husband and immediately corrected myself. This was my anniversary. We celebrated on September 1 because we didn’t remember what date we had our first What is this? conversation. The Perseids was peaking and that’s how I’ve always marked the time. I’m lying in the grass, waiting for a ride home, finishing a beer, and saying goodbye to this life I’ve been living for nine years with only a meteor shower keeping me company. When my friends find me none of us are surprised and we all understand the pressure of what’s ending. No more meteors cross the sky during our drive home.

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