seconds and decades Portland, OR
Straight Outta St. Johns | Tales from the city's edge

(Source: nprmusic)

William

photo by Casey Parks / secondsanddecades

William

photo by Casey Parks / secondsanddecades

Portland Museum of Modern Art
photo by Casey Parks  / secondsanddecades

Portland Museum of Modern Art

photo by Casey Parks  / secondsanddecades

Mic Capes - Innercity Tantrum

Reunited with William

Reunited with William

// You feel like a hundred times yourself//

Milan came back too tall for his mother. Twenty-two years old, but those last six inches — grown while he was away at school becoming an accountant, “a man, ma, with real prospects” — made him seem a good decade older than the boy she had reluctantly let leave. He had grown a mustache, just like his piece of shit father had worn when she met him outside the 5-and-Dime. And Milan wore a suit, which his father had never once done, not even at his own funeral. He had insisted he be buried in the outfit he wore every day, white t-shirt, Dickies Bib overalls. “But will the neighbors think?” she had asked. “They’ll say that Olga didn’t even keep enough for a burial. They’ll say we’re immigrants.”

“We are immigrants,” he said then turned on his heels, pushed through to the yard. The screen door’s slap told her it was done.

Milan hadn’t come for the funeral. Too many classes, he had said. But he sent a card and a dying bouquet of peonies. No one asked about him at the funeral. His father’s get-up was story enough. But two years later, here her boy stood. This time, the peonies were still alive.

“So,” Olga said. “Tell me about the girl.”

Anacortes Ferry

// How I learned I can’t do everything//

The second- or third-worst thing about heartache was the jars. For years, I hadn’t opened one myself. I’d feign a twist then a grimace then hand it off to my girlfriend. Pop. They always opened on her first grab.

The first week without her, I wrung and clawed at a jar of spaghetti sauce. I used a spoon for leverage then rifled through my drawers, hoping to find that circle of friction my mother gave me when I moved west. “So you can get into mayonnaise,” she said. That circle was missing now. I ate the spaghetti with butter and salt instead.

I had nothing to do with my nights, so I hired a personal trainer. “What’s your fitness goal?” he asked. “I want to be able to open my own jars,” I said.

He laughed. “Let’s start with some pull-ups,” he said.

Afterward, I used a can-opener to pry open some pickles. I slapped the spaghetti sauce against the floor. I looked again for that circle. I found it wedged behind the spatulas, hung over the back of the drawer. I wrenched it around the sauce lid. It stayed stuck.

My trainer taught me to squat 100 times in a row. He taught me to bench-press 45 and stand flamingo on one leg for a solid minute. After two months, I could do push-ups and 12 kinds of crunches. I could not open a jar.

I made do with can openers, using them like beer bottle openers to relieve the pressure from the lids. I asked a neighbor for help once. I was sheepish, but starving.

By the time I met my next girlfriend, I had forgotten the ease with which my ex had popped lids. My ways were messy, but they worked. Besides, I was an independent woman. I would not lose another relationship to dependence. I made my own money, popped my own lids. I take out the trash like the chore does not offend me. I wash the dishes as soon as I eat.

So when my new girl handed me a jar to open, I reached for the can opener, no shame.

“Oh, your tiny hands,” she said, catching me in the act. “I bet you just can’t get any leverage.”

Runningback hair

Runningback hair

"He’s messing up the snaps," the quarterback said. One of the dozen assistant coaches pulled the center away from the huddle, tossed him the ball. "Let me see you snap," he said. The teenager tossed the ball through his legs. The coach caught it, pitched it back.  “Again.”  They passed the ball back and forth 10 times, then the coach held it. “Man,” he said. “Are you hitting yourself in the nuts?” The teen — a lumbering 245-pounder — kept one hand on the astroturf as he nodded. “Man, that should be your No. 1 goal. Just keep thinking it, ‘Do not hit myself in the nuts.’” The practice paused as the other team flew into the endzone for touchdown number three. The game looked lost. The coach caught the center’s eye and passed the ball back. “This isn’t the only game,” he said. “It’s just the first game.”  The boy snapped again, just a little lower. It sailed clear and easy. A perfect snap. Something to show off next week.

"He’s messing up the snaps," the quarterback said. One of the dozen assistant coaches pulled the center away from the huddle, tossed him the ball. "Let me see you snap," he said.

The teenager tossed the ball through his legs. The coach caught it, pitched it back.

“Again.”

They passed the ball back and forth 10 times, then the coach held it.

“Man,” he said. “Are you hitting yourself in the nuts?”

The teen — a lumbering 245-pounder — kept one hand on the astroturf as he nodded.

“Man, that should be your No. 1 goal. Just keep thinking it, ‘Do not hit myself in the nuts.’”

The practice paused as the other team flew into the endzone for touchdown number three. The game looked lost. The coach caught the center’s eye and passed the ball back. “This isn’t the only game,” he said. “It’s just the first game.”

The boy snapped again, just a little lower. It sailed clear and easy. A perfect snap. Something to show off next week.

stories, every which way / blog by casey parks