Ghosts of Portland
Posted on July 4, 2018
This city has many ghosts. I’ve been called one myself, off and on, since I started walking the streets of Portland. Each cobblestone marred with gum and cigarette butts, each rooftop covered in bird shit, each wall covered in graffiti and hobo piss – they’re all markers for times come and gone, days passed.
Down on the wharf, I see myself taking waltzing lessons from a girlfriend in the moonlight, both of us laughing while I’m too self-conscious to take the steps. Though I really could if I could just overtake that anxiety (because I’m an okay dancer) broiling inside me. She appreciates my effort. Unfortunately, that’s about the only time in that relationship I put any effort in. She was a nice girl.
In Lincoln Park, in front of the court house, I see myself passed-out drunk on a filthy bench – having recently separated from my wife. I’m in a zombie pimp costume, with peeling face makeup and a large fur coat. I wear a dollar sign necklace around my cold neck on a chain and there is a puddle of vomit at my feet. I’m in a camp of protesters, protesting the excess of Wall Street, though I won’t know it until the morning when I wake up to the smell of camp smoke. I lost my ID, in more ways than one that night – and it took me a long time to get it back.
On Wharf Street, I’m having a frantic phone conversation with a friend who was once a better friend to me than they are now. I rub my scalp with anxious fingers as I pace back and forth in front of a lonely bar. I didn’t know what to do, and I still don’t.
In one of the many lonely bars that dot the city, I see myself hunched over a cold glass of beer, a beautiful woman at my side. There have been many, but they were all mostly too good for me. At least I could make most of them laugh – I bet they think about that often, or at least I hope they do. Because I do. Laughter is about the only thing I have to offer most people on most days.
On Exchange Street, I’m walking drunk with a group of friends and we’re all getting ice cream. Little did I know that my connection to those people would melt faster than that real ice cream did in the hot summer air. Should’ve gotten a dish, because cones get all soggy. Especially when one is drunk.
At Monument Square, I’m sitting on a bench in the winter, writing a poem while looking at the capitalism rising around me, in the form of large buildings casting cold shadows on us mere mortals on the street. I’m watching a homeless man stick his fingers in the coin return of several payphones, looking for change. I shiver from the cold. We’re all looking for change – I know I still am. Hope you found yours.
On Congress Street, I’m marching for different causes, different ideologies. I don’t fully agree with them all the way, but mostly. And mostly, I’m just excited to see people….excited. About something. About standing up for what they think is right. And I’m shoulder to shoulder with them, marching along, and I bet we look like ants from above. But we feel big, and that’s all that matters.
At a restaurant on the water, I’m looking a girl in the eyes, and my chest is buzzing with life, and I haven’t felt that in a long time. I feel the heat on my skin. We’re touching each other’s legs, and we’re making small talk while the sounds of the ocean applaud us for trying not to show how much tension there is. We’re both smirking. It’s like we’re teenagers again. We leave a big tip and walk away, each with butterflies in our chest.
This city is the intersection of many lives, and many different realities. Different timelines. When I walk the streets and gaze around me, if you see me doing this – I’m time traveling. I’m re-living those memories. I’m not at a loss for words, I’m just in *that* moment, and the memories are flooding through me like water over the lip of a dam. And if you’re as quiet and introspective as I am – you may just get a glimpse of other ghosts roaming the streets…just the same as me.