Chapter 1 is here
I walked with Rob’s mom for a while. The crowd thinned as quicker walkers accelerated a bit. Soon we were in Belltown, a neighborhood where hipsters party and barhop on Saturday nights. A bit of cognitive dissonance for the hipsters: here we were in Mardi Gras beads but clearly not headed for the bars and clearly not festive. I heard a few people ask some walkers what this was all about. I didn’t stop to clarify for anyone. I just walked and chatted about the weather with a man and a woman I took to be brother and sister. Both wore gold beads (loss of parent), the woman asked the man about Seattle, we all speculated about whether it would rain. The crowd continued through downtown, past Hammering Man, turning right on Cherry Street and down to the waterfront where our first rest stop awaited. It had not yet been two miles but here were snacks and drinks and toilets. Some chose to stay and look out at the Seattle waterfront in the evening sunlight. I had seen that water before and, in fact, beautiful though it was, I wasn’t eager to see it again. That’s where Rick’s ashes were scattered. Now wasn’t the time to reflect, it was time to walk.
Walking north through Myrtle Edwards Park, I began to feel the sore feet a bit. Not really sore but the indications of where soreness would be. And oh, it would be. I fell into conversation with a woman who was walking for her aunt whom she barely ever knew. Her aunt and her mother had been very close and when the aunt died, well, the mother was never the same after that and is still something of a wreck to this day. There’s this idea that loved ones will somehow “get better” or “recover” but it’s just not like that. Again and again, I hear of people not getting better, just getting different forever. So this woman was walking as a Mother’s Day present to her mom, to try to raise some money and awareness. Her friend was walking with her because she was her friend. The Overnight wasn’t all people who directly lost someone, the crowd contained many people who have been rocked by the ripples.
Across the freaky Amgen bridge on Elliott Avenue, south on Elliott past the Baskin-Robbins, then back up Queen Anne to Mercer and I met some people from Wisconsin (they didn’t need to tell me they were from Wisconsin, I’ve learned the accent). They walked for cousins and friends, one of whom had served in Iraq and then took his own life. One very cheerful young woman also walked for herself. She was bipolar and diagnosed with PTSD. I didn’t ask what caused the PTSD. “I have to work pretty hard!” she said, cheerfully.
Down Mercer, by this time it was quite dark, to Westlake and the next rest stop where a woman in a Pittsburgh Pirates shirt approached me. “Are you John Moe?” she asked. Yeah, I am, I said. She had read my book and turned out to be this huge fan. She brought her husband over, also dressed in Pirates gear, he had also read my book and said he loved it. “Get off my lawn!” he yelled, citing a chapter where I go to a shooting range, a chapter he said was his favorite. I didn’t tell him that, six months after the book was published, my brother died at a shooting range. Didn’t want to bum him out. He had lost his father two months after his wedding. That happens a lot, I’m told. Babies are born, weddings and graduations happen, suicides of family members. His dad was a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan, thus the gear. The shirts, the beads, all part of the weight we carry.
North on Westlake and I talk to a woman from Portland. Maybe 50 years old. She was walking for her father who died on Christmas Day when she was 16. She found him. “I’m amazed you can even walk at all, let alone in this,” I said. Four months ago, she lost a nephew as well. Her friend asked me a lot of questions about how Rick acted before he died. She has family members who she feels may be in a dangerous situation and so she keeps her cell phone close at all times and was interviewing whoever she could find to look for clues.
Across the Fremont Bridge. Fremont (Seattle’s Berkeley if that helps) was having their annual festival so there was a celebratory mood in the air. An SUV drove by and, seeing all the people in Mardi Gras beads, a young woman yelled, “Whoo! Show me yours and I’ll show you mine!” No thanks. I wonder if she ever found out what the beads were for. I kind of hope not. Or maybe she meant, “Show me your deep psychological wounds and yearning for catharsis and I’ll show you mine!” and she just didn’t have time to get all that out as the SUV drove past. Yeah, that’s probably what happened.
At about mile 9 at this point. 11 more to go.