Pike Place Market: A Love Story

Flickr CC Travis Wise

Flickr CC Travis Wise

It was fall 2010 and it was raining — a light misting rain. The tourists pulled out their umbrellas undoubtedly feeling as if they were getting the full Seattle experience, while the locals pulled their hoods up and hunched their backs to protect their newly purchased treasures and others walked on completely unfazed. We strolled down the street, a busy and tangled mess of cars and tourists darting into traffic in an attempt to get the perfect iconic shot in front of the glowing red Pike Place Market sign. Just below the sign a gathering watched the men in white aprons at the seafood stall tossing fresh salmon the way a street performer tosses juggling pins.

Just a few shops farther down on the right side of the street a women’s-restroom-sized line waited to set foot inside the original Starbucks, money for lattes and coffee-themed memorabilia likely already in hand.

As we continued swimming upstream, pausing to listen to a busker here and there, some of the people we passed were carrying brown paper bags in various sizes containing home-made jewelry, fresh Washington apples, expensive kitchen gadgets, and previously loved books; many of them juggled bouquets of freshly cut flowers, some of which sported bright, chubby sunflowers.

We stopped at some of the shops long enough to really admire their wares, but mostly we just breathed in the scent of hand-made soap mixed with the smell of leather journals and overpriced organic produce. We breathed in the relaxed yet upbeat rhythm of the city. We breathed in the colors and the sounds. We breathed in every moment together as if we were savoring the fresh, fleeting smell of rain.

We found an often completely overlooked alcove just outside the market, sandwiched between a Tully’s Coffee and something I can’t recall. The aesthetics mainly consisted of concrete and a few potted trees. But when we stood right up next to the fence, peering over a manicured bush, we could see the freeway and, beyond that, the Seattle skyline — complete with the Space Needle and a ferry on its way in. You wrapped your arms around me, and we stood together — for the first time that close together — breathing in the moment.

I fell in love with you there, standing in the rain.

As the cars on the freeway below us hurdled by and tourists hurried for shelter from the rain, as no one watched or cared, you and I became us. It happened slowly and then, when I wasn’t expecting it, all at once.

As we left our spot, forever that will be our spot, you reached for my hand as we walked towards the pier. Only a few minutes before my hand had been empty but now it was laced with yours.


Verbal Polaroid: Don’t be a Stranger

 

The green and yellow bus lurches to a stop, the doors swing open with a whoosh of air. “Good morning!” I beam at my usual driver as I step on the bus, monthly pass in hand. The doors close behind me. “You know, I think you’re the only person on my route who looks like they might actually like mornings,” he says shaking his head in amusement.

As the bus lunges forward I walk down the aisle with one hand over my head as I lightly finger the bar overhead. After several years as a proud strap-hanging public-transit-riding commuter I’ve earned my sea legs; the jerking and swaying doesn’t faze me as I make my way to my usual squeaky leather seat. I always sit where the rows of bus benches face each other because it provides the best view of the entire bus.

A few sleepy heads look up long enough to acknowledge me but not long enough to say anything.

The woman directly across from me is reading a well-highlighted leather Bible. Once, when she wasn’t reading she told me she worked at the Starbucks headquarters; she’ll get off at the transit station in order to transfer to the northbound commuter train. The preteen girl sitting next to her with her earbuds in—the universal bus sign for “No, I do not want to make small talk actually”— is clutching a pink backpack on her lap; she’ll get off at the middle school. Several other students are also lugging around heavy, bulky backpacks on their way to high school or the local community college. Sometimes they read their textbooks or flip through flashcards, always with their earbuds in.

The man next to me is sipping his regular morning coffee, obviously still trying to wake up. Sometimes he’ll nod a “G’mornin’” but that’s about the extent of his 6:30 am socialness. Several riders are slumped up against the windows, likely still dreaming of the pillows they had to leave too hastily. The only sounds are the creaking and whooshing of the bus doors and the occasional contagious line of yawns.

When an older gentleman steps on the regular riders audibly groan. He’s hauling his weekly recycling: a giant neon-orange cloth bag with pictures of jack-o-lanterns all over it. The person next to me mumbles, “Better pull your legs in,” as the man walks down the aisle with his scary Santa sized bag bumping along behind him. It barely squeezes down the aisle and when it gets stuck he gives it a tug, which elicits more moans from his fellow riders as the can-filled bag has a run in with several people’s knees. He sits down, and then the bus is quiet again.

I pull my black Beatle’s tote bag, complete with Bob Marley pins, onto my lap to make room for other passengers. A man in his late thirties slips a CD into my hand as he walks past. “I burned it for you because I saw your bag,” he says shyly before continuing down the aisle. The CD reads in blue hand-written ink: The Moondoggies. I’ll later find out they’re a local Seattle band. The album is entitled Don’t be a Stranger. (The title likely isn’t ironic because the next several times I’ll run into him on the bus he’ll ask for a date.)

As I slip my new CD in my tote bag everyone else is still slowly waking up. They read, catch up on podcasts or listen to their favorite songs, drink their coffee, and stare out the windows as the sun is just beginning to yawn and stretch right along with them.

They are close enough that I could touch them, but they are always in their own little worlds. So many potential acquaintances, friends, and lovers just within their reach. And they never know. I’m surrounded by people—sometimes uncomfortably close to people — but alone just the same.

As the bus rolls on I continue people watching and when I happen to chance on someone who is awake enough to visit, encourage them to not be a stranger.