IT'S CALLED THE JUMP POINT. Moving or still, night or day, rain or snow, like it or not you're getting off that train. It's that or get busted by the bulls for trespassing. Every city has its own jump point and you need an experienced guide to tell you how far out from the city limits you gotta jump. My guide was my best friend. That is until she got herself perished thanks to a fentanyl OD. She told me about the time her friend got stabbed on the way to Chicago. He still had to jump off and walk almost two days to get there. I don't remember where she said Seattle's jump point was but we overslept, as per usual. We woke up just as the train made its way through Georgetown, well past the jump point. Sometimes luck counts for more than street smarts. I didn't realize what I was looking at all those years ago, but what I saw back then would be my new home. Until everything went to shit, as per usual.
The Pacific Northwest gets the nickname 'The Northweird.' People here are weirder than anywhere else. Bad weird. The trends they follow here are weird in a way that makes you feel disconnected and uncomfortable. The land itself conceals so much yet is so bland. It's underdeveloped, vast, and hides its secrets in dark corners. Seattle has odd fads, eccentric people, and an almost forgotten history just under its streets. You'd never guess this is a sleepy town with an ocean of secrets beneath the surface. You could spend your whole life here and never know a fraction of what's actually going on just around the corner.
My name is Claudia Kohler and I'm 33 year old professional loser. I have yet to go to a job interview where I didn't hear the words “your resume is all over the place.” I ran away from home when I was 16. Spent a few years in New York at punk squats. Got my GED and a community college shit associates in web design that I never put to use. Slummed it in NoCal. I've been to nearly every Bay Area squat before getting kicked out or running away again. I worked any job I could, mostly customer service hell and being a stagehand. Ran away again to Seattle with my bestie. I got to my mid 20s and tried to pull myself up from the gutter. I applied to a few schools and got into Cornish. I took out a shit tun of loans, failed to get any number of grants, and went back to being a wage slave with a shit BFA that isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Wasn't until I moved to Georgetown that I would find my calling; being a career criminal witch. Problem is a life in crime is a life of guilt, fear, violence, and a hole you just keep digging and digging further into. Maybe “calling” is a bit too kind. Call it a forced career change.
Just the day before I was trapped in my usual hell world of normality. I had just rage quit another job because damned if I can hold one for more than six months. It was a soul crushing barista gig on The Ave, and with that coming to an end so did my room of two years. I was planning to move back to New York but that came crashing down as well. Medical debts, a job lined up that immediately fell through, and a potential room that reneged last second. My current, now former, place was a shitty basement I shared with The Weregerbil. My roommates call him Lying Hamster Man. Basically his room smells like a gerbil cage. He hums loud enough for me to hear him through the walls with no melody whatsoever to his noise. So getting made homeless and getting out of that shit hole was not the worst. I mean, I loved the rest of my roommates. Not the decaying house though. So I started looking for sublets and saw something that no sane person would reply to.
I was chilling at a cafe, looking at ads for rooms online. I had been searching everywhere and all I saw were red flags. So I went to my last resort; cafe bulletin boards. Most of the IRL bulletin boards (yes, I was that desperate) were plastered in ads for the big Halloween Parade. Panteka LLC International Evil Incorporated and their soulless CEO, Christine Wolfe, decided to distract us from their gentrification by throwing us a huge parade. Dudebros across the Puget Sound could have an excuse to come here and commit hate crimes. Now the roommate ads, those were just in the way of our tech overlord's grandiose parade and all those party fliers for dudebro gatherings. Just as all hope was fading from me I saw it. A torn up flier for a free room. The numbers were all missing but I checked to see if there was an online ad for it and I found it.
FREE – Room in Georgetown
Old victorian era house in Georgetown, walking distance to the 124,132, and 60 busses. 5 minute walk to Airport Way S. We're right near a vegan punk bar and tattoo shop. Room is free to any aspiring witches. We will teach you witchcraft, magic, and the dark arts. In exchange just help us with rituals and magical chores. Also run errands. Easy stuff for beginners. Small room, only one small window, bathroom is in hall.
About us: old cis gay couple. We have a few apprentices who are farther in their journey. Serious inquiries only.
I only go to Georgetown to get my teeth done by the local clinic. Afterwords I go to Georgetown Music and look at the guitars I can't afford, go to Fantagraphic's creepy back room to look at the defective misprints that I can afford, then to the record stores to look at the same crappy records that never circulate, and longingly gaze at bars I can't afford to drink at. I do occasionally head down there for the Art Walk and the Georgetown Carnival. I always miss the local punk fest, The Dead Baby Downhill, because I usually work weekends. Thus is the life of a customer service slave. You miss out on everything.
I got my ass in gear and took the 26 bus down to 4th and Lucile. You know where that creepy, weird vacuum cleaner repair shop is that gives out free bibles? That's my stop. I walked east and down a bit then just wondered about lazily until I got there.
In California everyone lies but it's a million harmless white lies. People just bullshit and you roll with it. Yeah, I like that band. Yeah, that sounds good. You just go with the flow. In Seattle it's a whole new level of pathological lying and fear. Everyone is full of shit. They're deathly afraid of being judged and hyper judgmental themselves. It is beyond rare to find a Seattleite who tells it like it is. I went into this expecting the worst; to be jerked around in an awkward nightmare of a meaningless conversation. So when I walked up to the house I was shocked to meet a straight shooter.
I was greeted at the door by a short, round, heavily tattooed bearded goth guy. He introduced himself as Gregory. He said his partner would be joining us in the living room soonish. The house seemed small and hidden on the outside but once you walked in it was like a giant manor. The place had that old musky smell you expect from an antique shop. The layout was confusing as ever. All the shit on the walls and their shelves looked like it got salvaged from Nevertold Casket Co when the biz went under. The “Keep your hands in your pockets” vibe.
We sit down in his living room and I pop myself on the couch. Everything is warm in tones and smells like Wicca shops. He pulls out a laptop from the table and begins to read my reply while asking me questions, trying to remember to make eye contact occasionally.
“So it says you don't practice magic but are willing to learn?” Asks Gregory.
“Yeah, I never got into it but I like to keep an open mind.” I say but in reality I think it's all horse shit. All that crystal healing astrology crap liters my social media feeds and drives me nuts. I remember hearing something like “I can't get into astrology because if the stars controlled my life that'd make them my enemies.” My feelings exactly.
“Good.” replies Gregory. “We don't do the woo woo stuff here. We get hardcore. Crowley levels of hardcore. Don't worry, nothing sexual I promise.” He rolls his eyes like he's had to talk too many people down from a ledge and kinda wants them to jump at this point. I breathe a sigh of relief.
“OK... moving on. Says you work...” Oh boy, here it comes... “as a freelance stagehand and construction worker?”
“Pearl Jam was my favorite gig to be on. Gave us a local crew shirt afterwards. Got to see the last 30 minutes of the show.”
“Nice.” mews Gregory.
Another gothy, pudgy dude comes strolling in. He looks annoyed at the world which is understandable. His expressions are overly dramatic in a way that's intentionally comedic. He's a little taller and a bit more tan than Gregory. They really are a cute couple. “Sorry I'm late,” he says in a sarcastic manner that's almost endearing.
“This is Jeremy.”
“You can call me Jer-Bear.” He says playfully as he plops down next to his partner.
“And this is...” Gregory tries to hide that he's looking at the email to remember my name.
SHIT! Did I forget to sign my real name? I put “Mary Abaddon” in when I was signing up for an email account in the late 90s. I kept the handle all throughout my internet adventures. I don't think anyone has ever called me that in person before. But this is Seattle and lots of people have obviously fake, cringeworthy names so nobody will question it. This is part of the bad weird I was talking about.
The conversation gets duller from there and turns into the usual blur of Seattleite small talk and pleasantries. They say they're professional witches. I say cool. They tell me what they want in an apprentice. I pretend I'm not a supreme fuck up. We laugh, we share awkward silences, they ask if I want coffee and I say I'm good which is a cardinal sin in Seattle. We leave with an awkward handshake and I already know I didn't get the place. Seattle is about being in the right clique and I got kicked out of every last one I was ever invited to.
I take the 60 back to Capitol Hill where I'm crashing on a friend's couch. My therapist says I need to recognize my triggers. That I'm not a failure and it's just my mom's perfectionist, abusive bullshit that traumatized me all my childhood. That it's her voice that tells me to hate myself, doubt myself, and look down on myself. But it feels real. Feels like I can't do anything right. Sometimes I think of my ex, Emily, pushing me on. The fake Emily in my head. Not the real one who abused me and still harasses me at social events. It's definitely not healthy to conflate my abusive ex with the positive voices in my head.
I walk down Republican Street and towards Melrose to look out at the city, to stand on that overpass blanketing the I-5 express highway. Just gaze melancholy into the towers and the Olympic peninsula beyond. Remembering when I first came to Seattle which gives way to remembering when I first ran away to New York as a teen. I was trying to sleep in a park facing the East River somewhere in Williamsburg. A squad car pulled up and I heard the cop get out and start walking towards me. I start crying silently, my body recoiling in disgust. While I fought the memories it was remembering my monstrous stepdad as he used to lean over me as I slept. That horrible feeling of someone leaning over you, hovering, watching you as you anticipate the worst. That cop was hovering over me and I pretended to be asleep hoping he wouldn't arrest or harass me. Instead I heard him take all the crap out of his pockets. He put his coat over me and got back in his squad car. Later I'd put a few patched over the NYPD logo so I wouldn't lose crust punk points. I lied and pretended I stole it. I wore that jacket till it fell apart. I'll never trust a cop but I'll never forget that one act of kindness. It was the last the streets would ever give me.
The city is bright and dead. Silent except for the passing cars. My memories return to house parties, my first studio here, yard sales, and just walking around Cap Hill. That's all gone now. It just lives in my memory as a ghost. My mind is a graveyard of places that no longer exist and feelings I can't recapture. It's a cemetery of friendships I destroyed or lost. I feel as empty and soulless as the city itself.
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