About eight hours and the entire Morphine catalogue later, I was exhausted. Nerves had kept me from eating for the past two days, and gas tank needle was quivering above the uppercase E that would spell certain automotive stasis. Making it across the Idaho border and finding myself in Ontario, OR, an interstate sign read "Baker City: 73 miles."
That sounded like a good spot.
I pulled off the highway and into the Chevron station on the brink of town. I got scolded for trying to pump my own gas--stupid hippies--and asked my assailant/gas attendant for a dinner recommendation. She begrudgingly directed me to Barley Brown's Brewpub. As a big fan of both brewpubs and alliteration, I stopped off and enjoyed what remains to this day the greatest burger of my entire life, the greatest burger (traditional pub burger plus honey mustard) and the greatest beer (their award-winning Whiskey Malt Ale) I've ever been fortunate enough to enjoy. A kind elderly couple gave me an alternate sense of directions with which I could bypass the approaching storm gathering like a left-wing protest above the mountain pases of La Grande.
I finally got to Bellingham, and everything was okay. Turns out Grandma Jeanne had recovered admirably, all available family came down to her house to catch up and say hello, and then I went and stayed with Jenny for a few days on Bainbridge Island.
Something about Baker City always stuck in my brain, though.
A year later, I found out that my girlfriend, in a rather thematically fitting turn of events, had been sleeping with a married 50-year-old professor in whose class we had met two years prior. With Spring Break around the corner and every street and building in Utah having some kind of primary, secondary, or tertiary connection to a betrayal that felt like it had brought an already broken world down around my ankles, I decided to return to Oregon and try and figure out what the hell it was about Baker City that had crocheted itself onto my frontal lobe.
Baker City is a tiny little place, boasting around ten thousand citizens. It's home to the Bridge Street Inn, the Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales, the Eastern Slope Ranch, and the most gorgeous horizon I've ever seen.
And whatever it was about that place helped me distill the past year into something I could process. But I wasn't honest. Like I always do, I pulled punches and took blame for things that weren't my fault. I assigned undeserved guilt to myself in hopes to be a bigger person.
Tess and Kimball are dropping me off in Baker City tomorrow, another year later for what'll be my fourth visit, and I'm done pulling punches. Maybe I'll get another tattoo. There's a shop on Main Street next to the gift shop with the incredible fudge and the compellingly tacky Christian tchotchkes, and I was impressed with some of their work.
But whatever I do there, I'm gonna do it honestly, and I don't care if it hurts anymore. I'm gonna look the last year in the eye and dare it to blink. I've been so honest with you at the expense of being honest to myself, and that all changes now.