"So, what brings you to Seattle?" It was an automatic question. Something the rental car clerk was probably taught to spit out while shuffling through paperwork. Idle chit chat, because people like chit chat. It's friendly.
"An absurd devotion to my wife."
The clerk stopped for a second, but didn't look up. I like to think he appreciated my honesty; maybe it caught him off guard. Or I was the 17th "cute" answer he'd received that hour and he was debating whether or not it would be worth it to just go ahead and punch me in the face. Could have gone either way.
"Go outside, take a left, then go up one floor. That's our lot. Look for the Economy sign. Pick the one you want and drive out--keys are inside." The clerk gave me a curt nod and then motioned to the person behind me to step forward.
We picked a tiny white car—a Chevy Sonic, I think—because it looked most like Edward Cullen's Volvo.
And so began our trip to Seattle.
Some background: Brooke’s discovery
In 2008, my wife discovered Twilight, three or four weeks before the final book in the series came out. She loved it.
I was thrilled. I'd been trying to get her to like reading for years, but nothing ever stuck. Something about Twilight grabbed her. She chewed through the first three books in a week and then waited in line at midnight for the final one.
I have a policy with my entertainment: at least twice a year, read/play/watch something you normally wouldn't. And so I read the Twilight saga, though not as quickly as Brooke. Wasn't really my cup of tea (Team Jacob baby!), but I could see why Brooke liked it. It was a story about high school sweethearts. It reminded her of us (except I was not, nor do I plan to be, a vampire). That was kind of sweet, I guess.
The important thing, at least for me as a writer, was that Twilight jumpstarted Brooke's reading appetite. She quickly outpaced me, reading more books per month than I ever had. She gobbled up everything in the booming YA market, searching for that next sweet forbidden young love fix.
Years went by. Brooke's Twilight love never waned. Through an interesting series of events (chronicled in other blogs), Brooke was able to visit Phoenix in 2009 and Italy in 2010 (Volterra, a city featured in New Moon, was one of our many stops). She'd already been to Florida years ago. That put her one city away from this bumper sticker:
Christmas 2011: A far off gift
I promised to make that sticker a reality. On Christmas day, I told Brooke She would see the final Twilight movie in Forks. The plane tickets were already purchased. She cried.
Eleven months later, we left our son with his grandma and our dog with a friend and headed for the Pacific Northwest. Turns out Forks is super tiny. No airport to fly in to and no movie theater to watch Breaking Dawn in. So we stayed in Seattle, which was fine by us. I grew up all over the country, but I've never seen the Pacific Northwest. Being three hours away from Forks would give us a chance to see more of the area. And what a beautiful area it is.
Chasing the Cullens
We started with Seattle. We wondered around Pike's Place, grabbed coffee at the first Starbucks, saw two (!) movies in the middle of the day without hiring a babysitter, did a good bit of shopping, and got rained on, a lot. Just being together, free of set plans or baby schedules, was wonderful.
On our last day, we drove onto a ferry early in the morning and made the three hour journey through the winding mountains to Forks. It might have been one of the most scenic and pleasurable road trips I’ve ever taken. The constant changes in elevation, the towering trees and still lakes, and the way our tiny rental car hugged each turn—I felt like I was inside one of the many driving video games I’ve played over the years. It was too pretty to be real.
Forks is a small town. Like, 3,000 people small. It's right up there at the edge of the state, alone in the piney moutains. It's a secluded, sleepy little town, and a perfect setting for a story about light-averse vampires. We covered the whole thing--jumping out to take pictures at all the Twilight landmarks--in about an hour. It was goofy, to be running around a little town where people work and live, as if we were on a scavenger hunt, snapping pictures that would mean nothing to anyone other than Brooke, and Twi-hards like her. But it was fun and silly. I’m a firm believer and doing silly things from time to time.
After the pictures we stopped at a crummy diner on the edge of town. The roof was leaking and the burgers tasted like they came straight out of a high school cafeteria. I sat across from Brooke, who unlike the many other Twilight fanatics we'd seen (and there were many), was dressed in normal clothes. Still, you could tell she was there for Twilight. Despite the rain, the mediocre burger and the chilly air, she radiated pure joy. She was glowing. You might even say she sparkled. She had that exuberant look of nerdy satisfaction. It was nice to see it on her. God knows she's seen it on me over the years:
-The time I was flown to Arizona and treated like a celebrity just for illustrating a book for a non-profit.
-The time I stood 15 yards from Jack Johnson, my favorite musician, as he sang a few songs in the area near the snack bar before his concert started.
-The time I talked to Ben Caldwell, one of my favorite artists, at Heroes Con and got him to critique my art portfolio.
-The day I heard I was going to get paid to write game reviews as a freelancer for Gamespot.com.
She's been down some nerdy roads with me. She's listened to me prattle on (and on, and on) about video games and how they're made, my writing and art dreams, and so much more. Unlike the Twilight saga, there's no end to my geekery. I figured it was only fair to help her see hers to its conclusion.
We finished our trip at La Push, a beach on a Native American reservation featured in the books. It was absolutely stunning, wild, untouched land. Pictures can't do it justice. Growing up in the Navy, I've stood on a lot of beaches. This one was different. This was pure, unfiltered nature. Standing there almost felt wrong, as if we were intruding. As if we weren't meant to see that cold, powerful, solitary side of the world. Standing there while the wind whipped a mixture of freezing ocean water and rain at us, I felt small. It reminded me of that Kimya Dawson song. I've rolled my eyes and poked fun at my wife's obsession for years. Standing at La Push, I was glad for it.
Before we left, Brooke grabbed a smooth stone as a memento, and I recorded this quick video in the car.
And that about sums it up. We drove back, grabbed another ferry to Seattle and crashed in our hotel room. We returned home to a grueling week--Brooke had her thyroid removed on Tuesday and because her vocal chords seem to be temporarily paralyzed, they kept her in the hospital through Friday. The hospital Thanksgiving food was...underwhelming.
Her voice still isn’t back. It might be a few weeks, maybe even a few months. It definitely sucks to have my famously talkative wife silenced. But the silence has brought reflection. We’ve both spent more time in our heads. Time we’ve used to think about the ups and downs of our lives and what’s really important. Like trips to Twilight-ville, USA.
Yesterday, on our way to Brooke’s post-op check-up, she turned down the radio and whispered to me, “I’ve been thinking a lot about our trip. It was really great, just hanging out with you. Thanks for taking me there.”
She didn’t need to tell me that of course. But I nodded along just the same. “Yeah, it was really great.”