Grey Skies

grey-skies

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”
– William Faulkner

Petrichor is distinct.

The rainy aroma is engrained in me as much as brewed coffee, or laundry straight from the dryer.

When I feel the first few drops on my skin, I pause for a moment in my walk across the parking lot on the gray July day. I can’t stop myself from smiling. And before I know it, I’ve turned my face skyward. Already it smells like home.

“What’re you doing, weirdo?” Moryah asks me. She stops some feet ahead.

“It’s raining,” I say. My eyes are closed as the drops land on my face. If I keep this up, I won’t be able to see out of my glasses. That’s okay though, I’ve missed this.

The drops fall faster from the gray and splatter on everything. Professors rush between buildings, and I’m stopped on the cobblestone.

I laugh and turn back to Moryah. She’s staring at me like I’ve lost my mind.

“Are you done?”

“Sorry. It hasn’t rained in a while,” I say. We walk towards the Student Center, water sloshing into our shoes, and hurry through the sliding double doors.  I pause near the tables and make a vain attempt to clean my glasses with my soaked shirt. Goosebumps rise on my arms from the water as it cools my skin. It’s a relief compared to the humid afternoon the day before.

The rain falls faster here. New Hampshire rain is hard. It pounds into the earth and flows wherever it pleases.

Seattle rain is steady. It’s a soundtrack woven through my memories. To most, it’s like static on the radio.

On a typical fall Sunday in Seattle, the average tourist will see the gray sky and showers as a damper to their visit. I sip my coffee by Ghost Alley Espresso and watch the tourists under hotel umbrellas snap selfies by the gum wall.

The city keeps going.

Seattle doesn’t halt for gray-skied days or rainy weeks. People wade through petrichor at the start of a storm as it wafts from the pavement. They catch buses and shop at the farmer’s market.

I once heard someone say, “It’s not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

That sounded like a stupid phrase. Why would anyone dance in the rain?

After a rough breakup first semester, I stumbled across that phrase somewhere on the Internet. As I read it over in my dorm room in New Hampshire, I pictured home.

The Space Needle against the gray sky with rain thrumming around it. People continue on their errands in the sweet earthy air with their hoods up or umbrellas open. They wouldn’t let the showers stop them.

The house built by my single-mom withstood rainstorms. I couldn’t let my home down and hide. I wasn’t raised to turn my back on who I was or where I’d come from.

Petrichor is distinctly home.

Convention Life

A group of red-hooded figures sing about chimichangas behind us, as I wandered the aisle with Katie. We paused at a booth and skimmed through their stacks. Occasionally someone would ask if we were looking for anything, or shout a deal to entice customers. A couple hundred booths fanned out from the entrance, filling the rectangular expo hall to the brim.

That doesn’t include the attendees who crowded the aisles like ants to a dropped chip on a sidewalk. They’re everywhere.

But that’s how I like it.

I started attending conventions when I was in middle school.

Back then, it was a small anime convention held in a single hotel on the noisy flight path of the Sea-Tac airport. There were only a few thousand people then. Now its a convention that boasts over 20,000 attendees, and is one of the largest and oldest anime conventions in the Pacific Northwest.

I started attending other conventions over the years – including Emerald City Comic-Con, and the largest video game convention synonymous with my hometown. However the luster of going as an attendee had faded. I needed a new experience, which led me to working at the merchandise booth for that aforementioned anime convention.

It was all the experience I could ever want, and more. I worked on an amazing staff, who are some of my close friends. That gave me the boost to become an Enforcer at that large video game convention.

And then I stopped.

My life had changed directions, and conventions were out of my price range. I was attending school full-time, and had moved to an area I did not know. I had taken a break for nearly a year, when I felt that itch.

I needed to go.

I missed that feeling of jumping into a rousing discussion of headcanon and meta without receiving odd looks. The shouts of fans as they attempted to get the attention of that amazing cosplayer stepping onto the escalator. My only problem became I did not know anyone who shared these interests.

A perk of being an Enforcer is that I can pick up and drop attending conventions based on my ability. So I enlisted myself for the local video game convention and contacted my friend to see if she still had space in her department for a lackey. And suddenly I was in.

When I walked into BCEC out of the 10 degree chill that winter morning, I took in the hustle and bustle of set-up. The doors wouldn’t open to the public for t-minus 24 hours and counting, but it felt alive already.

I checked in, got my badge, and headed to work. Within 30 minutes of being there, I was hauling boxes and setting up the press/media room. I did sign up to be a lackey.

It was 15 degrees out. Or something ridiculous like that.
It was 15 degrees out. Or something ridiculous like that.

The doors opened with much fanfare and a line that stretched as far as I could see across the bridge.

People were everywhere. And I hadn’t felt so much at home in a long time.

There’s something to be said about feeling at home in a convention center teeming with people. But that was where I felt the most comfortable.

Conventions had become that home away from home. I was among fellow geeks/nerds/etc. Outlandish discussions were commonplace, and otherworldly outfits were the norm.

So when Katie and I decided to attend Boston Comic-Con, it was like returning to my roots.

I finally got to meet my long-time online writer friend, spend another weekend in the only part of Boston I knew and expand my convention home once more.

This weekend was everything I could have ever asked for and more. Katie and I got some tattoos that are equal parts nerdy and self-empowering as a celebration of our friendship. We met a woman who is so incredibly humble, infinitely intelligent and insightful, and beautiful. She plays the brilliant character our tattoos are based off of. Rather than hit up a bar, we stayed in our hotel, and talked over cider or Malibu about fanfiction, writing, comics, and everything imaginable.

We didn’t want to go back to our nine-to-fives the next day. The whole experience was like a dream we didn’t want to wake up from.

Unfortunately we both had drives home ahead – hers quadruple the length of mine. And suddenly after meeting up in that hotel lobby on Friday, we were standing outside a T station hugging on Sunday.

Conventions aren’t just where nerds convene, or front-running political candidates are decided. Its where friendships grow, and are fostered.

Next time I won’t wait so long.