Dance lessons

By Amanda Knox

The first dance lessons I ever took were swing dance lessons in middle school. At the time, Explorer West was still a tiny, start-up, independent middle school that rented out the caboose-end of the then Westside Elementary School building. Our class numbered an intimate fifteen, almost evenly divided between male (seven) and female (eight). Now, as an adult, I wonder how gleefully conniving it must have been for our first-name-basis teachers to decide to suddenly introduce awkward hand-holding and bunny-hopping into the curriculum.

“It’s not that we didn’t want to dance,” Colin astutely recalls. “It’s that we weren’t willing to.”

Fast forward and you’ll find me at a loss at high school homecomings, tolos, prom…Without regular access to the choreography of, say, MTV music videos, I sang along more than danced along to the DJ’s rehashing of KUBE 93’s afternoon line-up, and limped away in the bunion-bruising black heels I had bought at Payless for the occasion.

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Tacoma: spooky, kitschy, cool?

By Amanda Knox

Saturday morning I woke up feeling a presentiment. I pondered it while sipping tea and staring out the window. It didn’t much make sense. It was raining out, but I like the rain. I had the day off from the bookstore so I could attend a friend’s housewarming party in Portland, a city I like to visit. My cat, Picard, was curled in my lap and purring.

I decided to sidestep the inexplicable and unplaceable dread. As much as I place my faith is such things, I also place no faith in them at all. Colin woke up, we had breakfast, picked out a housewarming gift on the way to the car (a Serge Gainsbourg album on vinyl), and hit the highway.

Colin drove, which was why I didn’t immediately notice the wind. After a while I did notice that we were just barely going the speed limit and were occasionally swerving slightly within our lane. It made me nervous.

“It’s the wind, babe,” Colin said.

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By Amanda Knox

Having been born, grown up, and lived in Seattle for the majority of my life, I am both familiar and comfortable with a cloudy sky. Where transplants from sunnier states can find the rain oppressive and are disconcerted by the enduring swathes of dull to bright grey blanketing the sky, I am comforted by the introspective mists and the silver depths of the clouds rising above. I can breathe.

Last Sunday was different. Last Sunday was something I do not remember seeing in all my twenty-eight years. It was a weird, dry, harsh, cough-inducing haze—like fog, but the opposite of fog.

“It’s really L.A. out right now,” Colin observed in the car on our way home from running errands.
“What do you mean?” I asked, squinting.
“I mean, the weather, it reminds me of Southern California.”
“All the weird dust in the air?”
“That’s smoke, babe.”

My heart clenched, probably in the same instinctual way that a field mouse’s heart clenches when it senses the same thing: smoke. Fire.

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