An dashed white line rushes by me with a boring, hypnotic but fascinating rhythm. The trance is shallow, though, and easily broken by a change in speed or a nervous tick in the driver’s wrist which instantly bring me back to reality. Seven people is too many for a single bloody car, even a Honda van. I feel like a sardine in a can and can’t escape the dullness of our destination, a trade show in Seattle. We have agreed to declare at the border that we’re attending a simple reception in order to avoid paying the stupid annoyance tax. NAFTA my a**s.

Upon getting there, we run a few errands and yellow lights, pay visits and parking, setup for the show and check into our respective hotel nests. Nearby Pike Place Market isn’t too busy but fish throwing never stops, to the great delight of passers-by.

Our show starts late in the afternoon and we smile and bow for over two hours, exchanging business cards and forced compliments, promoting the baker who puts bread on our respective tables, tourism, looking for extra butter, to ease things in. A crowd roams by, like seaweed carried by a strong tide, wandering about and  wondering why they bothered. Oh yes, it was for the food. Which smells rather good to the right, but is left out of bounds for us hunters – we will get our treat later on at the Edgewater. For now, let the preys feast and let us pray they will fall. In our nets.

Then comes the call. It’s my fault because it’s my initiative. But caring knows no schedule. There’s no reason, that’s the reason. Time and distance are grinding away at the substance of life. Then the lights go down. The show is over, inside and out. I follow the herd to the cocktail, hunters only. There’s pizza and burgers and salad and beer and wine and beer and wine. And wine. Whining too, but in the best of spirits. The hunters can let go and arm the rifles, and shoot at empty space, and tell hunting stories. Booze flows, pizza keeps reappearing. Tongues get agile, mouths are big enough to accept feet, but nobody any longer cares. Cheeks are now bright and eyes shiny. Then those turn red, and slightly blurry.

I’ve paid my dues, time to escape. To retreat to the darkness and let it match my mood. They drive back, shame, they shouldn’t. I’ll walk. I need the  fresh air and the neon lights and the sea breeze and the time alone with my thoughts. Camera across a shoulder, I follow the waterfront, taking the night in, eyes wide open but half-turned to the east where sleep must have taken over and brought rest, if nothing else.

Neons, headlights, stoplights, my head is light, too. It must be the wine, or the whining. Gossip turned sour. It always happens at that time of the party. I take deep breaths to cleanse my mind. It starts to rain. I won’t be able to sleep, might as well have a coffee, after all this is Seattle. The warm cup in my hand feels like a lifeline, a compass and a map. It steers me towards the Vintage Park Hotel and away from the night. The streets are empty. I must have stayed out longer than I thought. Will it matter in the morning?

There’s another appointment, a last call of duty, to be fulfilled. We are to pay our sister tower a visit. The Space Needle is a big sister, humbling, impressive, like a splinter in our minds. So near and yet so far. No matter how long one has walked, there always seems to remain more distance ahead than lays behind. It must be one of those optical illusions.

Later, we hit the road again, after a ritual stop at Trader Joe’s to gather groceries and food for the soul. In my near future, across a few hundred kilometers, a border line and some traffic, towering over my day, is Voice Over IP, the skypescraper. It’s not that great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing, and it usually helps lachrymal glands, too.

Bad, moody pictures, hand-held, cheap lens, low light, high ISO, too much grain, it can’t always be HDR.