The Veterinarian, Part I of IV: The Traveller


He started, quietly. A grizzled look about this man; he had the air you carry after you’ve been travelling. 

“I just wanna say I appreciate your attitude.”
“Aw thanks, man!”
“We need more of that, you know?”
“Thank you,” I said. “One person at a time, right? I feel like my arms reach this far, and it’s within there that I can effect change.”
“Well, I think it’s it’s a little bigger than that.” Agreeable.
“Yeah, you’re right. Paying it forward. How was your day?”
“Mostly fine.”
“Cool! Same.”
“I’ve been trying to be more mindful of when I say good and bad, basically trying to cut those out of my vocabulary. Dualities.”
“That’s smart. You know– okay. So I grew up in a Korean household, and my parents both speak Korean. But for the longest time I never knew the Korean word for ‘no,’ and the reason is because you actually usually never really need to say that word. You don’t have to directly contradict people.”
“Wow,” he replied, thoughtfully, really taking it in. “I like that.”
“Yeah. ‘Cause if they something that’s obviously wrong, like ‘the sky is red,’ you can say something like ‘sometimes it looks red.’ Or ‘I think it looks blue.’ You don’t have to, like, bulldoze them, you know what I mean?”
“Do you have any philosophy or faith system you subscribe to?”
“You know, I don’t know. Yeah. That’s the most truthful answer I can give. The longer I’m alive, I feel like the less I know about how the world works, so I mostly these days just try to listen.”
“That’s cool. Listening is better anyways. Faith systems… That’s just what we resort to when we don’t understand something.”
“Wow! I’m gonna have to write that down!”

It was a pleasant exchange and unexpectedly candid, borne out of the years of who we were. It brought me up. But.

I had no idea how differently this conversation would sit in my memory five minutes from now. Because right now everything was still okay. We were another ordinary Tuesday evening rush hour, coursing down 35th passing Edmunds, no big deal. Do you remember the moments just before your tragedies, when everything was still possible? When you could chuckle about topics like this without your heart collapsing?

To be continued.

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Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.