My dad lied a lot when I was kid. Not malicious lies, really, but he did tell me that he played banjo in the Rolling Stones and that my grandparent's dachshund was my uncle. Because kids are dumb, I believed everything he told me, and so when I reached the age of reason (30) and realized that everything I grew up believing was a lie, I consciously moved in the opposing direction. Now, I don't believe anything that I haven't see with my own two eyes, which is why I'm what you call an Everything Truther. This skepticism may be advantageous as a reporter, but it does take some of the pleasure out of life. Magic just ain't as magical when you're always looking for the strings, you know?
Because I am inclined to disbelieve, my expectations for Seattle's 92 percent eclipse were lukewarm, at best. Had I been in the path of totality, I may have been more excited, but instead, I'd be in Seattle, working. Even worse, my goddamn horrible hometown in Jackson County, North Carolina—a place I haven't wanted to visit since moving away the day I turned 18—was directly in the path of totality. My parents would see the total eclipse. My old classmates who never left home would see the total eclipse. My fucking high school would get a once-in-a-lifetime view while I'd see a measly 92 percent.
Still grumbling about the unfairness of it all, this morning I donned my safety glasses and moved to my porch. Because this is Seattle, a crew of seemingly oblivious construction workers were jackhammering the foundation of a recently demolished duplex next door. I put on good headphones, drowning them out with Sylvan Esso's Echo Mountain Sessions, and settled in for what I expected to be a mediocre show.
Ten minutes later, the temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and I saw crescent-shaped shadows dancing by my feet. All of the hair stood up on my arms as I watched as the sun slowly disappear into a shimmering orange sliver. At some point, I realized there were tears streaming down my face. I, a confirmed skeptic and hater, was weeping at the beauty of it all.
And then the door opened. My neighbor walked out to the porch and asked what was wrong. My first impulse was to lie.
"Nothing," I said, wiping my face. "I ate some mushrooms this morning."
And with that, the spell was broken. The jackhammering started up, my neighbor began talking about astrology, and I realized I was having the quintessential Seattle eclipse experience: construction on one side of me; astrology on the other. It was over, but for just a moment, I'd been completely, utterly moved. I handed my eclipse glasses to my neighbor and told her to enjoy the show.
Later, I heard from my dad, who witnessed the total eclipse back home. "That was amazing," he texted me. "I believe in God now." There are some things, I guess, even the total eclipse cannot change.