WORSE THAN BEING ALONE: Being alone on a ferry eating a sad muffin.
WORSE THAN BEING ALONE: Being alone on a ferry eating a sad muffin. ILLUSTRATION BY MIKE FORCE

The first year I lived in Seattle, I wasn't in a good place with my family and wasn't going to go home to California to be with them. But I didn't know anyone here. I was renting a room in an apartment in the University District, and another person renting a room in that apartment had a sister on Bainbridge Island, and he invited me to go with him to Thanksgiving at her house. It seemed like a good plan. I was 18. I'd never ridden the ferry. It would be my first Thanksgiving on my own. There's nothing like feeling wanted, accepted, or at least invited to someone's house on Thanksgiving.

The ferry is stressful on holidays. Too many people, too few ferries. For reasons I can no longer remember, we got to the waterfront late and missed the ferry we wanted. My roommate's sister had "blood sugar" issues and had to eat at a certain time, and she had said that if we weren't on a particular ferry, we couldn't eat with them. When we arrived on Bainbridge, there was no sign of her. We tried calling her from a payphone—no luck. This was before cell phones. So, with an empty feeling in my gut (must have been the hunger), we got on the return ferry and just rode back to Seattle. Because I was starving, and because the ferry had a cafe, I thought I'd see what they had that I could eat. Turkey, maybe? Mashed potatoes? A turkey sandwich? Nope, nope, nope.

The only remotely Thanksgiving-like item they had was a pumpkin muffin.

I ate that pumpkin muffin slowly, very slowly, like it was a huge feast. I tried not to start crying. That muffin was my entire Thanksgiving. When I started crying despite myself, I went out onto the deck and let the wind fill my face so it looked that was what was causing my eyes to leak uncontrollably, and not my alienation and sadness. Nice views out there on the ferry. But the muffin was terrible.

Read the full feature How to Have the Worst Thanksgiving Ever (On Purpose)