My best friend is in love. In love! I’m sitting with a laptop at Atlas Cafe thinking about the dewy quality of California air. While editing I tell myself: fewer adjectives.
Visiting San Francisco feels like getting together with an ex-boyfriend and diving right back into the warmth of it, like why’d I ever leave? I’m charmed by this city even during covid: the white circles drawn over green grass at each park, outdoor seating, boarded up stores. Rose matcha float at Stonemill. Shakshuka at Cafe Reveille. Prairie closed, Dandelion open. Typing on my phone with sticky hands, having just finished a cup of roasted banana ice cream with whipped cream. Sunday afternoon at Dolores, the light breaking over me.
I became an adult here. 18 to 23, a tentative, delicate time. I just ran into an actual ex-boyfriend in the street with his new wife, avoided eye contact and thought how odd. He doesn’t haunt me but this city does. I still love it.
Recently I found something else to love. It was a long moment of manic recognition and it didn’t last. I didn’t expect it to: we were in a bubble, and bubbles pop. In the aftermath I’ve been pondering the question of what we stay with and what we leave, what we come back to and what we forget. Mostly I’m not a particularly nostalgic person. I’m always too consumed by the precise moment I’m in to look backwards and forwards. I get distracted by the world around me, how it persists and remains luminous.
I know I’m lucky to have been loved so much my entire life. It’s given me the confidence of the delusional. You lead a charmed life—why well yes. These days yes. At 19, I didn’t take it to heart when friends told me to be more careful with myself. I didn’t know that things could be the way they are now: creamy and associative, one thing bleeding into the next. I felt so unsafe and I felt afraid and I felt unsure. Now there’s a different quality to my uncertainty, a fatalism that edges through. I stay in the house on a sunny Saturday and lie on the bed and write. I have control over who I see and how they make me feel. There’s no need for explanations.
Sometimes in weak moments I do think: you and me, table outside at Stable Cafe, sunlight on vines. Why not, really? Well I’m only human. But living vicariously through M is good, and seeing my friends at True Laurel and Lafayette Park and Atlas Cafe on the patio of their group houses with their complicated living arrangements is very good, and meeting new people thrills me. There’s lots of feeling, all of it varied.
A couple nights ago I was wearing bunny ears and drinking with friends. I’d missed seeing people, but very quickly I left to sleep. Two hours later I woke up and stayed up reading until it was 1:30 AM and the thudding bass of the music upstairs had changed and softened. Until it sounded like me explaining SF, now and forever: a sentence with a limp in the middle. I have been, I was in love.