On my second to last night in San Francisco, I took a cab from my apartment in SOMA
to the almost unreachable neighborhood of Nob Hill
. “No time for buses, walks, or cable cars,” I thought to myself. I stopped in a market on the corner of Clay and Hyde to pick up a six-pack of beer to bring with me. The hills in this area were unpredictable, and I began to wonder if I had ever been in this particular spot before.
I found Andrew’s apartment without issue, and called him to tell him I was downstairs. There I was, waiting on some hill in San Francisco for Andrew, Mr. First Love in New York, to come let me in to his new home. Life, I thought, it actually is funny sometimes.
We went upstairs to his dirt-free, clutter-free, smoke-free, baggage-free white IKEA apartment. “It is just so sterile”, I kept repeating, as he poured the Anchor Steams into proper glasses and wiped his hand on an art-deco towel. “I haven’t had time to decorate.”
We sat on his couch, 30 feet away from each other, and echoed back and forth a sentence that had been endlessly repeated since his arrival in my city one-month prior. “This is just so crazy, I/you get here, and now I’m/you’re leaving.”
He put on a Jackass DVD and we tried to discuss restaurants, books, and relationships while watching people get hit in the nuts with paintball guns. The more Andrew changed, the more he so perfectly stayed the same.
Three beers and ten restaurant recommendations later, I put my coat on and said I needed to leave. I think I may have told him to take care of the city, to eat it and drink it and make love to it in ways I never could. I went down his stairs, and down the hill, and hailed yet another cab.
I rolled down the window and stuck my head out like a dog. We drove through the Tenderloin and made a right on to Market Street. We turned onto Valencia and drove past Zeitgeist, Casanova’s, The Pirate Supply Store and Good Vibrations. My eyes stung, my nose became full of snot, and I bit my bottom lip as the car slowed at the light at 22nd.
I met Justin and Linda at Latin American Club, a bar we sometimes frequented when the purpose of the evening was to get so drunk we spoke in tongues. Justin was in the process of quitting smoking, and he hardly said much, just stared at me with gloomy, nicotine craving eyes. Linda spoke of her trip to New York, food she had eaten, how cold it was. I told them how I was feeling — sort of numb, prepared. And then I excused myself and went to the ladies room.
While I was standing in line, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and there was Ryan Brown, a man I went on one date with my first summer in San Francisco, over two years ago. He worked at a popular coffee place, and had once taken me in the bean storage room for a five-minute make-out session that left me sort of buzzing. In the dim light of the bar, he was shorter than I remembered.
I gave him a big hug and said, with pure delight, “I thought I’d never see you again!”
At this point Linda’s gifted margarita began to kick in and I was starting to feel silly. I told him I was off to New York in a matter of days to get my Masters Degree, and a friend he was with made fun of me for “already acting like a New School student.”
I returned to the table, and Justin began to speak. “You know, I never really liked the phrase beauty is truth and truth is beauty until the other day…” He was referencing a civil war movie he and Linda had recently seen, but as I was drunk, I lapsed into what this sort of cliché means to me. Especially now. Especially when my biggest resolution is to be more honest. We talked for a while, they allowed me my thoughts, and then we hugged and parted ways. I think I told them to take care of themselves and enjoy what they have —here and with each other, more than I ever could.
I don’t remember this last cab ride through the Mission and back to SOMA, past the 16th Street Bart station, The Goodwill or the underpass. I just remember feeling sad and perhaps, a little regretful. I was going to leave San Francisco, and with it, two years worth of stories and faces that only I knew.
What ever is on the other side, I thought, better be worth it.