a love letter of many.
I was better last night. Some autumns ago in a Chinatown apartment, pinning roaches to death with the end of a plastic broom. Or maybe somewhere in the Outer Richmond with the last hours of light in the day, pressed against my mold-ridden basement apartment, locked in a kiss. But why tonight feels the worst is beyond all hours in a day. Sometimes, when the weight of the world is too much for a body like mine, I put it to rest. I let sleep captivate me in a fist, let the worries crumble in ancient palm.
My dear friend was the last to leave San Francisco. She had technically moved months in advance given her frequent stays in Oakland, where the warmth is dense and she is happy. Little by little, the digital windows into the city through Instagram posts and stories dwindled down. Whatever happened to Dolores Park and Bi-Rite ice cream? Whatever happened to happy hours at El Rio, back patio with day light? Whatever happened to that light I missed so much.
Isn’t it just start-ups and the homeless? A Friend asked me.
It was. I could not deny it. But it was many other things too.
For me, the city is a man in Little Italy with a book and white wine. The way he swished it, from the base of the glass, decked at dusk. It’s the line of tai chi grandmothers and grandfathers, slow-moving the morning. It’s the F train towards the Castro, blinking into the blind light of daybreak.
San Francisco is a place of places. An island of many. The Outer-Richmond, as much as Hong’s Kitchen’s fried rice stuffed deep fried chicken is a delight or San Tung’s begs me to take the fried wings for takeout, the neighborhood used to be German-Irish. And afterwards, incredibly Russian. On free mornings, on my way to take the 38 down Geary Boulevard, I would stop by Moscow & Tbilisi for a piroshki.
Though my last time there was quite recent, a beautiful January with much quietude and usual light, I feel it curl away in an overness. With each and every day that passes, I forget a bit of it more. The big meat sauce plates at Cordon Bleu. The imperial rolls too. The spring chive shrimp dumplings at the Great Eastern, our favorite table in the far corner where we watched grandmothers and grandfathers eat in silence. Their hands still to the touch of many cups of hot tea. Sadlands, long lonesome walks from Beaux. New Sun Hong Kong Restaurant to sober up if the cold didn’t do it for us. I could go on and on. History, and not even my own, lives and breathes through the morning fog that sometimes lays too low over the bay. But like the fog, light bleeds through to fade things out, Little Italy awnings and the pale houses in Glen Park.
I’m saying goodbye from afar. A thing I’m known for. San Francisco, I love you, I really do, but as I settle further and further into my own age, I naturally think less of you. It’s how things work, as much as I’ve tried to work out these things — feelings, people, memory. Guilt eats at me when I want to say I’m sorry, but know very well in my stubborn, callous self to say, It’s just time.
Hitchcock saw something of you. Even the great beatniks and Didion too. I know you’ll always have that same golden light, that same brisk air, if I ever decide to come back to you. But you are a dream further than the imagination, and I am only a boy of simple means.
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