San Francisco is a NorCal city brimming with reasons to go on walks and sponge up the city — all while reflecting on moments of gratitude.
Oh, San Francisco: You’re such a wondrous and wild, magical and maddening, delicate and duplicitous creation. I celebrate your individuality daily; I also bemoan your dystopian quirks quite often. But you’re home for me: My touchstone that I’m forever grateful to have stumbled upon.
As you know, I began our relationship while residing in my car. On an emotionally charged whim, I packed up my 2008 Prius and came your way by going west from Austin, Texas, still plastered on the promise poured by a hefty, albeit temporary, content contract. That nearly 2,000-mile drive — the longest one-way road trip I’ve ever taken and will probably ever take — would prove life-changing.
It would set me in orbit of the strongest social circle I’ve ever had; my career, which, at that time, I felt rested on a termite-ridden oak branch, would grow and ring and firm within your city limits. I’d later find a rent-controlled apartment. I’d secure a reptile. I’d find solace in myself.
You’ve been in my life for some six or seven years, the exact date when we first crossed passed at SFO I can’t quite remember. Though I’ll never forget the first moment your cool winds touched my skin while running in the Presidio circa 2016. I’m not one for serendipity, but that moment of universal and self-ascribed alignment will forever exist as an uncanny epiphany.
In between the seven-by-seven-mile slice of Northern California you occupy, I’ve matured as a queer man. You, too, have also seen me at my lowest of lows — the rock bottoms that left me with a million small cuts and curled up in knots of myself, licking my wounds. Aside from my first dissociated episode in College Station, Texas, you’ve seen me through another two.
And each one spurred by painful uncouplings. And every event delivering me another lesson in understanding myself — how the edges of my mind fold; where I require stronger boundaries; when I need to release control; why I should simply be — was negotiated through you. And I’m forever grateful for those transactions.
When you’re wet with rain, certain inhumanities of yours become glaringly obvious. Human suffering is evident in the dimples of your cheeks. The frown lines of your face. The crow’s feet are carved with thin skin.
Admittedly, it’s hard for me to separate those injustices from you, yourself, and the people who’ve choreographed that hurt. Greed lends itself to lives spent in grief. However, I wonder when (or even if) such a sentiment will be either shared or understood by the City officials and corporate landlords that dictate this misery. (Perhaps you and I can work on that wealth tax sooner rather than later.)
Mother Nature clearly favors you. Karl The Fog has given us tongue-in-cheek takes on the atmosphere anomalies your microclimates he’s placed in your confines. I’d be remiss not to mention that you, too, house the country’s most gorgeous reptile. San Francisco, your natural splendor ignites my heart and stirs my soul. You’ve healed long-standing wounds and tattooed over leathery scars.
Did you regift my love affair with flora and fauna save my life? Perhaps, yes. I just worry about where my mind would go figuring that all out.
What I do, however, have no qualms about waxing poetic on is your queerness — the flamboyant rebellion of existing outside societal norms. Here, I’m my authentic self. Or rather: I’ve fallen into my sincerest form. You’ve allowed me to yearn for a healthy relationship, all while giving me permission to be an unapologetic, sex-positive, non-monogamous slut.
My chosen family now exists here, as well. We celebrate, be it collectively or in more one-on manners, through wine glasses emptied in the Castro or capsaicin-rich Thai food consumed through teary eyes. Or lofty feasts shared on the happenstance that I might publish content on the said substance.
Like any relationship, I don’t know how ours will evolve, San Francisco. These past two years, if nothing else, have reminded us both of mortality’s endpoint: death and decay. A stripping of flesh and bone that leaves nothing but memories and other intangibles of time spent. I want to promise you that I’ll forever be here — right here. Just writing that evokes a sense of solace.
Alas, we both exist in a state of entropy. You may surrender to gravity… before being engulfed by exaggerated king tides caused by the climate crisis. I could very well harbor malignant cells that will leave my chest permanently collapsed; sudden death by way of vehicular manslaughter while crossing the street seems like an increasingly probable outcome as of late. (Much like we should chat about a wealth tax, let’s also give the roads back to the people and keep open car-free corridors, shall we?)
But what-ifs set aside, I’m endlessly grateful you came into my life, San Francisco. Here’s to the many essays, long nights, drunken mistakes, and reordered PrEP prescriptions to come.