A thought before pouring out this story: My time in California has long since rippled in the back of my mind. A heartbreak, a distant fog still expanding outward, with no edges, no container. For years I avoided the thought entirely, a life that I didn’t choose and that didn’t choose me. It’s important for me to explore this vastness, before I forget it entirely.
I left everything for San Francisco when I was 18. The city I was born into, having parted from it too young with no tangible memories to hold. I didn’t have anything more than my own will driving me there, a longing so deep it was calcified in my bones. I left upstate New York feverishly, feeling the move was long overdue, an impatience that has long since subsided.
I was enrolled in a fine arts college, pursuing the ache of artistry that was so natural for me. I was a talented artist, it’s good for me to admit that now, after years of being too humble, and too small.
In the beginning I would walk the entire length of the city, all day, utterly alone, overwhelmed with the desire. Looking deeply into the faces of strangers, wondering who could fulfill me, as I walked forever along crooked streets. I was young, I was looking for signs, and they were everywhere.
I fell in love.
Months went by. Museums, old pines, strange faces became familiar, and my home back east was dissolving into a happier memory than when I left it. We smoked cigarettes, danced all night, I went to lectures in old churches.
It became evident that my time in the fine arts program wasn’t exactly right. I thought of it as the electric road sign that led me to San Francisco, and for that I was deeply grateful. I craved a life of rich magic. I walked by the hospital where I was born. I stopped going to class. I ran into friends on the street.
We spent a sweltering summer living in Sacramento, making frequent trips to San Francisco on the train. I got a job that I hated. I spent all of my money on a bike. We went to Mexico.
The indian summer lasted forever that year we moved back to San Francisco. Our studio was a few blocks from Golden Gate Park. I modeled, I watched too much tv, I didn’t eat, I overreacted. We had our favorite bars, I loved your friends.
The longing I had known so well all of my life was starting to creep it’s way into me. I hadn’t been walking, or looking for signs. I was paralyzed in myself, colored supremely by the heartbreak I never knew how to heal. I was reactionary and no longer being powered by visions. I smoked cigarettes and drank too much. I left San Francisco without warning, rejected.
My heart holds the wild ocean air, the dark nights spent laughing with unknowable people and spending money I didn’t have. The used bookstores, the impulsiveness, the long drives in through the endless north. 18 and then 19.
All of the intimacy of knowing a place is only within us. We are the keepers of time, reaching out into the mystery, reaching out into the fog that consumes us.