“Why don’t you live in San Francisco?” he asked me yesternight, in awe at my mismatch to this other city, where both of us were currently living.
He had done that before, this measuring me against a city — any city. It used to be Boston. Or anywhere else, really, on the East Coast or by the Black Sea. Anywhere but this other city, where both of us were currently living.
“You’re just so displaced here.” And yes, he had said that before as well: judging me as if I were a story he was thinking of rewriting. “So… Why don’t you?!”
“Because angels still claim to live around HERE,” I brushed him off, back then and yesternight. That too I had done before, always with a deprecating tone, mostly at my own expense.
“It’s like London — on crack, up there! It’s perfect!” he carried on. Youth.
Easily impressionable regardless his worldliness, my wondrous child had just returned from that tilted situation up north, where I tend to run away whenever in dire need to reboot.
My New Yorkers hate on it though:
“San Francisco? Pah-lease! It’s no better than New York! Come home!”
They’re right: There is nothing like that island of my youth. Nothing in the world! There is no stranger nonsense, no meaner beauty; no humanity more brutal or heartbreaking.
But New York can carry on without me: She is a stunner used to runway heels and bouquets catapulted to her feet from great distances — all for the sake of her fleeting love. She wears bras adorned with gemstones; lacy slips for midnight strolls, and nothing but pearls for when she soaks her tired feet in her bathtub.
And yes, we had our fun, She and I. But it’s my life’s religion to never compete with another woman. So: I had let her win. I had let her have it. And I had left her, for this other city where angels still claim to take residence.
But yesternight, my wondrous child was getting carried away: “No wonder they call it ‘The City’!”
I love it when he gets like this: when he stops shielding himself with his strained compassion, or with his habit to disarm me with praise. And only after all that fuss does he step into himself a little better. I keep convincing him that in his wondrous child-like-ness, he is — the most beautiful. But then, how else is he going to learn to be a man unless he tries on his manhood as if it were a collection of dapper hats on a rack in the corner of some vintage shop, somewhere in a city very much like San Francisco?
“They call it ‘The City’ to set an example: THAT’S how one does a city!” he was so excited, my wondrous child. “It’s an etalon, yes?”
The last time, I ventured up to “The City,” I had made plans to meet up there with a companion. It had been his idea, way back when. It had to be, for I am too selfish about that tilted situation up north; too selfish to share it. Because I go up there to reboot, to run away: So, it’s my thing, you see? It’s my secret place. My secrets’ place: It’s a place that keeps my secrets, my heartbreaks, my cravings for change — safe.
My intuition was right: Sharing it — would turn out to be a silly idea. For my companion and me, it would be the last stretch of bliss because something would get tilted off its axis soon thereafter — soon after that tilted situation up north — and I would be left dashing in between our memories as something to either regret or to hold onto; to store away into forgetfulness or to let go. (Oh, I wished he hadn’t marked my city.)
But “The City” would keep my new secrets safe.
“It’s just that there is so much money up there!” my wondrous child was bringing me back again. “It’s paved — with money. And everything is so clean, and new, and… well, perfect!”
He had only seen one side of her. To me, She is a handsome, middle-aged heiress. Born into privilege, She had made a choice that only the privileged can make: To fill her life with content, She would dedicate her money to good causes, like compassion and forgiveness and praise. There would still be plenty of comfort and easy access in her life. But the uneasiness would go away every time She would give shelter to the broken hearts that, just like me, would run away to her — to reboot. Some would accept her graces immediately — and stay. Others would get hooked and continue to come back until going away would make no further sense.
But then again: She is such a hippie, that one! Shrouded in earthy smells of mildew and perpetual fog, sweat and essence oils, incense, weed and baker’s yeast, She examines human struggles over tea. And She smiles with an insight that everything would workout any way. And She speaks in a husky voice, with a deprecating tone, mostly at her own expense. Perhaps, it’s because She has keep too many secrets safe, for way too many runaways. For way too many broken hearts.
She is my city. My secret place: She is the city that keeps my secrets — safe.
She is not the city of my youth: She is the city that won’t tell on my mistakes that I had committed back then, in youth.
She is not the city of my youth, but She is willing to give shelter to my future.
“We should go there, together!” my wondrous child was bringing me back again, yesternight. “Have you been?”
No. She is NOT the city of my youth. She is “The City” — of my forgiveness.