San Francisco Forty-Something
San Francisco, my city. I have never been there. I met a San Franciscan last Friday in a bar, like a Catholic meeting the Pope; or a younger version of me discovering you've been to Disney World in Florida. We sit there, two forty-something cis and trans. I hang on the person's every snippet of daily existence, admiring photos on an iphone of a space age stadium. Listening to words that slip effortlessly off the tongue: Berkeley, Monterey. The San Franciscan coolly sipping on her cocktail in front of me almost shouldn't be allowed to say those names so easily.
I can't imagine living in my shimmering, golden-gated city. What did Lacan say about desire? Always circling, never touching. Reach out; it disappears.
On my one big trip to America, I sold books door to door one humid summer. Knock, knock, slam: always failing, imagining how the perfect sale would be. Selling only the cheapest kind that any fool could sell. I slunk from one gated path to another, early afternoon was the worst with hours going by without any conversation, an Arthurian knight having somehow, accidentally, gained entry to the Castle of the Holy Grail but failing miserably to find that fucking cup while others are more successful. That summer in America I remember taking shelter in a library as things were winding down. I read Uncle Vanya, the start of a love affair with Chekhov. That, and calling home each week, realizing for the first time how much my family meant to me. On doorsteps people offered me iced water, even if they didn't want my books. One time, being hit by a car as I was cycling the wrong way up a one-way street. The woman asking if I was alright, me apologizing profusely while limping away with my bike. I crawled into a cinema another time, to watch a second-rate fantasy but I was too exhausted to stay awake through all of it. I don't remember how it ends.
We talk about these things, the San Franciscan and I, the bar is now pulsating but our table remains candle-lit and quiet. She's wearing blue and we imagine afterlives, utopian places you wake up in without memory, time does not exist, no end or beginning, just deja vu and small studio apartments with heavy locks.
2049 A.D. I'm in the city with the bay shimmering before me. I'm embracing my Made-It! moment, wearing a scarlet-and-gold T-shirt of the San Francisco 49ers. Taking trams and walking hills, never wanting this to end. An alternate dimension, though my accent isn't Californian (I was always crap with accents, even in dreams), maybe I'm still transgender or this time a cisgender woman, somehow knowing from past lives that it's important to be there, that I've made it and that life doesn't get any better. I'm ignoring all the homelessness, it's not enough to put a crimp in my day.
4900 A.D. Or watching the oceanic sprawl of a night-time city, distant sirens and honking cars and helicopters chopping cold night air overhead. They're looking for cyborgs – WHO AREN'T REAL PEOPLE – and the Cyborg Recognition Act seems like a long time ago. It's time for me to turn to my run-down car, my trench coat hiding a giant pistol. I head to my motel room with one last night of rent in my pocket, wondering if I could maybe sleep with the awful but apparently single manager, does he suspect or maybe doesn't care? Some men in their fifties have on occasion expressed an interest in fucking me. Otherwise I am going to commit my first crime because no one will pay me to do anything, WORTHLESS, but maybe I won't let the manager fuck me, but rather kill him and take everything because not every case is solved, if I leave the gun in someone else's motel room, someone with a plausible motive, or maybe make it seem like suicide because people kill themselves all the time now in golden-gated San Francisco, while there's an abandoned library nearby where I can maybe squat, underneath the section starting C for cyborg in case anybody needs to find me, or perhaps that should be C for cash (there's always time for irony), there must be writers under C that I can read while I'm waiting, Lewis Carroll or Anton Chekhov, the latter whom I've never read but always wanted to-
2018 A.D. again.
It's weird trying to imagine heaven, or even something heavenly. Barely perceptible fantasies of San Francisco transform upon closer inspection into something anxious, menacing. Someday, as a personal reward for completing my PhD, I'll visit this gleaming bay-area city, the completion of an important cycle in my life, a place I've never been to but always wanted to. Like entering a cinema for a film that's meant to be brilliant, I'll be slightly high, and also somewhat fearful.
(Image of San Francisco taken from Lonely Planet.com; image of me taken by me after my San Franciscan evening and isn't it cool how I shine with the scarlet-and-gold colours of the San Francisco 49ers?)