Yesterday we met up with other friends from the co-op. H., a woman I remember to be a beatnik stoner with impossibly long hair, and J.M., whom I saw last in 2002 when we hopped a fence in Bayview and rambled around what turned out to be the police impound lot, taking photos of crushed cars. And M., whom I've seen more recently, who was a punk with a double mohawk and a multitool belted to his Carhartts when I met him and now is a resident in surgery at a prestigious San Francisco hospital.
I recognized H.'s mellow affect. And there was J.M.'s frantic, ex-raver energy as she led a woman in a lindy hop, when 1920s jazz came on the juke box last night. M. and I talk in the same way we did when we were in college - like men, looking away from each other, at something a distance away, addressing not the thing itself but rather the events and imaginations we observe in the moment. Sometimes talking about the superhero power you'd most like to have is a way of getting to the things that are harder to say.
This weekend wasn't the first time in recent memory that I've felt delighted to reconnect with someone once meaningful to me but with whom I've lost touch. There was also C., whom I saw randomly on the corner of 18th and Dolores on the Sunday morning of Pride, when I was walking back to my apartment wearing last night's clothes. C. and I were in a poetry class in 2000. Her writing affected me so much that it came to represent entire concepts, new terms, in my head. I wrote this about C. in a courtship email to another person a few years ago:
A college friend of mine, after reading Elizabeth Bishop's "Sestina," wrote something she called "Sweetness Sestina." I don't remember the poem but I liked the sibilance of its titular phrase so much I have whispered it to myself for seven years whenever something makes my heart want to explode with happiness. It is most often invoked by that combination of threat and intimacy we refer to shorthand as romance.I've been thinking lots about longevity, continuity, the lifecycles of friendships, creating communities (and then staying, to strengthen those communities), giving and receiving mentorship, and the choices you make in life that ten years later you realize were important junctures but at the time just make you feel out of focus. For example, I just bought a home. It seems like the right thing to do but I'm not sure. I don't know if I can be sure. But a few months ago I started to imagine my toes turning into roots and plunging into the earthquake liquefaction zone that is San Francisco topsoil - a weird feeling, a physiological tingle, a foreign body sensation for somebody who has switched homes once a year for the last thirteen (!) years. I have no books left! I give them all away when I move. I want a room of my own to fill with books. But is it going to bankrupt me? Or tie me to an income I don't want to sustain? Will I be robbed? What happened to the dream of collective living that I nursed for so long? Or biking to work in Beijing? It's next to the PG&E substation, and electromagnetic fields have been linked to childhood leukemia, so will I have a partner, and will she move in, and will we have a child, and will that child be more susceptible to childhood leukemia, and how can I afford the health care???
My brain sure likes to ride that crazy train. God only knows what the next station will bring. So it's really pleasing to hear the older community members I work with say things like, "Oh, I've known C. since she was a baby dyke. We started a queer Asian women's group in New York in the late 1980s," or "We worked on affirmative action together before we worked on queer issues." And to have recently made some younger friends about whom I intend to say the same sort of thing, in the late 2020s. And have J. summarize the last eleven years by saying, "All of the good things in my life are the results of risky decisions I've made with imperfect information." And to remember that so much can happen in a decade but at the end of it we are still who we are, like C. now queer and shorthaired but still making magic with her words, or H. now with a Stanford M.D. but still sending out the same space cadet beatitude while wheeling a crooked bicycle down Lapidge Street.
And me, wrinklier, slacker, but still the same mix of anxiety, optimism, and premature sentimentality. Apologies for the last six months' mood, readers.
I'll leave you with one concrete outcome of this mood. A recent email exchange with someone I really wanted to mentor/adopt me when I was younger and unaware of how much fog was in my head:
From me to N.:
N.,From N. to me:
You may have no recollection of me. I met you when I was 23. It was a while ago. I had just started a Vaid fellowship at the Task Force.
We only worked together about two weeks before you left, but you said something to me that I haven't forgotten. We went to Nowhere Bar to get a drink. You were talking about the morning you turned 30. You said that as you lay in bed that morning, you realized that being thirty meant people had to take you seriously. That your opinion mattered.
I'm nearly 31 now. I've repeated your wisdom to hundreds of people. I started saying I was thirty more than two years before my 30th birthday because I was so eager to get to the state you described.
Anyway, I found myself saying that to a friend this morning, and I decided to look you up and let you know that even though we only knew each other for a brief moment in 2004, it was meaningful to me. I remember you very fondly. I hope you're doing well, wherever you're at in life!
Hey [Bananarchist] –
Of course I remember. This is a very kind email and I thank you for it. I believe what I said was that I thought: I’m thirty now, I’m going to say what I want to say and people are going to listen. As for other people taking me or my opinion seriously – that’s another matter.