When I was living in San Francisco, it was very easy to choose to walk home. From wherever I was, I knew my way, the millions of little fingered streets pointing me towards my bedroom. The line from way up on Mission Street, in the high 20s, all the way back to SOMA. The Panhandle guiding my course, it’s dewy wetness cleansing in the early morning light. There was never a walk I wouldn’t take, no matter how many hills stood in my path. There was no rush to get home, and time seemed to matter the most on those walks, as if all the things that were to happen happened as I went.
I always hoped to see someone on those walks, an acquaintance, a former lover, a woman I deeply hated. I hoped to see them no matter where I was coming from. Seeing them reminded me that I lived here, that though I had put down my roots in messy, tangled plots, they still existed. “How is your new job?” I would ask an old coworker as we waited for coffee outside of Blue Bottle, the sound of the trains, cars, trollies, and bikes in the background.
In San Francisco I would wait around to see people. I would sit in the window of a cafe, pretending to write, hoping someone I knew walked by. Once a man I had a consuming infatuation for walked by, and I banged on the glass of the window so hard, the other customers stared at me. He locked up his bike and came inside and we sat for an hour or so, talking, laughing, and secretly contemplating each other’s deficits.
I would sit in Dolores Park, with friends or sometimes by myself. If you wanted to see anyone, that is the first place you went. My ex-boyfriend sat on one end, with his pals who all looked like Italian bike messengers. I sat with the lesbians, not because I was one, but because all my friends were. A pathway separated the park in half, dividing us all down the middle. I was far enough away from him to be able to watch him without him noticing, but close enough to see who he was with. This was a lovely way to torture myself most weekends, when I was hungover and unable to recognize that I was like a hamster and San Francisco was my wheel. As long as I walked, I was still getting nowhere.
Nowhere is a funny place to be.
For the last year and a half I have worked from home in Brooklyn. I decided working from home would make me happy when I was under the impression that I would get more work done this way. Now I never walk like I used to. My friends often come to me. There is no one I hope to run into. I have shacked up with someone I love very much, and there are no ex lovers across the way that I want to spy on as much as I want to be home with my cat and my dog and my boyfriend. I am content, but my legs aren’t nearly as lean as they once were.
But perhaps I do miss the journey, the destinations unknown on a Sunday morning that bleeds into a Sunday evening. The wandering that is guiltless, not muddled with that late-twenties, New York City complex of needing to be the best and most achieved. The curmudgeon in me thinks about all of those young bodies draped over Dolores Park and they seem extremely lazy and indulgent. Who do you think you are, to lay on the grass, staring up at the sun for four hours, a taco and a beer by your side? What have you done to deserve that?
New York makes us all mad. Nothing here is good enough for any of us, and everything costs too much. We are cold and dirty at all times, bumping into each other not out of desire but because the sidewalks are too small. Sometimes it’s nice to stay inside and hide from it all for as long as you can. I hate the snow but I love a small blizzard, because it means I have an excuse.
Wherever you are going, there you are, even if you are going nowhere at all.