When I lived in San Francisco, I lived far from the actual city. I lived in the dorms my freshman year at San Francisco State and the following year I moved into an apartment complex called The Villas, which was basically off-campus housing located near the border of Daly City. Back then, if someone asked you if you wanted to go to a “Villas party,” you knew it meant being surrounded by bros and cheap beer but you usually went anyway because there was nothing else to do. There was a seediness to the whole area, you never felt completely safe, but my apartment was huge and I could roll out of bed every day and walk to class. Whereas if I lived in the Mission or Lower Haight, like some of my friends did, I would have a 45-minute commute every day to school. At the age of 19, I could barely make it to class when I lived next door, so I knew that wouldn’t be a good idea. Besides, the Villas weren’t that bad. There was a swingset located in front of my building and I would often go there with my iPod and swing for hours. Plus, my shower had amazing water pressure. That’s a huge deal.
When I lived in San Francisco, I was the closest I’ve ever been to experiencing a real depression. There was a lot of pressure to make my freshman year of college great and tell all my friends back home amazing stories to let them know that I was moving on with my life, but things were actually terrible. To make matters worse, my mom sold my childhood home right when I left for college and moved to Northern California to live with her boyfriend, which meant that I had no real place to go home to during breaks. I was a nomad during the winter and spring breaks. San Francisco wasn’t my home but neither was the place I grew up, so I was stuck in this awkward limbo for a few years.
When I lived in San Francisco, I had trouble making good friends. In fact I hated 90% of the people I hung out with my freshman year. I just called them my friends because they accepted me and I felt less lonely when I was around them. I was ashamed of this because I wanted everyone back home to know that I was doing just fine and had a thriving social life. When we would call each other on the phone, we would talk about all the fantastic friends we were making. Only later, in our junior and senior year of college when we had finally settled into our new lives, did we admit to each other that the friends we made freshman year were just filler.
When I lived in San Francisco, there was SO. MUCH. COCAINE HAPPENING. Not so much with me — I never liked the stuff because it took away from my two great loves of eating and sleeping — but with many of my close friends. I introduced one of my friends to coke right before winter break and when I had gotten back, she told me that she had done it every single day since that night. I was completely shocked which, in retrospect, was very naive of me. If I learned anything from my two years of living in San Francisco, it’s that cocaine is a nasty terrible drug. I was lucky to never develop a taste for it but many weren’t so lucky. Pretty soon I was accompanying a best friend to AA meetings while another had moved on to doing heroin. To this day, I can’t think of San Francisco without thinking of pointless conversations, coke breath, having cracked out photoshoots with my friends (because being on coke makes you honestly believe you’re a supermodel), and hearing that “chop chop” sound of a credit card. Yuck.
When I lived in San Francisco, I only hooked up with two boys. Did I mention that I lived there for TWO YEARS? It got to the point where I honestly thought no boy was going to ever touch me again and that my romantic life was over. My confidence was so low by the time I left that city that I had become afraid of intimacy and boys. I would run away from them. No joke. You know who finally broke my sixteen month dry spell? A Mexican boy named Pedro from the Valley who had seen me at a warehouse party in Downtown LA and just started making out with me. He turned out be totally disgusting and embarrassing but it didn’t matter. Pedro unknowingly saved my sex life.
When I lived in San Francisco, I wore nothing but headbands and necklaces and deep V’s and short shorts. I was essentially a gay Olsen twin. This one time I actually put a beaded necklace around my head and thought it looked chic. I mean, maybe it was the coke. Who knows? All I know is that I’m happy to have moved on from that very #dark time.
I left San Francisco in a body cast. No, seriously. I did. Three weeks before the end of my sophomore year, I was hit by a car. I originally had planned on studying abroad my junior year and graduating from San Francisco State, but after the whole “getting hit by a car” thing, I was just like, “Okay, SF. You win. Smell ya later.” I’m glad I did. San Francisco was fun while it lasted but after awhile, it felt lazy and stale. I’m back here now visiting and everything is just how I left it. The familiarity is comforting but it also reminds me that I made the right decision in leaving.
I usually feel an intense sense of nostalgia when I visit the places I used to live but I never feel that way with San Francisco. Maybe it’s because I lived outside the city or it happened six years ago. Or maybe it’s because I just don’t recognize the person I was when I resided here. The things I did, the company I kept: a lot of it didn’t make any sense.
Well, that’s good, I guess. Here’s one less thing to mourn obsessively.