When you left, life before felt like a surrealist dream – struggling to separate the strands of what was you and I. Things got jumbled: sweaters, dressers, certain types of music, record players, family members and feelings. Memories of the love were like the ocean, a rolling, mass of a thing that continually ebbed towards me, frightening while beckoning. I could sink in it, the memories of you and the sadness. I could, if I wanted.
Sometimes things end, sometimes they come to a screeching, radical halt. The hunger overwhelms and impulse plane ticket results in daily routines in another section of the country. How do we hunger for food and for people? How do these words that I crave satisfy me?
For a while I had satiated myself with cliché self-help quotations I found online, but they’re like sugar, temporarily satisfying and perpetually dissolving, never real sustenance for the heaviness, for the hunger. The plane shakes in its atmospheric path and I stare blankly at the “Exit/Salida” sign. I was not going to run away.
I wanted this trip; it was all I wanted. But not like this. Not like this. Or… Maybe exactly like this. It was hard to say. But as I enacted the familiar stance of the headphone-shrouding slouch, pulling the seat buckle across the lap in route recognition.
I wrapped my denim jacket around my shoulders covered in goose bumps and felt the extra edges of skin around my ribs. It had been a hard winter but no matter. I was here to eat, not to punish my body like I had before. I look out to the left to see the snow capped Sierras; I furiously make notes of the ridge-lines and route markings. These are what I want, I think. In the midst of lamentation, I planned to grasp onto celebration, to get that special kind of feeling when the clouds break and the aircraft hovers serenely and slowly over the horizon, giving clarity to civilization. This is what it feels like: ascending to the clouds, descending into momentary clarity, and then back into the fog. I thought of the audacity of loneliness. We hunger for people; we desire deep companionship. I cannot write this out of my DNA. I cannot purge this appetite for you. I look at the sea as we land: I could get lost in there. For months now, I have been counting it’s impending loss.
In the Golden City, we searched like frantic, dehydrated persons for nature, art, food, and conversation that would fill us up again.
First there is the necessity to consume coffee, making my way to the Mission and commandeering a community table in the sun outside of Ritual Coffee Roasters. Sun bearing down on my translucent shoulders, I write. I pause to take a sip. I want to dunk my phone into my coffee. It is a warm Friday morning, and the wind lilts and carries flecks of plant life past the brim of my cup – the particles dancing in the caramel colored haze. You can measure out my travels through cups of coffee drank, meals eaten, and books read.
I am sick of pontificating. I want to “be.” Nothing physical happened but it aches. Our hunger for others, for love, wounds us and binds us, and I am caught in the perpetual in-between. I don’t think it’s natural for us to leave, a friend tells me. I tell her that I would think I might get used to pain by this time. Ongoing, ongoing, ongoing, change and uncertainty bear the most congenial consistency. I’m sorry if I smothered you.
Monika arrives to pull me into reality. Her reckless confidence and loyalty to our friendship provides a home to shelter in. She is one well acquainted with hunger. We wander around Valencia Street, amidst art-deco hipsters and disheveled addicts, with one goal: to eat. We find ourselves in the line at Tartine, consuming three large tarts, lemon, coconut cream, and blueberry oat, as the table next to us wide-eyes our eating capability. The bites linger on my tongue, the sweetness dissolves, settles down into me. After weeks of lost appetite, eating feels like healing. How could you ever be sad when these exist? Monika twirls the fork in the remaining crumbs. Tears teeter and she nods her head. The sun bleeds in the backdrop of the city as Monika dangles an American Spirit out the window. We are headed to Mission Chinese, the famed pop-up kitchen in the unassuming window front of “Lung Shan Restaurant” where they play Tupac with red floodlights and bottles of sake.
A bottle of sake to myself, tea fragrance rice, beef tartar lettuce cups laced with roe and stingingly spicy, cumin lamb larb, and traditional sesame chicken. Damn, that’s an order, the waiter laughs. The conversation is convivial and sweet. We talk about the food, about their lives in Santa Cruz, about the girl one of them is meeting at this event, about the city. We go to an event at a club. I make the mistake of ordering a drink and am told there is a $20 minimum. Soon the club is sweaty, spinning, busting at the seams with remixed top 20 songs. I step outside, gasping for air. Confidence on the dance floor has dissipated into sadness – momentary freedom shackled by the memory. I drunkenly attempt to riddle out a text message about longing, missing, but Monika follows suit before I can send. Erase it. She says. It only leaves when you stop feeding it. I grip onto her arm, slowly curling fingers around, to get to the car four blocks away. Laying my head on the edge of the toilet, I remember how much I hate drunkenness. I do not throw up, avoiding ruining tonight’s perfect Chinese meal, but I feel as though I could purge all of this from my body, this ocean of sadness whirling.
I wake up hungry. I am always hungry, and I cannot stop the longing. We drive from the Outer Mission to the Sunset District. The greens in Golden Gate Park glisten; I want to languish in their lush overgrowth.
Impressionism: the ways in which I had come to view reality that clouded with memory, nostalgia, and desire. I was busy separating the strands so that I could see. We wander until we find that which makes us wonder. I wander, wonder, the halls of memory, and I long for the smells that bring these images back to life. How is a city you’ve never lived in nostalgic? How is it that food has a way of satisfying emotional needs that we may never find closure in? These are the questions I ask myself in the golden light. Memory, like light, after all, plays tricks.