Published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name Elizabeth Rose. Chris is known as “Jason” in the I Heart stories.
Dear San Francisco,
Everyone has an opinion of you, but I’ve always remained indifferent.
Some applaud while others snub, dismissing new evolutions by reliving the old.
Through each diatribe I’d nod politely, careful not to further engage.
But I saw past the hype.
Past the lists of pros and cons that run so freely from the lips of your past lovers.
Because I secretly yearned to be your lover, too.
After all, we hadn’t yet the opportunity.
A chance to see if we’d click.
But finally, in that perfect moment, you got me and I got you.
It was strange and familiar, as first loves tend to be.
It was hopeless and romantic.
Carnal and primal.
I’ll never forget the first moment we met.
I jumped out of the car, barely in park, and began skipping your streets!
I’m sure it looked odd to the outside world.
Even my sweetheart didn’t entirely understand the sudden quickness in my breath.
But he saw the sparks and was amused by how happy I was with you.
So he sat back and delighted in my indulgence of your hedonistic existence of life.
Hungry for you, I let go of inhibitions.
You gave me space to self-explore.
I felt mischievous and naughty.
I floated along.
I traveled the gradient of your body, traced upon your cobblestoned veins and found your beauty marks, dimples, and scars – the aftermath of all who’ve entered you.
Even in the sludge of your underbelly, the dark sides of your personality, I was happy.
You were (and are) so beautiful.
Your imperfections make it easier to relate.
I am more comfortable with you.
And that’s why I love you. Love every bit of you.
I even dressed for the occasion.
Bold black-and-white stripes, faux fur, velvet, and sunglasses at night (because even in shadows, you shine bright).
And just when I thought our time was through, you delivered the biggest surprise of all.
You gave me Bob!
A love in my life I hadn’t seen in, what? Four years? Thank you for that!
I bolted out of the Uber as soon as our eyes met on Valencia Street.
His hair was long, below his shoulders, and his hat adorned with souvenirs and tokens.
He wore three layers of coats and a crystal around his neck.
Oh, and two cans of spray paint secured in his back pocket.
The few possessions he had left from the fire.
Thank God he is safe.
I pray for those who didn’t make it.
The poets, writers, musicians, and artists.
Those now beyond the physical world who bore their souls and their stories for the sake of art. May they rest.
Then Bob introduced me to a new love.
His name is Anthony.
He escaped the fire, too.
He’s so dynamic, confident, and bold.
We bonded over fashion and go-go dancing.
Over Indian food, Bob shared the story he’s relived too many times before.
I held his hand, disfigured from the flames, and listened.
A warehouse party up in flames.
He saved many and remembers those he couldn’t.
I can’t imagine. Could have been any of us.
The creatives. The artists in need of a place to be freaky.
A self-constructed world illuminated by art and weirdos vanished into dust.
Created by the people that make the world less… vanilla.
Yes, they are now without a home but not without will.
Because you give them hope.
A blank canvas to construct a future Mecca.
They’ve found strength in the loss.
Voices rising, people gathering.
Through the ash, they will parade down the road and build a sanctuary once again.
San Francisco, I became more of a woman with you.
Able to express my body to the world the way I’ve only practiced behind closed doors.
You were my first taste of polyamory and I gobbled it up, nourished and fed.
Unrestricted and free.
Your chameleon soul resurrects and brings forth thousands of lovers, and I am thankful to be just one.
Until we meet again.
– Elizabeth Rose