San Francisco. The moment we knew.
I had always wanted to go to San Francisco. A city that somehow manages to incorporate hustle and bustle with beautiful sweeping landscapes. Sealions, Sunshine, China Town, trams, hills, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, The Golden Gate Bridge. I wanted to see it all. I did. But that isn’t what I remember most from the trip. I remember the look on your face when I said the words I couldn’t take back.
Just…pause for a second. I want you to know that writing this doesn’t make me feel good. My blog is telling a story but the part of the story that we are getting to, the next month, the next year…it was me at my worst and it started pretty much right here. But it had to happen. We had to end. Even thinking about San Francisco makes my stomach tight and my heart hurt and I don’t know if you are reading this or now or if you ever will but I am sorry. I am sorry it came to be like this.
We arrived in San Francisco by lunchtime. A landslide had meant we had stayed in a motel the night before rather than arriving here as planned. An hour outside of the city we stopped at a lighthouse. It was beautiful. It was December but Northern California is mild and I stood with my coat unbuttoned watching the waves crash against the rocks, spraying salt water up the white washed walls. Oh, to live in a lighthouse and hear the waves crash for the rest of my life.
We didn’t talk much, but that was okay. We drove into the city. We parked the car. We walked by the Bridge. We spotted Alcatraz. I remember how bright the light was. And gold. It honestly seemed golden. I liked San Francisco. The vibe. A lot of people walking dogs, riding bikes and seeming genuinely happy. I would love to go back and join them. Especially with the happy part.
We were meeting my friend Tim that night. Tim is 6ft 5 and change, a sassy gay male from my theatre days and a bad influence when it comes to swilling back about eight too many cocktails. I’m 5ft 2. I don’t know why I even try and keep up with him as Tim has always and will always drunk me under the table.
The year before we had all met up in Chicago. It was a better time. Almost exactly a year ago. A lot can change. We drank martinis and listened to an incredible 16 piece jazz band playing Christmas tunes in a dive bar. The three of us, Will’s brother and a gang of friends we hadn’t seen for four years danced around the table singing God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
Well that night in San Francisco wasn’t such a carefree jazz affair but we did have plans for dinner and drinks, followed by more drinks, followed by more.
Now, here is where I struggle to give this any narrative context…because really I have none. Things had been bad with Will but I’d assumed they’d get better. It was only 11 days since the car crash in Tucson when I realized they probably wouldn’t but I thought I had time. I am sorry, I thought we would have time. But our time was up in that very second. Yes, things had been bad but in that moment they were fine. We were drunk and relaxed and in a cocktail bar with Tim. We had taken pictures and laughed and ordered more brandy. But, from nowhere, the words came out of my mouth, so matter of fact and I couldn’t stop them. “We aren’t going to be together next year are we.” We weren’t.
“We aren’t going to be together next year, are we?” ……….So blunt. So clinical. It was like stating tomorrow was going to be rainy or that I needed to pick up some bread on my way home from work. No inflection. No drama. Except of course, there was. But I just knew. Tim was going to be back from the loo at any second and I’d taken you off guard. You didn’t know what to say. You were shocked. I’m sure you saw it coming, but like me you thought we would have time. A few more laps. Twice round the merry-go-round. Once more, with feeling. Nope. This ride has reached an abrupt end.
Tim came back. The tension. The embarrassment. What is wrong with me? Why there? We left and went back to our apartment. I passed out in my clothes in the bed. You slept on the sofa in a ball.
The first few seconds when you wake up are the best and worst. You’re cosy and warm and for a moment everything is okay. But then. The thud. The sinking feeling. The pain, all the worse in its return. Will. I called out to you. What the fuck had I done.
Did you mean it? You asked me. I said I didn’t know. We knew I did. My heart was in my chest and my eyes were red holding back tears. The stress overcame me. I ran to the toilet and threw up a quart of brandy and what was left of my dinner.
We talked more. I was sick again. I had a shower. I threw up in the bath. I looked at myself in the mirror and knew, I KNEW this was the last time I would see this person staring back at me. Everything was about to change. I threw up in the sink.
It hurts to remember how worried you were about me. You went out and bought some bread for breakfast. I couldn’t eat it. We had to check out of the apartment and into a cheap hotel across the road for the night before our flight. I shakily made the ten minute walk and you carried my case. When we reached our room on the fifth floor I drank a can of coke and had to rush to the communal toilets ten minutes later. It was just liquid at this point.
We agreed it was a mistake. We agreed to try. We said when we got back home we would try harder. We would be better. We didn’t want this. I was so shocked and sad and drained that I clung on to you extra tight. After five hours of vomiting I made a recovery. We went for a walk and I clasped your arm. I always held on to your arm. I did not want to let go.
We walked by the ocean and we looked at the sea lions. Ironically it was one of the nicest afternoons we had had in months. The air was clearer somehow. Admitting there was a problem was the first step to fixing it. We would get back and it would all be okay. We were kidding ourselves, but I felt so good to pretend.
You put your head in my lap on the flight hope and I stroked your hair with an emptiness in my gut. When we landed, we took the subway home. There was a train waiting on the platform. The whistle was blowing and you dashed on. The doors shut in my face. We looked at each other through the glass as the carriage pulled forward. And then you were gone. I stood on the platform alone.