I always feel sad when I come here.
I am in the City, in San Francisco, the only city that I have ever known intimately. I know many secrets of this city, especially secrets about the dark underbelly, the shouting that goes on at night, the faces that are slammed into fences and gates. I also know good secrets, like where to get the best coffee and pizza, and which streets to travel on when you are in a hurry. I know no other city in this way.
But it never did let me in.
Now, I am staying overnight in the big sprawling flat where I lived before I moved to the Land. I don't know what it is about places that gets into me this way, I only know that I grip things, and my knuckles are tired.
I remember walking up the back steps, the old wooden steps that are ridiculously steep and that smell like pee, with YaYa, barely four hours old. I was a little unsteady, but glad to be coming home from the birth center to go to bed. It was about 10:00 at night. I sat on the couch and someone fixed me some cereal, probably my mom. They all sat around me, all my friends, on the couch, around me and on the floor beneath me, and some perched above me, on the arms of the couch. They stroked me and touched me and of course, held tiny YaYa, who just hours before had revealed that she was a daughter, not another son.
These are the kind of memories I am gripping, here. And although now, years later, I have become so accustomed to the woods that I am sort of blinky and stunned in the City, coming here is sharp and poignant. This was home. It belongs to other people now, people who are kind enough to have me come and stay with them. But my memories of the last couple of years are not of here.
This is the way of things. And I want to hold on. But people are the same way, as elusive as the specks of dust that Leafy and I tried to catch, on the day he was sick. You love them and love them, but you can't keep them. Even our children will grow up and go.
I have somehow entwined myself in the land under my feet. I feel as though small birds have pinned me to the ground, and when we break away, small pieces of myself will break off, too. The other day I was talking with Chinua, trying to figure out how to bring the woods and hills with me. "Maybe a tattoo of a Redwood. Or a Madrone," I suggested.
"Definitely a Madrone," he said. "A Redwood would make a horrible tattoo."
Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn't. But I have to let go. Somehow.
And then I remember that I always feel this way. And I find a poem that I wrote, when I lived here in this house that I feel nostalgic for now.
when you have left pieces of yourself
around the earth,
in this village
and that one.you'll find sometimes
that your edges don't meet
the sides don't match.
your skin doesn't stretch to cover
all of you.
a slight ringing of bells is enough to
draw you halfway around the world
to call you away from your children
splashing happily in their bath.
or a stop at the curb
an otherwise annoying smell from
sends you rocking into boats
sends you into the warm air.
when you have left pieces.
tan faces, bits of amber
the rush of a crowd in the market
meat on a stick, the cockroaches
your hurriedly made bed
deep in the cold of air conditioning.
when you have left pieces of yourself
with people, in this city and
you'll find that you can't
keep your thoughts with you
they have taken you on a journey
a musing, winding road, many trees
thick forests. you struggle
to put a key in the lock of
your front door
with clumsy fingers.
you trip, stand catching your breath
head down, looking at cracks
in the pavement. head in your hands
draw yourself back.
pieces of you, here and there
making small light patches
on a grey and rushing landscape.
It is the same. I am the same, wanting to own what I cannot own, finding it difficult to say goodbye. And I will get through.