Bumping Into Walls
When I returned home from Canada, I missed the loon song and spent my days wandering through Golden Gate Park, looking for its darkest, most silent space. If I could not have the people I left behind, I wanted enough solitude to speak to them, my imaginary friends. I longed for the boat wind, the thrill of an eagle slicing the sky, returning to its nest, and the delight of falling asleep on the ground after a day of moving my body through the open world, without any walls at all.
I wanted to unmake everything. I cried once. Then I put an end to a love that was really just a heap of scraps to sift through, which he treated as a gift. Instead, I ended its life and its suffering. It was nothing but smoldering wreckage that I mistook for heat. I decided that I could not make a life without passion. I was unwilling to continue starving myself to death wandering through the wilderness after a belonging just out of reach.
I moved into a studio apartment, bought a busted bicycle, and filled myself with avocados, cheap at the Mexican produce market around the corner. I took up space by feeding myself whatever I wanted. I ordered the combo at Boogaloos every time, refusing to choose between eggs and pancakes. On the weekends, I would buy a bag of donuts from the Chinese donut shop at 18th and Mission, vanilla with rainbow sprinkles, and eat them in the quiet of my apartment, which was entirely mine. After dinner, I walked to the collectively-owned bookstore, open until nine in the evening. I wandered through the aisles and bought woodcut print posters for my apartment or queer history or books about the ecology of places I longed to travel to and even more longed to protect. No matter how many destinations I created for myself beyond the studio on South Van Ness, I kept bumping into its walls.
There was a corner where I caught my right shoulder, like a stranger hurrying to the train. There was a spot in the kitchen that reached out and grabbed my left elbow. I stubbed my toe on the lip between the hallway and the bathroom, the one with tiny tiles and a clouded window overlooking the alley. The one where I had an entire built-in cabinet for my things: for the makeup and potions that felt necessary now that I had a mirror again. The ones I did without when the lake was the only thing to wipe me clean.
To walk out the front door, you more or less had to walk into the bathroom, then open the door, out into the sterile hallway where the kids who lived on the floor would play kickball on Saturday mornings. I started wearing skinny jeans. I bought rain boots I still have.
Once, someone high on meth tried to break into my apartment in the middle of the night, shimmying down the fire escape. There’s nothing here for you, I wanted to say. There’s nothing here worth having.
Christy Tending (she/they) is an activist, writer, and mama living in Oakland, California. She is a nonfiction editor at Sundog Lit. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Catapult, Electric Literature, trampset, Barren Magazine, and Bending Genres, among many others. You can learn more about her work at www.christytending.com or follow her on Twitter @christytending or Instagram @christytending.
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