November, Sweet November

One of my clearest memories of San Francisco is the last time I saw the city from a good vantage point. This was after my expulsion from Thrillhouse. I’d landed on a friend’s couch in Oakland, and caught a ride back to the city with her on her commute. (By the way, Liz, if you’re reading this, thank you.) She couldn’t drop me at my destination because she had a tight timeline to get to work, so she drove me to her office and I walked from there into downtown. She works for a publisher that lives up on a hill in the south part of the city, and as you walk down the road from their offices you’ll crest the hill, which drops off so sharply you can see over the roofs and across San Francisco. I began the long walk downwards. The plan had been to catch a bus, but I ended up walking the whole way to the library, where I was going to return some books for the last time. In just a few short months I’d learned to navigate the Mission and its surrounding districts almost as well as any town I’d been in. Looking back on it, I don’t think I realized I’d probably never be coming back, and yet I ended up taking this long, solitary walk through the southern half of the city, as if I were saying goodbye. In San Francisco I was scared, helpless, and dependent upon the goodwill of others, but there was something about that time that made me feel awake, like my life was finally starting. Some taste of risk made it real. It is not my home there, and never was, but I will always love San Francisco for the rare, painful sense of being alive.

Since I moved back to Portland and started working again, I’ve lost that. Now I’ve got enough money to eat and buy an occasional book and not feel guilty about it at all. I have a sense of security that has been so long departed from me that I scarce know what to do with it. I have a work week, and the weeks tick by smoothly. I look down, I look up, another month is gone. But not this month. Because this month, I start making bad decisions again. This month it gets scary again. This month is Transgender Awareness Month.

And this month I come out at work.

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