I said my final goodbye to the apartment on Lombard Street yesterday. My room was just a pile of cardboard boxes, taped and stacked pyramid style in the center last week. The walls were bare, save for a few nails dotting their surface; the only sign of life was a white bath towel hanging on its hook behind the door. Jack knocked and came in to give me our last hug as roommates. “We had a good run didn’t we,” he laughed.
And we did.
I will admit. I stayed a year longer than I thought I would. In the past 10 years I have moved 10 times. I know how to move. I understand the value of paring down your belongings. I do not worry about losing items that can be replaced simply by going online and entering a MasterCard number.
This move, I donated four boxes of books I always hoped I would read but never did. And now there are new authors I want to explore, other stories I want to hear, and new ideas I want to entertain. I do not need books lining my shelves trying to pass themselves off as things that have impressed upon me some knowledge or added some meaning to my life.
I set a box on the curb that contained some leftover books and a painting I should have felt worse about giving away. But to me, it simply said, I am sorry – and not, I love you. And to be honest, I do not really want to hear ‘I’m sorrys’ anymore.
I went on my last sunset run from Russian Hill and somehow I missed most of it. I was stranded in Pac Heights surrounded by mansions and enveloped by the hills when I could see the final throws of yellow cast between the trees. I realized it’s not as if I am leaving the city – so why get all sentimental? But I picked up the pace nevertheless. Yes, I only moved three miles. But I’m hoping the distance will bring a completely different experience.
When I first moved to the city it was not really by choice. Though living in San Francisco was something I had always wanted, it didn’t happen the way I wanted. Or at least that is what I thought.
Lombard Street was my sanctuary. It was kind of my last stop in California before packing up the Subaru and driving back East. And believe me that was a scenario I had played out a few times before. Whether during one of those meals when I could see my ex-manfriend wondering ‘Who is this person sitting across from me and how did she get into my home?’ or after another 14 hour day at the newspaper when I was cooking dinner for one and ignoring that tiny voice asking, ‘What are you doing here?’
I don’t hear that voice anymore.
I came to the city at a time in my life when I needed a shelter and distraction. It was fitting that I moved in with two bachelors. I met Jack on a night it took me 40 minutes to find a parking space in Russian Hill and nearly bailed on the showing altogether. What sold me was the tiny Christmas tree in the corner, the lemon tree outside my room, and the conversation I had with Jack about his girlfriend. I liked that he said the word ‘love’ when talking about her. Plus, it was the most normal of the 8 listings posted on Craigslist over Christmas and Emily lived five blocks away.
Jack and David were exactly what I needed at the time. They were strange boys. I couldn’t cry in front of them. So I ran. A lot. Asked for more work at work. And wrote. Started a blog. Then another. About three months after the breakup I began noticing other men. Not that they were attractive – but that they existed.
Over time, I came to start calling San Francisco home. But the apartment never really was. Maybe it was the emotions I came with and never fully unpacked. Maybe they seeped out of the boxes and took up residence in the garage. All I know is that they aren’t coming with me to the new apartment.
Last week I packed up my room throwing away bad photos, donating clothes and books written by academics I never fully understood or appreciated, especially if I couldn’t remember the endings.
My new room currently looks like a FEMA disaster area. I can barely see my floor. There is nothing on my walls yet and I remain in search of a proper bed frame. But, it’s the potential of the new space that excites me. I am grateful I didn’t not live with Jack and David (and later Karla.) Because it was a nice place to call home for awhile – even if I never completely moved in.
Lombard Street gave me David, who made me feel loved when I needed to the most, and who gladly killed all of the spiders in my room without question or smirk. The apartment gave me Karla, who is reading this and probably smiling as she always does, and finally, Jack, who isn’t reading this at all, but endured a number of toilet roll changing demonstrations and who gave countless hours of boy advice with much appreciated patience.
Yesterday evening when I returned to pick up the last of my things no one was home. And that seemed somehow appropriate. I cleaned out my cupboards, wrapped up my wine glasses, locked the door, and left my keys. I backed out of our driveway – managing to avoid killing any tourists still lingering at the top – and drove down California Street towards the sun. A good omen I think.