A Letter Written to Heal
Words by Hannah Kathleen
Today was a crazy day. I saw you for the first time in seven months. Before I go further, I want to tell you what happened before that.
I got to the city around 9:45 a.m. Later than I was hoping to get there, but early enough to wander around alone before meeting Sarah and Mitchell for breakfast. I got off at Embarcadero, and it was eerily quiet. Usually, the farmers’ market draws a crowd, but it hadn’t quite yet. There was, however, a really long line at Blue Bottle and Peet’s, so I didn’t get coffee. I decided to just start the 20-minute walk along the water over to Brickhouse, where I’d meet them for breakfast. I could already tell it’d be an unbelievably hot day in the city -- and I was wearing black jeans, high-top vans, and a flannel shirt. I was, after all, going to a Giants game later.
The stadium’s by the water; it’s usually freezing with the wind blowing. But today, at 10:00 a.m., I was already sweating. People were running by me in shorts and tank tops. I guess I should have listened to you when you said it was just starting to get warm in the city, while the surrounding towns were cooling off.
Sarah and Mitchell were running late, so I wanted to walk through one of my favorite parks, the one off of 2nd Street, across from 21st Amendment. But it’s temporarily closed -- looks like they’re putting in sidewalks and walls. I liked it the way it was. I passed two guys chatting, petting each others’ dogs. I dropped my new sunglasses on the pavement, picked them up, and made eye contact with a man holding a large black bag of what appeared to be garbage. Should I have said, “Good morning, sir”? I decided against it.
I made it to Brickhouse, a place I’d eaten before, and got a table for three even though they weren’t there yet. I got dirty looks from the people waiting -- the ones with their full parties in attendance. I tried to be care-free, drank my coffee, and read my book. Sarah and Mitchell didn’t take much longer; they biked there from the Mission. The hostess and the server there were incredibly nice. I tipped over 20 percent. I always do, hoping other people do the same when you’re their server.
We left the breakfast joint and walked through the heat and the streets, crowded with construction and Giants fans. We’d decided to go to The Yard, the outdoor beer garden across from the stadium, to get beers and wait for the other people we had tickets for. I ended up buying a shirt from the brewery because my flannel was just unbearable. The cashier asked me about the book I’m reading, and he seemed genuinely interested.
I found an empty stall -- without a working toilet -- to change into my new t-shirt. I felt better instantly.
I met John and Kurt, friends of Mitchell, who are both from Georgia. And Joe, Nick’s boyfriend from San Leandro. Joe’s apartment in the city just burnt down. He’s living with his grandma. I know of Kurt’s company because I helped with a contract for them at work. And John knew of my company because he’s a recruiter. I met Nick a few weeks ago. He’s also Mitchell’s friend, and he’s also from Georgia.
We got lucky in the stadium. Our seats were in the shade. I could see the water.
John asked about my tattoos. We discovered we were both affected by John Mayer’s photo on the cover of Rolling Stone in high school.
We left before the game was over.
Back at Sarah and Mitchell’s, the guys got high. We watched the Emmys and talked about shows we like. By 5:30 p.m., we were hungry for dinner. We debated two different Italian places, both near their apartment. We settled on Mozzeria -- it had great ratings on Yelp and was in the same block.
Everyone there only spoke sign language. It was so quiet. And warm. The pizza oven was right by our table. I could have taken a nap. Ice cream. We all decided we wanted some. It’d cool us off, even though we were all stuffed from the cheese and bread and endless garlic.
On the way to Cream, Sarah wanted to stop by a restaurant her and Mitchell had been to the night before. She’d left her debit card there. I waited outside with the guys.
And there you were.
I haven’t felt that way since high school or early college -- the nausea and butterflies that overwhelmed me as I internally debated whether or not to approach you. I hadn’t seen you in so long. You had ignored me for months. I’d act foolish.
I didn’t know who you were with. You looked so different. Was it even really you?
I decided not to say anything, to walk away. But when I did, I saw you see me. You didn’t say my name. But how could I blame you? I didn’t say yours either.
We got in line at Cream, just before the masses. I looked at Sarah with flush cheeks: “Patrick is sitting outside that restaurant.” “How strange!” she said.
I was still at war in my head. I had to go say hello. You’d just called me a few week ago. I had to acknowledge that I’d seen you.
Oh, it was so good to see your face. It brings tears to my eyes now. It’s so bittersweet. It made me feel wonderful and like a pile of shit all at once. I felt messy, as if my behavior was amusing you. I wished I’d been more present -- to appreciate those few short moments with you.
You seem well.
I couldn’t focus on much else.
But Barb texted me. She was in town from Saudi. I agreed to meet her downtown. I got off Bart at Powell. While I waited for her, a man approached me. He has a question. “I don’t speak English,” he warned. “That’s okay,” I said. He asked where the Rose Market was. I wasn’t familiar. “Discount clothes,” he said, tugging as his sweater. “Rose, R-O-S-S,” he spelled. “Oh, Ross!”
I mapped it on my phone and showed him. It was only a three minute walk. He was so thankful. What a wonderful encounter. I felt happy.
Then Barb called. I ran across Market to hug her. We hugged again. She took me to the 40th floor of the Marriott. We watched the moon rise while we drank wine and talked about Saudi culture. I told her I saw you, how it hurt.
She said maybe one day, after more healing, you’ll forgive me. That we’ll be friends.
“I hope so,” I told her.
On the train home, a man in all black insisted on talking to me. I was so guarded. I felt awkward talking to him on a crowded train. What would he do once we got closer to the end of the line and more people got off? Would he try to awkwardly take my number? That didn't happen. Derek was a little off kilter, but he was kind. He just wanted to chat, to make a human connection.
I’m home now, in bed. It’s 12:30 a.m. I have a dentist appointment at 7:00 a.m.
Good night. I miss you. I miss seeing your smile and hearing about your day. What’d you do today before I saw you? I miss you. I miss you. I’m sorry. I haven’t yet forgiven myself, so I can understand it you haven’t either.
I do hope you’re happy.
Hannah is an artist living and working in the Bay Area. She enjoys photography, exploring the outdoors, and practicing yoga.