A San Francisco Story: back to the personal – Peter

Let’s try something really retro – I’m going to write about myself in an honest, awkward way in my blog posts!
Finally getting to that talk with St. Francis. We have much to discuss. "My house is not of brick and stone..."
I think I saw Peter today. Actually, I know I saw Peter – but whether or not the person in front of me was actually Peter, or was in fact a person, is hard to determine. Here’s what I do know:

I went to the last of a series on memoir writing at the San Francisco Public Library. I came in late and harried, having counted on parking at the civic center garage that said garage alas did not have. I had to park at Mission and Fifth, awkwardly fork over my keys to a valet, and then somehow lost that space where Market and Mission kind of veer closer together before moving further apart.

I also didn’t realize this was a long workshop, about four hours. But the teacher mercifully gave us a break, and so I stumbled out in search of water. ((The SF public library has only one bathroom – according to some disgusted workshop attendees, this design keeps the homeless out. Given most homeless are usually people with severe brain-organ problems, many are not able to then stop themselves from using the entire library as a bathroom, ergo the ubiquitous smell.)) Last year, after a series of dreams about Peter with lessening intensity each time, I attempted to write a memoir and post it on this blog as a sort of post-good timing love letter. I then realized that that might not be such a good thing. There are too many too easily identifiable details in my stories – not to mention illegal activities here and there.

I had fixed in my mind writing about moving to San Francisco as a tech immigrant in the wake of a whole lot of an Ellis Act abuse plague that even some lifelong locals know nothing about. But as I strode towards the information librarian to ask about a water fountain, I saw a man look up at my face.

I’m a flirt. So I looked back at his. I don’t think I stopped dead. I’m pretty sure it didn’t.

Because the face I saw was unmistakably Peter’s. But I wasn’t sure. Peter always had an energy to him, a kind of light and heat. Also, it stands to reason that Peter would have aged at least somewhat – and this guy looked almost exactly like the Peter I knew when I was twenty. He even had on the exact same blue joggers with the white stripe he used to wear when he studied. While I know guys can save the same clothing forever until someone finally sets fire to them, it seemed strange for him to have the exact same joggers twenty years later. My tattoo blocks out a lot of the automatic readings nowadays, but when I was able to open on purpose, it felt like it could have been Peter – despite sitting like a college student poring over magazines, he emitted an energy where only the word power could apply, and as affable as Peter was in my memory, power is exactly where he was headed.

I walked on past. I asked for water. I made a deal in my head that if he was gone by the time I got back from the bathroom on the first floor, then it wasn’t Peter, just one of the many Sicilian-or-something types that are part of the shifting population of San Francisco. I came back up – he was still there. I looked closer – except for the olive skin looking slightly darker than I remembered (a possible California versus Wisconsin effect) he looked exactly like Peter.

I couldn’t find it in myself to talk to him. If it weren’t Peter, I’d be embarrassed, and two days into an anti-anxiety med is a rough time to handle that particular emotion. If it were Peter…I didn’t want to give up the memory of our old emotional closeness, such as I had the capacity to express it, for something more awkward, distant, and polite – god, politness, that gut-twister – in the present. If it was really him, if he knew it was me, he could say something. As it was, it felt like he was doing what I used to do – wishing the other person would come over, but unable to reach out. On the receiving end that feels like a push away instead of a call too.