The thing I keep forgetting about grief is that it moves, that it comes & goes in waves. That I can be having a fine day, even having a lovely day, and then BAM, I get punched in the gut by my emotions, suddenly overwrought & off-kilter & hyper fucking sensitive when five minutes before I’d been okay.
Yesterday, I took the 8X into North Beach after lunch with a friend who works in the Financial District. And as the bus rolled past Stella Pastry, this neighborhood that I adore, this neighborhood that means so fucking much to me — the place I go to eat the Foods Of My People and talk to my Patron Saints & Favorite Poets and bask in red light sleaze and get my boots fixed — suddenly it became the last place I wanted to be. Sensory memory is bizarre like that, you know? It wasn’t August any more, in that flash — it was last November, and I was showing A. City Lights & buying him his first cannoli. I started crying right there on the bus, and I as soon as I stepped off I called Melissa.
“I think I just did something really stupid…” I said, through tears. “What’d you do?” she asked, and I said “I took the bus to North Beach, and I forgot that the last few times I was here I was with A., and, oh, I just feel dumb, I just didn’t think it would hit me like this, you know? I’m that maudlin bitch crying into her cell phone on a street corner, shit!”
And Melissa very gently said, “Honey, when you said you did something stupid, I thought you were gonna tell me you were quitting school and giving up your apartment and moving to Portland. There are a million stupid and self-destructive things you could be doing right now, especially after a break-up. Going to North Beach and crying is not one of them. It’s a great neigborhood to be sad in.”
So. I let myself cry as long as I needed to, hunched in the threshold of what I thought was an abandoned building on Grant Street, still on the phone with M. A hot muscley tattooed guy came out of the newspaper-covered glass door a bit later, so of course I was like, Great, I’ve just announced all my biznezz to you. But he gave me a really sweet smile as he brushed past me, said hi and said not to worry about hanging out in the doorway. North Beach is a good neighborhood to be sad in, I guess.
I took myself to Caffe Trieste, and asked the guy behind the counter of the storefront to show me how the Bialetti worked. I drank a Caffe Fantasia next to two old men playing chess and tried to write. I wrapped myself up in my coat and headed for the bus, and then I backtracked up Columbus to go buy way too many pastries at Stella. And then I came home, and Jos came over, and we cooked a giant batch of chicken sweet potato curry and stayed up talking till after midnight.
This is what you do with grief & longing, I guess. You move with it till it’s done moving you.