Highlight Reel

I was new in town,
riding BART in the city
when, like in the movies, I caught your eye,
and instantly worried that the movies were lies,
and that I was just being weird.
So, already weird, I went all out.
We left at the same station;
you took the stairs, I took the escalator.
Unable to take my eyes off you as I passed,
I turned,
effectively moonwalking into the lead,
in our race to Market Street.
“I’m winning.” I said, being weird like that.
You took off your headphones, and smiled at me.
You could see my newness,
fresh off the boat,
and there was a part of you that lit up,
your kind, caring, instant-friend-making spirit
that took it upon itself to look out for me,
a person you’d not yet even met,
offering to show me round a bit,
only not today,
as you were off to meet your parents at the Ferry Building.
I joked that I should come along.
“Not this time.”
But there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t yearn
when you left.
Number in hand, I fretted like a teenager
over when was too soon to text;
I texted way too soon.
And later, when introducing you to friends and colleagues at Kell’s,
you arrived from work with an enormous backpack,
set it down,
and proceeded to tell people how we’d met on the train,
just like in the movies.

You couldn’t have been a better host.
We met for dinner at el Techo in the Mission –
my first experience of this eclectic district,
like Camden Town, San Francisco style –
where we took an elevator up to the roof to be seated,
a plastic canopy to keep the bay winds off our food
and skin,
but I do not remember being chilly or warm,
my memory instead is of the expansive view,
though I cannot even tell you what I saw, what part of the city,
I only remember the feelings now;
it felt like luck,
and gratitude, all at once.
It felt like that every time I met you since;
at the Tiki bar, at the BART near my place,
or when I kept stumbling upon a new part of you,
like when you told me you were an architect,
and pointed out your favorite buildings and features,
like that one near the Academy of Sciences,
an angular shape nestled into its environment –
was that the time you took me to NightLife?
We drank cocktails as we explored the museum
like giddy kids figuring out how to date –
or the first time I heard you sing,
and I swear down you carry a ghost in you,
beautiful and laden with soul,
playing out through you every time you sing,
a cool, blue, careful melody
that originates so deep in your heart;
we all sit up and listen to hear its tales,
its truth,
its lessons of youth.

It became such a habit.
You all did.
I’d met your housemates down on Lily Street,
not ten minutes walk from Civic Center BART,
and I rode out from work as many night as you’d have me,
passing up my Lake Merritt stop
to venture further,
to dare for more from the day beyond 5.30,
and we’d hang out, cook food,
I’d marvel at Adrian’s innovations –
the self-installed rain shower, the smart lightbulbs, the Nest,
the door-locking device of his own design,
and shouting at the Alexa –
and the chronology quite betrays me,
but there was a night, just you and I,
where you coaxed me into a small bar with a pool table.
We did our best to stick to the game.
No. We did our worst.
Squeezing by each other to get in place for the shot,
hands glancing as we exchanged the cue,
and it was the first time you kissed me,
like the choreography demanded,
directed by you.
I was an extra with a leading role.
I’d found my American dream,
just like in the movies.

But it went awry.
I was moving too fast,
texting too much,
opting for a life of gentrification
instead of enjoying the character of my new city.
And I’d mentioned wanting kids one day,
and you’d said you did not,
that the world was too fucked to subject them to,
and maybe you were right
given what happened in eight months’ time,
but it cut a chord way down in me,
and I’m trying to remember if that’s what broke,
and I’m trying to think if that’s legitimate,
because that is so important,
and I was falling so fast.
I wanted it all too soon,
and I pushed you away for my eagerness.

You know I only bought those tickets because of you.
Months in the future, I turned up,
single, attending with friends,
Cage The Elephant taking the stage,
I feel my phone buzz in my pocket.
“You look good in a white t shirt.”

I never found you in the crowd.
And that’s when I knew
I was no longer in a movie.

It’s 5am as I finish this,
having spent all night reliving the moments,
I could not lay there at 4 just holding on to memories,
so I wrote them down,
not necessarily for you to see,
but we only live once,
and I wonder if you’d be happy or sad to know
how much it all means to me
that our paths crossed,
and that you are the only love I ever found in the wild,
not on a dating app,
not through an institution like school or work,
but out of the millions of people in a brand-new city,
we said hello,
and I find it so hard to say goodbye,
at least without you understanding how unique you are,
and how much I wish I’d taken it slow.

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