Friday, September 15, 2006

"I'm sorry, this just isn't working anymore..."

Until six months ago, I'd lived in San Francisco's Mission District for 12.5 years. For those unfamiliar with the area near 15th Street and Mission, it has a diverse and vibrant mix of people, great restaurants, bodegas with fresh vegetables, excellent transit, bookstores, funky boutiques, theaters, and lots of sunshine. It is also a nexus for drug deals, mental illness, prostitution, violence, and poverty. We lived on one of the side streets where people would go to do things that they didn't want to be seen doing, so we regularly walked passed used syringes, used condoms, and -- how can I put this? -- things better left in a toilet bowl. "Dynamic" and "urban" (our favorite euphemisms) start to capture the full range of what the Mission offers.

We'd been getting more and more worn down by the area, and had been trying to buy a house for a few years (no easy feat in SF). Then earlier this year, when my sweetie decided to run for BART Director in the district with the Republican incumbent who hadn't done much during his 16 years on the board, I knew the move was the right thing to do. Even though is meant leaving a three-bedroom Victorian flat with a 20 year-old rent-controlled lease. (That's commitment to public service!)

Whenever I go back to my old neighborhood now, I experience a confusing combination of feelings. Sadness. Comfort. Distance. Familiarity. Loss. Last night, I finally put my finger on what it feels like: breaking up with a lover.

An amicable breakup, sure. It was one of those partings that came out of circumstance: someone moving to take a new job, and knowing that it meant the end of the relationship. We were together for a third of my life, after all, so the mix of emotions is not surprising.

When I see my old love again, I still remember everything special about our time together: the fun we had, the colors, the liveliness, the convenience, dinners at fantastic taquerias, the way it met so many of my needs, all the artistic/progressive/queer/fabulous people who lived nearby.

But there are also reminders that I made the right decision to leave: more and more characters bringing around their violence, their anger, their smells, and their insanity at all times of the day and night. After 12.5 years, the relationship just wasn't healthy for me anymore.

My new Richmond District neighborhood and I have just started getting to know each other. We're still early in the relationship, though I know its more quiet approach is really good for me right now. It'll take me time to adjust to life after moving on -- the language the Richmond speaks is literally different. (The Mission is heavily Latino, while the Richmond is mainly Chinese with a good deal of Russian.)

Still, the Mission will always have a place in my heart, and I'll always be grateful for everything I learned while we were together. I'm glad we can still be friends.