I’m From San Francisco, CA.

by J.T.

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

I walked the two blocks to my destination, but it wasn’t there. I frantically checked my phone to make sure I recorded the address correctly. I was on the right block, but the address I had for the place didn’t seem to exist. It should be here between this Buffalo Exchange and the adjacent apartment building. That can’t be right. I just couldn’t find this place.

I left work early that day to drive down to Hillcrest by myself. It wasn’t an area I frequented often, so the only sites I recognized were the dining sites I had been to. Lucy, the name I had given my GPS, alerted me when I was approaching my destination. I was so happy to have found a parking spot. I had no idea how long this was going to take, so I fed the meter enough to last a little more than an hour.

My parking spot was farther from my destination that I had anticipated; that shows you how much I knew the area. I was anxious and excited to be doing this. None of my friends who I approached seemed to be available, but that wasn’t going to stop me. I didn’t care who came with me, I was going to do this. I turned the corner, passed a café, and found myself in front of the space where the address should be. I frantically checked my phone thinking perhaps I was just having another dyslexic episode and transposed the numbers. No, that didn’t seem to be the case.

I eventually admitted defeat and decided to go into Buffalo Exchange to ask for help. The sales associate didn’t recognize the meeting place I was looking for, but suggested that perhaps it was one of the spaces behind the storefront. I walked down the block to find a gate that opened up into a courtyard and additional building space. A sign read “NO H8 Photoshoot” with an arrow. I had finally found my destination. I ascended a narrow staircase to what seemed to be a community meeting space. There wasn’t much apparent signage, but I knew I was exactly where I should be.

In one room I signed the waiver and got prepped with the temporary “NO H8” tattoo. Of course it was on my left side; that’s my good side. I made my financial contribution, applied a piece of duct tape over my mouth, and nervously waited in line to have my photo taken. I watched the two young men ahead of me take their group shots. They tried a couple different poses, crossing arms and posing as if to tear the tape off each other’s mouths. When they finished they looked so happy and proud.

It was finally my turn. I was instructed to remove my watch so it wouldn’t distract the shot, but I kept on my ring. With my mouth covered, it was hard to communicate with the photographer, so I just did as instructed. He instructed me to turn my body to the right and cross my arms in front of me in the shape of an “X”, now bring my arms closer to my body, turn my head to the front, now turn my whole body to the front, grab the collar of my t-shirt. It was all so quick, sudden, and exhilarating. That was it; I was done. I carefully removed the tape from my mouth and grinned. I was so proud of myself for having done this.

Weeks passed though it felt like much longer. I read every tweet from Adam Bouska hoping that my pictures would be available soon. Every day I checked the website looking for my photo in the gallery littered with celebrities, dignitaries, and leaders of all realms.

I was sitting at the front desk at work when I finally saw my photo. I almost passed it because I didn’t recognize myself. The picture was perfect. I didn’t have to worry that I had hastily gotten a cheapo-depot haircut that week or that I hadn’t warned the photographer about my uneven eyes. The image was better than anything I could have ever hoped for. I can’t even remember what I was working on that day at work. Whatever it was I suddenly dropped so that I could change my Facebook and Twitter profile pictures. I was so thrilled that I just left work early that day. I raced home to tell my roommates and email my family.

My Facebook feed exploded with compliments on the picture. My friends were proud, in awe, and envious. The compliments continued for the next couple of days or weeks as my friends saw me on campus. They asked why I hadn’t invited them to join me at the shoot. That was the difference though. I was proud to talk about my photo and the NO H8 campaign because I didn’t need an invitation from a friend to do this. I walked up and down that block looking for the location on my own. This was my own accomplishment and I am so glad that I did.


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