I’m From San Francisco, CA.

by Jesselito Bie

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

A letter to myself at 19.

I am transmitting from the not too distant future, 23 years to be exact. Young man, whoa boy…just wait, you don’t know what is waiting for you down the road. Soon, very soon, your uncontrollable behavior, your sexuality will result in your contracting HIV, which at the time will appeal to the drama queen in you. Little do you realize how tedious and boring it really is. And you go on, playing Russian roulette, gun pointed to your head, trigger cocked, and even though you’ve gone to safer sex workshops and know how the virus is transmitted, you’re just young enough to believe that you can dodge the bullet. But you’re wrong.

But you are one lucky motherfucker. You get a chance to dance in San Francisco, the magical Oz of your dreams, golden brick roads lined with pretty boys to sleep with and you do, with a vengeance. Within the first few days of moving to the city, you meet a man who, you don’t realize it yet, but you will end up marrying.

And life is golden for awhile, you will fall in love with this man and seven years pass before it all goes to hell. You end up leaving him for a man who will break your heart. A man who leaves you so angry that you punch a concrete wall in rage and break your hand.

It’s another two years before you meet a man who will leave you with a drug problem. A nice parting gift. You will find yourself in the office bathroom, sneaking off with a pipe and getting high on crystal meth on one of your breaks. Friends will be supportive and look on in the knowledge that there’s nothing they can do. One of them will call you and invite you to the ferry terminal to tell you that if you continue on with your behavior she can’t bear to be your friend because it’s too painful to watch you self destruct. You take the cue and convince your doctor to write you off on disability and you check yourself into treatment to kick this nasty habit that you’ve acquired.

Three years later, you find yourself neglecting to take the medication that keeps the virus in your body in check. You’ve just broken up with the man you thought would save you. Heartbroken, you pass out in your apartment for a week. Said friends find you and drag your sorry ass to the hospital with a case of PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy), a viral load of 8,000 and about 3 T-cells to your name. You wake up with your family and friends gathered around your hospital bed thinking, What the fuck is this? Am I dead? Is this heaven? You later find out that your sister has taken it upon herself to out you to your mother. Why not, since she’s just found out about your HIV diagnosis, after 23 years, why not just let the cat out of the bag?

Norvir, Septra, Isentress, Prezista, will be the mantra you repeat in the morning with your cup of coffee and cigarette. This mantra will slowly, all too slowly bring you back from the brink. In the mornings you find yourself doing something that you would never have thought of doing just a year before; you will pack up your yoga mat, put on your headphones and turn the volume all the way up on your iPod on your way to class and breathe deeply on the walk up the street. You will marvel at how lovely and beautiful your life is, how lucky you are, even though you are single and alone again, at how much you love this city again, this magical Oz and how there are many cute boys left to kiss. You will grin, smile at how resilient life is, even though there is heartbreak just over the horizon.

A judge will strike down what is unjust and you will find yourself marching down Market Street during rush hour only this time in celebration instead of defeat with friends and together, you will scream and yell in utter ecstasy. Your heart will swell and beat in your chest and you know that even though there are hateful and mean spirited people out there, that things will turn out right. You will go to dinner at your friend Jackie’s house and be so proud of her and her partner Jessica and their son Ezra and you will know that there are some good things in life.

Norvir, Septra, Isentress, Prezista, your morning begins anew and the future will unfold for you. Your dancers wait for you at rehearsal and you are so fucking proud to be dancing with them again. You can hardly wait for it to begin.

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