I grew up in LA in the 90s. And weirdly, by the time I got to high school, despite being from southern California, all the music we listened to was from the Bay. E-40. Too Short. All of it. I remember moving to Indiana and talking about “yay area” and everyone thought I was talking about, like, a happy corner. It was surreal.
Also also, I’m hella queer. I feel like, lately, I have this pressure to yell that I’m queer as soon as I meet a person. In mind, my introductions go
Person: Hello. My name is XXX.
Me: Hello XXX. I’m Rachel. DID I ALSO MENTION THAT EVEN THOUGH I’M MARRIED TO A CIS MAN I IDENTIFIED AS A LESBIAN FOR MOST OF MY LIFE AND WISH BI-ERASURE WASN’T SUCH A MASSIVE ISSUE IN THE QUEER COMMUNITY.
I think it has a lot to do with living in the south and not really being into all the assumptions people make about me. And that goes for my racial and sexual identity. If one more person tells me, I don’t look “mixed” I will set a city on fire. (Please stop telling people that. You can’t look “mixed.” Also, we’re people. Not a salad.)
Anyway, I say all of that to say: Flying into San Francisco felt like coming home. I can’t explain it. As the plane was landing into the airport (which is super close to the water), I felt the way I expected to feel when I landed in LA but didn’t. It was like the city was saying “you’re finally here.” It was one of the most surreal and most amazing experiences I’ve ever had while flying.
Even though I have no idea why I felt that way. It was cosmic.
And that feeling kept happening. When I got in the uber, the driver said, “Welcome home.” And I’m sure he was just assuming this was home for me but when he said it (especially after experiencing what I felt on the descent into San Francisco), I got goosebumps.
For the first time, in a long time, I was visible. I felt seen. And that’s a weird feeling to process when you’re not aware that for so long you felt unseen. I was visibly queer. No one thought it was weird when I started speaking Spanish or asked me where I was from with that suspicious look of “what’s up with you?”
I didn’t have to fight just to be myself. And I’m still processing what all of that means because I’m the kind of person who’s first instinct is how something feels and not always what it means.
And then, to add to all of that amazing wonderfulness, the play, Refuge, is also HELLA QUEER. It’s part of the problematic play festival for a reason but it’s also about poly/queer/trans relationships.
This is a play I’d completely given up on. First, I think it’s too queer for a lot of theatres. Unfortunately, right now, it feels like every play that is about the queer or trans identity is about coming out or *gasp* somehow suddenly falling an opposite gender when you’ve only liked one gender up until that point (as if bisexuality/pansexuality is this crazy impossible thing). There aren’t a lot of stories that unapologetically queer. Not because they’re not being written but because like most art forms, theatre is still catching up.
Not only is the play too queer, it’s also too sneaky. For some people, the play is about nothing but a sweet little romcom about a struggling marriage. For some people, it’s got some problems but everyone is still a good person. For me, the play has a narcissistic protagonist who thinks it’s fun to destroy people. So, you know, a lot of different approaches to the same play.
But also, it’s a play I wrote 6 years ago. And then again 2 years ago. This is going to sound wild but the play feels like something I wrote in my past-life. I like to think of my plays in the context of eras (even though I really haven’t been writing that long and I’m way too young to think of it on such a huge scale). I’m on era 3 and Refuge is from era 1.
So coming to a place for the first time in 17 years and it somehow feeling like home and then hearing a play from a past life was a lot to take in. There was a magic to it. That magic is bouncing around inside of me.
I think I forgot how much I love this play and my hopes for it. It’s kind of funny that in this festival, my play was the least problematic. (Hilariously, I’m used to my plays being the most problematic for standard theatre audiences.) Because yes the play isn’t about a racist incident or a shooting or sexual assault, but it’s about real life. It’s about just being alive. And those stories are important too. (And are still political. I feel being openly queer is an act of resistance.)
This trip has been a nice reminder to me that it’s okay. Yes, the world is on fire. Yes, fascism is rising again. But also, it’s okay to be mad that you’re partner was kind of shitty this morning and that problem still matters even as the world is on fire. It’s okay to just be yourself without being on the attack and ready to defend all of your varied identities.
It’s okay to take a breath.
I called this post Homecoming because it felt like a part of my soul came home this weekend. But as beautiful as it is, there’s something bittersweet about it too. Because maybe in a past or future life, this was (or will be) my home. But my heart also knows it’s not my home right now.
The past year, really especially the past 3 months, I’ve been trying to figure out where my home base should be. Should I stay in Arkansas? Can I stay in Arkansas? If I move, where do I go? What do I do there? And when? When do I make the move? It’s all heavy and complicated. I don’t want to be in Arkansas forever but leaving comes with some baggage I’m not ready to deal with right now.
So, of course, as I was sitting in a coffee shop, talking to a stranger about the global push towards the rising of fascism and how we got there, drinking my Americano, and playing with their adorable three-legged dog, I thought “could I move here?”
Probably not. Or at least not right now. I love this city. It’s definitely keeping a piece of me forever but I know I couldn’t live here.
It’s funny how cities claim us. San Francisco makes me feel like home but a past home, a home I left. I will always be the kind of girl who wants to explore and leave home. In the words of my favorite Disney princess, I WANT ADVENTURE IN THE GREAT WIDE SOMEWHERE.
And so far, there’s only been one city that makes me feel like “Wait, why don’t you live here?” And I dunno how I’m going to reconcile with that.
But it’s nice to know that this weekend, San Francisco put up an interesting challenge to Chicago. And also reminded me everything doesn’t have to be so immediate and so dire.
Sometimes you can just chill in a bar and talk about marriage, love, kids…sometimes the simple stuff is where the magic is.
There’s a coffee shop off 29th and Mission called Cafe Seventy8. Go there. The coffee is delicious, the breakfast is delicious, and the people are fun to watch. While I was there, two men were having a very intense debate in a language I don’t know, there were two writers, a father losing to his toddler daughter at chess, and two new moms with their babies talking about how stressed they are to get back into shape. It was like a miniature city inside the coffee shop.