Hello, San Francisco, Goodbye: Part 4

I bet you thought I’d never come back to this tale.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

…then, nothing?

Listen. I’ve thought about Part 4 nearly ever day since I hit “Publish” on Part 3. In fact, I wrote a lot of this soon after. It’s just that life in 2022 (and/or my mental health?) continued to spiral after my trip to California, and I had a difficult time clearing the bandwidth to write this. Then, of course, the holiday hustle for 1flychicken creations: four shows in five weeks prefaced by months of creating and ordering and coordinating and…  blah, blah, blah.

I’m whining.

But really, the biggest dollop of icing on the FUCK YOU, 2022 cake came during my only weekend off—learning my furry soulmate, the Beez, most likely has cancer. Since this moment, nothing seems to matter more. And Christmas ached in the way only Christmas can when your heart is broken.

Me and the Beez with a shaved belly from his ultrasound.

But now it’s time to flush the turd that was 2022, and I can’t seem to do that without finishing this damn story.


Dreams are a bitch.

A couple weeks ago, I woke up confused with a heartache.

Did you ever wake up knowing you had an intense dream, but you couldn’t remember it? Like, you woke with all these residual feelings, so you spent the next few minutes and/or the day trying to recall your dream? If you haven’t, imagine a Check Engine Light. You know something is up, but all you really have to go on is this ominous warning, so you drive around all day looking for context clues: limp brakes, a loud idle, clunky shifting…

And though I teased the riddle all day, I couldn’t figure out the logistics of the dream. I just knew that K was in it. Here I was nearly 6 months later still feeling just as raw and wild with grief… and craving a root beer float?

I didn’t tell you about the root beer float.


I never really cared for root beer. Sure, I’m a frozen treat fanatic, but the spicy grandpa soda never did it for me. I don’t even drink soda anymore, but for some reason, during the summer months, I kept daydreaming about a root beer float. You know the moment when that fizzy, fragrant soda meets the sweet and creamy vanilla soft-serve in your glass? That frothy magical thing that happens? It’s heaven.

So, on my way into San Rafael, just as I was searching for my hotel’s exit, I spied an A&W. After a long day of traveling, fear, and emotional bungee jumping, I was ready for a treat. Once I found my hotel, I circled the parking lot without stopping and drove my ass back to that A&W.

After waiting in a short drive-thru line, the A&W employee flipped open the tiny glass doors like I had just knocked on the door to Emerald City. She handed me the root beer float just as a choir of angels rang out in the distance. Triumphantly, I stuck the red straw into the domed lid and into a creamy mound of ice cream. Sweet bliss. From there, I placed my cherished treat into the cupholder of the center console.

Apparently, during the short time it took to pull out of the drive-thru and find a shadowy shame corner in the parking lot to eat in, some kind of voodoo physics that I don’t understand turned my dessert beverage into a quiet cupholder volcano. That beloved root beer froth shot out like sugary lava from the large hole of the domed lid and all over the place.

A sign, I thought.

Maybe my root-beer-float longing was just something to be enjoyed in my head? In theory? Was the universe punishing me for my impulsive indulgences? Nah, that root beer float was as delicious as I dreamed it would be. Even after the natural disaster in the cupholder. Even after the sadness had started to loom like a shadow in the doorway. Even if it feels bad, sometimes you know you are right where you were supposed to be.



So before I get back to the part where I just realized K had silenced notifications on her phone, I need to put out a pretty big preface/disclaimer:

I am using the actual language straight from the text messages.

This is why it took so long to put this out there. I could not figure out how to tell this story, how to explain my feelings, without the words themselves. Unfortunately all of our interactions took place in text messages—never a phone call—so this is basically all I have to go on. Interpretation and intuition. And it felt more honest to tell the story with as many tangible elements as possible, instead of just from my interpretation alone.

Even with this as my rationale, I still do not feel totally okay with putting someone’s exact words online for everyone to read. But I didn’t come to this decision lightly (see Whys List below). I talked it out with a few folks too, so thank you to them! And honestly, thank you to anyone listening to me, reading the story, and just allowing me the space to figure this all out, because whether it seems like a big deal or not, this was a foundational hit for me.

Weighing the whys


Thursday, July 28th – Evening

From what I could tell, the “silenced notifications” warning stayed that way for the rest of the night. She never checked in. She never explained it. From what I knew, she had a 9-to-5-type gig, so why go silent all evening?

I couldn’t explain this away. Even if she was busy and couldn’t gab, couldn’t she just say? Was I expecting too much? And after spending a night crying and alone in a weird hotel room watching Forensic Files with a bag of Gardetto’s Snack Mix, I wasn’t just sad. I was feeling like a real fool. And then, I was mad. I was mad at myself for being sad… which only made me sadder.

Friday, July 29th —8:00 a.m. PST

This was early.

I rolled over to a honking phone alarm. I can’t say that I slept much. There was a lot of rolling. But it was ultimately the proximity to K and the FREE BREAKFAST BUFFET that helped me to select this particular hotel, so I set an early (for me) alarm. Somehow I woke up still stupidly hopeful, a little residual excitement in my bones. The day before had felt like a bad dream, and maybe, you know, could I just be too sensitive and reading into things?

I went right for the Messages app to our conversation… nothing. No new messages. But she was no longer silencing notifications, so that was something.

Like a bad movie, I replayed our whole friendship in my head—from the beginning until that moment. And as I drug myself through each step of my getting-ready-in-a-hotel-room routine—phone in hand—I scrolled back through text messages from months and months ago. I reviewed our DMs on Instagram. I scanned our few recent Facebook interactions under the “See Friendship” option on her profile. Red flag hunting.

What. Did. I. Miss?

Something was certainly off. Still, I wanted to give her a chance to explain, to make it better somehow.

Me:   Soo.. I feel like I’m bothering you here. Just wondering if we should make plans or?

She responded quickly.

K:   Oh goodness no, you’re not bothering me. I’ve just been working too many hours trying to wrap up my final days. I’m on my way to get a PCR. People are dropping like flies from the school orientation last weekend. So there’s that added stress, for sure. I was hoping to meet up tomorrow morning and hang for some hours playing. Does that work?


Maybe I should’ve been more derailed by the mention of a PCR test, but what were the odds that K would get COVID during my planned three-day trip here to see her? She was just being safe. The bit that stung was the casual way in which she made it clear that she only reserved a couple of hours for me. Hours.

It might seem a little dramatic now, but I couldn’t imagine another day alone. I’d been waiting to see her for what felt like forever… now I was there and it just felt like I was pushing myself on her.

Even if I could not understand any bit of what was going on, there was some clarity: I was not any sort of priority in her world, even when I was five minutes away.

Me:   Gotcha.

Me:   I probably came for too much time. I’m actually just wanting to go home so bad. Ha. IDK what I’m doing.

Me:   Yeah, my friend C said about maybe getting coffee tomorrow but I can see if she can do it another time. I mean, I’m just in this hotel doing nothing so. You know.

Me:   Hope you have a good day tho. Hope it gets better.

Passive af. I know. Not my M.O. I was vulnerable and practically begging for some reassurance. But up until then, she didn’t really know how awful it felt on my end. I think I was trying to clue her in without being too melodramatic, you know? Maybe she just didn’t realize how she was being? Or something?

K:   Aww I’m sorry you’re homesick. That’s the worst, especially after feeling anxiety about traveling during this new outbreak. I’m super flexible tomorrow, so I’m happy to work around C’s time. I don’t want to add any stress to your travels. My life kind of went left after you and I originally talked about your trip. I thought for sure I’d have been able to take PTO and now it’s a scramble to tie up loose ends before next Friday.

What? I said this out loud to no one.

I stood there just inside of my hotel room door, keycard in hand, my heart racing. I was just about to leave when this one came through. Was she seriously acting like I was just plain ol’ homesick? Like I wasn’t upset because I’d been left abandoned and not even checked in on by the one person I was in San Rafael to see? Was this happening? And last I checked, you don’t need PTO time to hang out with someone after work. I didn’t expect her to take time off of work to see me.

You know, she wasn’t the only one who had a life. When I thought about all of what I went through to get here—the cost, the work I had to do to pay for it, my chimney covered in plastic, all the rearranging and all the fears I had to overcome (hello, 5 hours in an airplane with a mask on during a pandemic)… the anger seeped in.

I began typing a response in the text box. My words came quick and without bumpers. It felt good to express myself, but it was sort of like the cliché—how it’s scary to put something down in writing because you make it “real.” I wasn’t sure if I would send it, but I was sure it was what I wanted to say:

M:   Yeah, I understand your life is chaotic right now. Mine isn’t so great either. My house is hopefully being fixed as we speak. I had to leave a lot behind to be here. I would’ve tried to cancel this bit had I have known. I mean, I only came here for you so it feels a little bad to be here just waiting. I don’t know that I’m in a mental space to be alone right now and feeling a little rejected? Idk. I get it. It’s not personal, maybe, but you know, it’s hard to decipher logic from feelings right now. A pretty vulnerable space to be in.

After typing it all out, I knew I had a decision to make. This text was confrontational, as close to calling her out as I had gotten. To hit send might mean the end of everything. But the end of what? I felt like I didn’t know the person on the other end of these texts. It was like she didn’t care about me at all. Had she ever? I mean, up to that point, the most she asked about my wellbeing was if I brought layers.

Fuck it, I thought.

I flinched as I tapped SEND, then quickly pocketed my phone.



Red-faced and trying to cease the waterworks, I cleaned my face again in the bathroom, then I quickly made my way to breakfast. I had no appetite, but I have a strong and obsessive urge to follow through in general—for better or worse. I’m not kidding when I tell you this short journey included a see-through glass elevator. (See: Glass Case of Emotion.)


Glass Case of Emotion - Anchorman


Breakfast was a blur. Small children with dirty food faces ran around their preoccupied mothers and fathers. Sweet breads burnt in the conveyor belt toaster. Gloved workers refilled gelatinous bins of scrambled eggs. I’m not sure if it was actual chaos or I was just overwhelmed, but I grabbed a few things and hurried to a table in the corner wishing myself invisible.

I wasn’t invisible. I was very strange and alone at a table for six. Tears leaked out of my eyes, just above my mask—the mask I pulled down to take each bite of chewy overdone pancakes. Aaaaand then… ding!

K:   It’s definitely not personal. I would tell you. I’m not passive. I said a few days ago that I’m so excited to catch up in person and that still holds true.

I sat and stared at my phone in awe. I reread my text to her. Then, her response. Then, my text. Then, her response. If there was a moment in all of this where things sort of snapped into place, this was it. Jigsaw.

I didn’t answer. I didn’t know what to say. Instead, I sat there in what felt like a nightmare, surrounded by nothing and nobody familiar, so far away I might as well have been in outer space.

And if you’ve been anticipating this next bit, you are much more in-tune than I was. But yes. It got worse. K sends me a screenshot of her COVID test results. Positive.

K:   Pretty sure you don’t want to hang out with me. So so bummed!!!

Bummed. Bummed. Bummed. Bummed. Bummed.

I repeated the word over and over in my head until it became mush.

Just then, the windows shattered and the whole room filled with sea water. Like SF Bay sucked in too much of the Pacific that last gulp and suddenly we were all underwater. Heavy as a stone, I sat at the too-big table twirling my fork in the saucer of syrup. I stared at the phone on the table, too afraid to touch it.