Posted by: facetothewind | August 10, 2004

to Habib on an Unopened Hope Chest

August 10, 2004, San Francisco

Hi Habib,

I’m now in SF smack dab in the middle of the Castro at a Billy’s house. Gary
is his name. He’s also a Hawaiian neighbor. His house is a very cute little
old Vic floor-through place. It feels like Holland in his house. Teeny space
packed with the artifacts and articles of comfort of a long life in one
place. He has clearly been here for many years. He has amassed many books
and CDs and videotapes of trips taken to Tibet, scuba diving in Hawaii, the
helicopter tour of the volcanoes.

I sat at the table to have some quiche and the light was bouncing in off the
building next door through a window above the sink. The walls are lined to
the top with shelves of dishes, wines, cookbooks and spices stacked to the
high ceiling. Wine bottles near the top are covered with dust waiting for a
special occasion by which time it may very well have gone sour.

It is the kitchen of a man who likes to cook. But there’s not room enough
for 2 people to stand in this kitchen. Perhaps 3 could sit at the table and
so entertaining to the level that the kitchen gadgetry deserves, would seem
implausible. A look inside the noisy refrigerator reveals the truth of this
man’s home dining: bags of frozen foods, ice cream and old condiments, but
no real substance. Nothing that would indicate that any real cooking has
occurred in quite some time.

This is the kitchen of a man whose generation was lost to AIDS. The house is
remarkably free of any sexy art or books. In a single man’s apartment in the
Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, the message is clear: this man shut
down his sex life when all his friends and lovers died horsing around in
fields of joy while a snake slithered through the grass. Perhaps he was home
cooking and was spared the sting.

And so his kitchen coughs up only hope now of a late-life romance and
eggs-Florentine whipped out while his lover waits in bed one Sunday morning.
But the place smells of a hope chest unopened.

Indeed, this is a sad kitchen. It’s the kitchen of a man left alone late in
his life. Walking through the rest of his apartment my eyes pass over
pictures of the Dalai Lama, 2 children – are these his kids? – and old
artwork, sketches from an art class 30 years ago? A candelabra in the
bedroom with candles unused. When was the last time this was used? In the
living room is a salt water tank swimming with a small but perfect selection
of brightly-colored tropical fish: the kids behind glass. Its noise drowns
out the sounds of the city bustle just outside the door where young men slip
and scamper in pursuit of the night’s catch.

A yellow light falls into the kitchen through some stained glass. It’s like
being in the side chapel church of a large gothic cathedral in the late
afternoon winter sun. This is the temple built to attract another man and to
keep its owner comforted and distracted when no one came.

The bus ride was great. The elf sat wide-eyed blinking and looking out the
windows while all others slept. He watched the world gliding by while I
watched him. I saw the most beloved of sights: his girlish eyelashes
reflected back at me in the thick glass of his spectacles.

Much love,

David

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