It was one of those pandemic Thursdays where nothing seemed to occur. There
were no new faces on the morning run; two Zoom meetings were canceled; news must
have broken—emergencay FDA approvals, bankruptcies, layoffs, a New York Times story
about domestic violence in the era of COVID featuring an interview with a man who feels
“just awful” for punching his wife; tips for disinfecting your mail—but none of it broke
through. It was 94 degrees, but that sort of heat was unremarkable for May in Pasadena,
Every evening, before the light begins to change, I walk the neighborhood—past the
green house with the manicured garden and the pink house with no garden at all, past the
rosemary bushes, past the liquor store, past the Maryknoll Sisters retirement home where
a Sister Mary or a Sister Louise might be heard praying in a hushed voice for this whole
godforsaken thing to be over. It’s on these evening walks that I question not whether I will
move back to Southern California, but when.
I grew up in Los Angeles, but after completing grad school at USC, I moved north to San
Francisco. The city provided newfound autonomy. I started my first job there. I rented my first apartment and broke my first lease there. I learned to bake sourdough, got scammed by a dentist, and killed three fiddle-leaf fig trees in the same east-facing bay window there. I spent three years in San Francisco, and two months ago I left.
When the city shut down in March, my roommate and I drove south to quarantine with our families. At my parents’ home, everything is familiar, but not quite the same. My childhood bedroom (now the guest room) has been painted an unassuming taupe, and my posters have been replaced by an abstract painting of what I assume is a thunderstorm or large bird.
My parents are, somehow, exactly as I left them: my mother, reading poetry at two in the morning; my father, repainting the office for the second time this year. At first, I didn’t think I would stay. As an adult working remotely in my parents’ kitchen, I find myself both patient and petulant, empathetic and dismissive, 15, 25, and every age in between. However, as the weeks have passed and routines have been established, I’ve rediscovered the comfort of home, of having breakfast with my parents, of my bedroom, of that chair.
In the weeks I’ve spent here, I’ve come to understand that during a pandemic, there are no cities—the San Francisco I knew is gone—there are only suburbs and the one city comprised of neighborhoods: LA. And so, with this in mind on my Thursday evening walk, I make my decision. It’s time to return to San Francisco, not to live there, but to pack, to break a lease for the second time in my life, and to make my way back Southern California for the indefinite future.