CW: Medical stuff. Diet stuff.
I moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2014 to attend an MFA Fiction program at San Francisco State University. Over the next three years, my life slowly changed. I met a group of people who, even if they no longer live in the Bay Area, have been added to my extended family. They were with me the night Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. On that night, I had only just started dating a man who would become my boyfriend. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and I planned, after I graduated, to return to Los Angeles. However, after much personal reflection, I made a difficult decision: to stay in the Bay Area and see what a life here might look like. Little did I know that the next two years would be the hardest (hopefully) of my life. At the time, two years ago today, I didn’t know that ten inches of my colon was dead inside me. All I knew was the pain, and I posted here on Facebook that I felt like a shadow. It would be three more weeks before my boyfriend’s dad drove me to Stanford, where I would stay for over two weeks only to return with an ostomy bag at the age 37. I still can’t think of it for too long because I didn’t feel like I was me. I stepped outside of my life, as my life had become something else. Since then, things have become easier. That said, because of the extreme amount of weight I unintentionally lost due to my medical episode, my gall bladder has filled with stones, and it must be surgically removed. On top of this, in the 13-inch incision cut up my tummy in order to save my life, a hernia has formed that must also be mended. Stanford won’t do these surgeries until I’ve lost another large amount of weight. To that end, they’ve placed me on their Non-Surgical Weight-Loss Program. It’s am extreme, medically monitored weight-loss program that includes the use of a low-dosage antidepressant to once again transform my body. We are looking at having the surgery sometime, hopefully, in the Spring of next year, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harries are in office. The first phase of the weight-loss program is two weeks of a primarily liquid diet—800 calories a day made up of protein shakes and vegetables. Today is day 13. This, on top of adjusting to being on an antidepressant for the first time in life, is not a casual diet. I am medically monitored, and I do not endorse this for anyone but me and only in order to attain the surgeries I must have. As you can imagine, consuming only 800 calories a day renders me quite exhausted, but when I saw on CNN today that the people of San Francisco had taken to the streets of the Castro, and with me having chosen to still be here, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to go document the moment, even if it was so exhausting that I almost passed out. As long as I live, I will always be glad I made the choice to go to the Castro today. By a small miracle, Marc and I found perfect parking. Walking down 18th and making a left onto Castro, as we slipped into the crowd, my heart lifted. How did we survive these last four years? Strangers embraced each other. Dancers whooped and cheered. People were kind when I asked to pass by them. Since I moved here, I’ve made many many many memories in the Castro. I saw Rosemary’s Baby with Sean. I had Thai food with Heather. I waited in a café while Marc was in therapy. Nothing was like this afternoon. I could only stay for about a half hour because I simply didn’t have the strength, my body having been in ketosis for the last thirteen days. They played Diana Ross. They played Sister Sledge. They played Sylvester, who should have been there. Sister Roma spoke of AIDS. Please enjoy these Polaroids I was able to capture this afternoon. Standing in front of the Castro theater, I thought about how the Affordable Care Act literally saved my life, allowing me to be there. I thought about how in the near future I will once again be under general anesthesia on a table in Palo Alto. And while this is true, in that moment today, I was a happy, proud American surrounded by other happy, proud Americans. We vowed to take back the color red. We vowed to keep working for people of color. We vowed to make sure those children who the president put in cages are reunited with their families. And while the helicopters hovered overhead, beaming us to the far corners of this planet, as Miss Ross reassured us there was no mountain high enough, as my beautiful boyfriend, who in his own way has survived so much, danced beside me, I also danced, overwhelmed with what it felt like to once again be in a crowd. Now that I’m back home, about to have my last protein shake of the night, while I write this to share with you, I can still hear them on Castro street, the crowd having grown even more, dancing into the night.