In the 90′s, I rented a room in San Francisco on Waller Street in a grey chipped Victorian. It was once a quaint single family home but we stuffed it with piercers, drag queens and latex tailors. My room was the smallest and it was right in the middle of the endless narrow hallway. Dusty hardwood floors. White walls. The roommates did me a favor by allowing me to move in there. I’d been crashing on a friend’s couch for three months; my wrists were stitched up and healed from the suicide attempt when I tried to kick meth cold turkey. I had a job in a vintage clothing store on the Haight. From my room I heard my roommates come home late at night. They’d laugh in the kitchen while I was sleeping and cook popcorn and soup, then leave pots of gelatinous black bean soup with the spoon still in it. In the freezer was Vodka. I was the only one in that house who didn’t drink.
The living room had a big chunky old TV where we rented Mahogany and Pulp Fiction and sat on a big green scratchy couch. The kitchen dumped out into a covered patio where a roommate made an elaborate pattern making area for her clothing line.
I tacked black and white pictures on the wall of my 10 x12 feet room: Quinn in drag with a lip piercing and black feather boa with a tan arm floating in the air. The best part of that dinky, dark room was the single window with a view of a drainpipe. The pipe always had water that dripped until it rained, then that drip became a fierce waterfall. I slept on a borrowed futon mattress on my blonde hard wood floor in the middle of the room. I recall being sick in that room: bronchitis and strep throat. The flu.The drainpipe must have soothed me, because it’s the thing I can still see clearly.
Girls I had crushes on who are now boys with different names brought me Miso soup. One made me dinner on my birthday and she put a tin wind up monkey toy on my plate. Her grandmother had just died.
My girlfriend, M built me a loft so I could stop sleeping on the floor and one of my three or four rotating roommates from Chicago lent me a nice Queen mattress.
After I got home from my gig at the clothing store, I slipped on a pile of confetti. M had printed out a thousand little strips of paper that read, “Fuck Me.” On my bedroom door was a scolding note from one of my roommates. I needed to clean that up.
My small broom closet never shut all the way. It was stuffed with torn vintage lace slips and platform boots. My furniture was hauled in from the street, which happened once a month. Put out was like winning the Lotto. I’d ask my friend with a truck to drive around so I could drag in a desk, lamp or a chair and test it out. When I was done with the initial trial period, I’d haul the rejected chair back out onto the street or keep it and paint it silver. The first thing I found was a mirror so I poured glue in loop letters and spelled “Lies” on it and covered it with silver glitter. Later the words read “Whore.” I had tall white candles and wrote on them with sharpies quotes from Rebecca Brown, Mary Gaitskill and Sapphire. I wrote in paper journals with wet black ink. I was asked to join a writing group by a girl who made black velvet paintings of her pussy and wrote poetry about cocks jumping in her hands and boys wearing skirts. We met on Tuesday nights after hours inside The Bearded Lady Café. Kathy Acker was a mesmerizing teacher. I read “Story of the Eye” and “Edie.” Kurt Cobain died. I saw Courtney Love perform. In my room I listened to L-7. I underlined lines in books and scribbled notes in a green journal.
I had little spiky blonde hair and no money. I wrote the landlord a letter begging for another week to make my rent. I often sold my clothes at the store where I worked so I could buy a burrito at “Amigos” next door. If I had left over, I’d march into clothing by the pound on my day off and pick up a jean jacket and sell that for coffee money. I accidently cut open my left index finger while unpacking a box of used shoes. I got stitched up at UC Medical Center. I was about to get fired. I’d already been written up for being tardy. I began moonlighting at the Lusty Lady. I’d ride MUNI to Duboce and walk home. Stuff a backpack with lingerie I’d found at Clothing by the Pound, borrow my roommates bike and ride it to North Beach. I pedaled fast through pockets of fog, my bandaged finger pounding and sped through the lime green tunnel past cars. I rode fast until the cold wasn’t cold and the tunnel dumped me onto Kearney Street.
At the Lusty Lady, I leaned the bike against the hallway outside the manager’s office during my shift. I clocked in for the 9AM-3AM shift. I didn’t want to be one minute late or else I’d never reach top wage ($21/hr). The bike got stolen. My room mates found out about the letter to the landlord and kicked me out.