• Mathura Hawley

welcome

Updated: Aug 2, 2021


“You left a message about my apartment on Liberty Street. It’s not in any condition to show yet, but you said your last name was Hawley. That is my maiden name, so I think we should meet," she said "

I knew no one in San Francisco. It was my first job change in eleven years, and only the third time I had ever stepped foot in California. I flew out to meet some people at my new job, and they provided me with a local tour guide who circled apartment listings from the paper and then drove me up and down streets I had never heard of, making appointments to see the handful of vacancies in a city short on housing and overflowing with tech money. I hadn’t been “out” for long, and had just read the Tales of the City series, falling in love with that more innocent era of gay life and self-discovery, jokingly telling the guide that’s what I wanted her to find for me: an apartment in 1970’s San Francisco. Because I had Rudy, the options for apartments fell, landlords knowing they didn’t need to allow pets to fill the few vacancies. I was told that if I was lucky enough to find anything at all, I should be prepared. So I brought photos of Rudy looking cute, harmless, and smaller that he actually was, along with references from previous landlords, friends, and my A+ credit report. We drove past one little house, sweet and cottage like, the front gate opening to a flowering porch out of a fairy tale. “This one says ‘no pets’ and it’s a long shot. I left a message, but call the number again tomorrow.” I did, leaving my information on a woman’s machine, but without one other lead, drove to a sterile apartment leasing office to stand in line and beg, hoping to get on a waiting list for the next place, anywhere, that would take a New York refugee and his odd looking bassett hound. Just as my turn in line came, my cell phone rang. It was the woman from the machine. “You left a message about my apartment on Liberty Street. It’s not in any condition to show yet, but you said your last name was Hawley. That is my maiden name, so I think we should meet," she said. We did, and Mavis, a beautiful woman with silky white hair, lyrical eyes, and the knowing physical mannerisms of a matriarch, offered me the apartment on the spot. “I like you already…The boys next door are always coming in the back door for ice…It’s yours if you want it.” A month later, I arrived. I pulled over in my rental car along Delores Park, a block before the house, and cried, thinking I had made a terrible mistake leaving a decade of history and familiarity behind me. I parked in front of the house and walked through the gate of the alleyway which lead to my apartment in the back. I wondered if the neighbors would invite me up to their decks and accept me as one of their own. I wondered if Rudy’s arthritis would heal from the long walks we would take along windy beaches. I wondered if I would crumble at a job that I was not qualified for. I wondered if this would be the place where I would fall in love with a man for the first time. I opened the door, put down my bag, and looked around. There, strung from wall to wall above the kitchen, over flowers and a bottle of wine, was a sign from my Mrs. Madrigal. “Welcome Home,” it said.


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