On The Road

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I went from Québec City to Montréal to New York by bus in the course of a day.

Before I realised, I was facing the giant “United States of America” sign at the border. I remember seeing this sign for the first time a couple of years ago on the same journey. Back then, I was travelling on an overnight bus and I suddenly woke up in the dark. The colossal sign was standing above me like a huge monster. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The mythical letters were shining under the moonlight and captivated my imagination, between dream and nightmare.

As soon as you pass the border, it feels different. Canada and the US are neighbours but so distinct.

At sunset, we stopped in a random petrol station, which is the quintessence of the deep America road trip culture. I have had a fascination for American gas stations since my teenage and “Thelma & Louise”. I never thought back then that I would hit the American road so much.

Seating behind me on the bus, there was a young guy crying. I could hear him sob and I was checking his reflection in the window. I felt like showing him some compassion. But I finally didn’t.

I arrived at Port Authority Station in Manhattan at 1.30 am. I walked out and was brutally projected in the New York electricity again, right at the heart of Times Square. The neons were so bright that it took me a second to remember if it was night or day. These were my last instants in Manhattan. But I had no time for nostalgia, farewells or endless considerations, because I had only a few hours ahead before catching the plane.

Trains were disrupted so my middle of the night journey back to Brooklyn was chaotic. It took me 2 trains, a shuttle and a cab to finally reach the house 2 hours later. α and α² were there, awake. It was hard to hierarchise my actions because I had 4 hours to do everything : fill them in about my Québec pilgrim and my confused emotions, pack all my shit, hear their updates about the flatmate hunting situation, and potentially sleep. 

I managed to close my suitcase out of miracle (how do I do it every time? How can so many shoes fit in one bag? That’s my biggest talent : closing the zipper.)

α² went to bed and hugged me good bye. He said: “See you soon anyway. You belong here.” It touched me to the core because then, it means that my sense of belonging there is not only in my head. It is a scientific fact. I didn’t show I was moved though and simply replied : “I know. So, worst case scenario, you marry me, right?”

I went to bed next to α at 4am, a cab picked me up 3 hours later. I haven’t counted how many hours of sleep behind I am because of New York.

The taxi driver asked me where I was from. I said: “I am French, but my life goal is to move here.” He said that he would marry me. See! Even taxi drivers are on my side.

It didn’t feel like I was leaving anyway. It is just a temporary formality. My life will be on hold till I live in my city for good.

I almost lost my flight because I was waiting at the wrong gate. 15 minutes before departure, an announcement said: “Mr X, Y, Z and… Miss Σ (my first name) are asked to go immediately to gate 11.” Hahaha. Not that I didn’t try everything to stay.

At 10.45am, I finally took off to Toronto for the ultimate stage of my North American tour.

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Vintage, Seals & Trannies

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After the aqua emotions of the night, I woke up the next morning ready to devour San Francisco. I helped β³ cleaning the bamboo pots around the indoor pool before breakfast. I was happy to help, but I become a real biatch when I am in hypoglycemia. I had to make tremendous effort to remain polite while I was carrying very heavy stuff on an empty stomach. Thank God, I soon stuffed carbs down my throat and we hit the road to reach the heart of the city.

From the bridge which name I forget, I was thinking of Jack Kerouac and wish I had read more of ‘On the Road’ to have a quote in mind. He is describing my experience of that morning better than I ever could:

“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.”

There I was finally, treading upon the Holy Land. We went to Haight first, Hippy Kingdom – although everything about San Fran is hippyish, queer and yet slightly bourgeois at the same time. It is almost unconventional not to be queer and/or hippyish, so conformism is different, but it does exist. “You are not weird? Go away!” style. Vintage shops endlessly. β³ was effortlessly wearing an outstanding long gothic fur and leather coat. Of course. For the first time of my life, I was feeling plain. 

After wandering the colourful streets, we drove to Baker Beach, which has the best possible view on the Golden Gate. The bridge seems so close that you could almost touch it reaching out your hand. The beach was desert. β³ told me it is nudist in the summer. Of course. I soaked my feet for the second time in the Pacific. All of a sudden at my greatest surprise, I saw 2 seal lovers a few metres away from me, kissing and diving in the waves. That’s how cold the water is in SF. There are more seals than people on the beach in October. I followed the 2 seal lovers with my eyes for a moment, they were really behaving like a couple. I wanted to dive and pet them, or put some random object on their nose. Then, I saw another one and another one. Seals everywhere!

We walked the Golden Gate from one end to the other. It takes half an hour. The night was falling when we started. In the Bay, closer to the shore than I thought, the mystical Alcatraz island was standing out in the dusk. It captivated my imagination for a moment. The bridge and the city gradually got illuminated by the time we reached Marin County on the other side. I was intrigued by the suicide phones saying “Don’t jump, there is hope!” every few meters.

We had a booking at the AsiaSF Club for dinner. It is a trans club where all the dancing Ladies are male-born Asians. We got seated at the bar and β³ told me: “I came here once with one of my customers on a leash” (as part of his Dominatrix job, I’m reminding). What do you reply to that? The show was hilariously cheap, which made it amazingly cult. Poor scenarios, poor costumes (school girl, female cop, all the outdated bedroom classics), but there was so much heart in it that I found myself loving it. Especially the tiny Superwoman in her 50s and her super heroin mimetic gestures. Rock on! You got it, ladies. We got kicked out of our seats promptly after dessert for second service. So we went to the club downstairs and performed an impromptu contemporary dance/contact improv duet on the dance floor. Nobody paid attention. San Francisco. 

We then wandered in the Castro – the gay neighbourhood – although San Francisco itself is the gay neighbourhood of California. β³ wanted to hook me up in lesbian bars. Haha. Classic. We went to The Café, which is supposingly the lesbian friendly bar of the Castro. Huge joke. We were about 5 physically challenged girls and 200 cute boys and there were body built male dancers shaking their lovely booty on pool tables. I was like: “So that’s the lez scene of the  queer capital of the world?” I wasn’t even surprised. Always the same story, although it has been evolving quickly in the last few years. But the gay scene is for men. Oh My God girls! Let’s make it happen!

Needless to say we didn’t hang out too long. We walked the streets of the Castro instead, to smell the warm air charged with testosterone and male-for-male desire – I love it anyway. We stopped at a sex shop for β³ to get his work supplies. A cute gay boy on the street proposed to marry me just like that. I didn’t tell him that he wasn’t as original as he thought.

We stayed up till late in the night. Queerness, I love you.