I called you from Utah because I wanted to hear your voice underneath the unending vastness of the pale blue afternoon sky, against the haunted emptiness of the waiting land.

I wrote you letters and sent them across the sea because I wanted you to come home to find them waiting, and hold them in your hands, and know the truth – that I wouldn’t leave you, no matter how separated we were by distance and by chance, by helpless accidents and unforgiving wreckages of the past we never had a chance of preventing.

I said goodbye to you for the first time, so long ago now, in the night at the airport terminal, and as I stood and watched you walk away through the loneliness of San Francisco International to Laura’s waiting car I wanted so much for you to look back at me, and you did, and the look on your face when you raised your hand uncertainly to wave cuts through me still.

I’ve stood guard over that moment; it’s too important to me to ever lose to the untrustworthiness of memory. Just as I’ve held all of my memories of you close to me and safe; just as now I’ll hold on to what it was like to see you, again.

I don’t need to replay the past and painstakingly construct new bridges of possibility of what you or I or we could have done differently on foundations of everything that has passed – but there is warmth in these recollections, and I allow myself the comfort of drawing them out when I need.

Of walking through the heavy rain in Japantown. Waiting for you in the lobby, my shoes soaked from flooded sidewalks, and rainwater still running down my face.

Of night through the Mission, waiting on street corners for the lights to change, walking through rivers of people in twos and threes, catching words and phrases in Spanish, light and sound and scent painting the streets and the two of us moving together. You told me then that being with me felt like being let out of prison; I didn’t know what to say back, because I knew I couldn’t say anything that would mean as much to you as those words did to me.

Conversations and coffee, and early mornings, and late nights. Market Street, 18th, Church. The J and the Muni and the stairs up to your apartment, and that cold light that washes over the streets of San Francisco in the late afternooon, that threw long shadows along the corridors of my house and warned of the heavy fog to come.

Today I stood on the sand of a Malibu beach and saw a girl who wore the same windcheater you have; for a second with the sun behind her she could have been you, and I wanted to take your hand and walk through the surf and over the rocks. Because while we’ve spoken of large and sweeping movements between us, so many of the missing parts were the small ones, the tiny brushstrokes of shared experience, measured in seconds and minutes and hours.

Now there has been so much I can’t know where to think it all begins and ends; I searched for understanding in our words and our silences. I needed to know where every piece fit together so I could still the terror of losing you that welled up in me whenever we were apart. I would have found something to be scared of no matter what – the flaws in me bend that way and without you, I might never have known who I am.

Whatever else, you have given me that. Whatever else, you have given me the knowledge of what it is to be loved, and now I want you to know that it was that, and it was you, that opened the doors of the world to me, who took my hand while I walked through. Whatever threads wind themselves around us to knot and catch our limbs or guide us home, wherever and whoever I am, and whoever I become, I will carry you with me, and the knowledge that everything changed because of you.

And so now that the last storms have passed, with so much fear at last drained from me, with my feet on solid ground, I can leave this country again tomorrow night, freed from what has been, and want happiness for you. I can leave this place we have found between us because it is a good place for us, I think, and while we may not share it, neither does it have to hold us tight and pull us down to the earth. I can leave behind everything that is not what has been, wanting only for you to know how grateful I am for you and what you’ve left me with, and how much I hope you find love and peace in the solace of days.

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

65 responses to “San Francisco International – 2010”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    I feel like I have been privy to a heartfelt love letter and I don’t know what to say other than what lovely words you have given here.
    One day, I hope I am so lucky as to have someone feel about me the way you feel about ‘You.’
    What a gift.
    I love you, Brew.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, brew. I love you too. And thank you. I don’t even know what I would want someone to say.

  2. Becky says:

    Sweet Simon,

    A lot of writers would kill to be able to write something like this, about something like this (especially so immediately), and can’t because they are too dishonest, guarded, bitter, insincere, or lacking in self-awareness to do it. You are none of those things, and I really can’t express enough how much I admire that, no matter how much crap I give you about it.


    • Simon Smithson says:

      Beautiful Becky,

      Hey, thank you. It’s OK. You can give me crap whenever you like. I think it’s very good for me. It stops me from getting too big an ego.

      And thank you for reading. You’ve given me wonderful advice, on and off the board, and I want you to know that all of it is appreciated.


  3. Joe Daly says:

    You describe the Space of Unknowing perfectly. That space between what is now and what used to be, and how we try to fill that space with memories and hopes and emotional connections so we’ll always have that tether out to the time when things felt like they really worked.

    Well done, brother. If all suffering comes from attachment, then you’ve reminded us that letting go is one of our greatest powers of healing.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      We do try to fill that space, so we can stop from spinning out into the darkness that we think is uncertainty, rather than possibility.

      I’m going to trust to the winds on this one, I think. They’ve swept me to all the places I’ve needed to be, so far.

      Thanks, brother.


      Let’s ride into the sunset and the adventures of Daly City!

      (I had my first In-n-Out Burger in Daly City, actually).

    • Sarah says:

      Joe, if I didn’t know better I’d think you were paraphrasing a Dave Matthews song right now, from which one of my favorite lines is, “The space between the tears we cry is the laughter that keeps us coming back for more.”

  4. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Oh, Simon, it is so rare for a human being to be able to express what you did. Tender, gorgeous, wise. When the connection finally happens for you, what a beautiful thing that will be. (I speak as someone who’s had such a blessing for longer that I ever expected. I hope I didn’t jinx it.)


    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thank you, Ronlyn.

      Expression is something I’ve been working on. And it helps to have so many people so skilled at it around me; it isn’t something that comes completely naturally and so to experience the work and the presence of people like yourself helps guide my way.

      Love to you and Mr. Todd. I don’t think you’ve jinxed a thing.

      Hugs returned.

  5. Lovely piece, Simon. You’re the like the modern-day, indie version of Pablo Neruda with all his love poems. Peace.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Ooh. Good call on Neruda.

      I second this.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Thanks, Rich. For reading and writing. And also, I’ve never read any Pablo Neruda. So now I will start, and I will always give you credit for the assist, brother.

        • Becky says:

          Oooh…Pablo Neruda. Dead and old, to boot, when he died, but still among the swoon-worthiest of poets…of….ever. Him and John Donne. Statesman/poet/romantics. Good grief.

          Pablo Neruda. *flush* *fan self*

          See Il Postino while you’re at it. It’s fictionalized but still awesome.

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          Becky Becky Becky. First Buckley, now Neruda. We are living on the same cloud, sister. (Deep sigh… Shortly I will get in my car and I will drive it to Malibu and I will listen to Jeff Buckley, all dreamy and sexy and sweet, and think of ways to write something entitled “Small War for a Kiss.” Then I will read Neruda all day long. Between massage clients. When I eat. In bed before I sleep…. The sequel: “Genocide for a Shag,” that one’s on you 😉

        • Becky says:

          Oh, HEY! You’re a Pisces, too!

          Okay. Now I get what you meant.

          Neruda all day long, though? That’s begging for some melancholy, man. Because you know. Gorgeous as it is, the problem for us is that nothing actual in the world quite measures up to what we see in that stuff.

          If I attempted what you’re proposing, I’d slip into a brooding funk that lasted for weeks. On the other hand, that may be exactly the mood required for “Genocide for a Shag.”

        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          Yes indeed. Pisces squared.

          Well, I was booked back to back at work all day, so I did not get to nerd out with Neruda. I did spend a ride through Malibu with JB, though. My kinda Scorpio lovin.

  6. Dana says:

    The first sentence says it all. Honest and heartfelt.

    What a wonderfully brave piece.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thank you, Dana. It’s nice to have such a nice audience.

      And yes. I liked making the call from Utah.


  7. kristen says:


    Your wide-open heart will guide you towards all manner of beauty.


    • Simon Smithson says:

      You! LD!

      Thank you for saying it. It already has, and the journey has so much longer to go.

      I have no doubt the same applies to you, as well. Let’s spend more time together, next I’m in NYC. We have so many more conversations to have.

  8. Gloria says:


    • Simon Smithson says:

      You’re a wow.

      • Gloria says:

        What you don’t understand is that my “wow” actually encompassed a whole lot of shit – none of which did have the time or ease of words to say. There are other TNBers who I’ve read (Angerla being the most common) one, and I love what she says, but I never comment. Or, at least that used to be true. Now I comment no matter what. Even if it’s just wow. Because I know that none of us writes on here (or anywhere – unless you’re Emily Dickinson, or Becky from time to time) without wanting some sort of acknowledgment that our posts were read. That wow was supposed to be a place holder. A “Gloria wuz here” of sorts. And it was the first word that came to mind.

        But it also encompasses other emotions like

        “Gee, I wish someone would write me a note like that”


        “boy, I kind of hope no one ever writes me a note like that because there is a lot of pain and heartbreak in that beautiful note and heartbreak is ruthless cunt”


        “man, I feel awful for all of the times in my youth that I saw a good looking man who was suffering that kind of heartbreak and I shamelessly threw myself at him – sometimes to his very vocal protests – because I not only wanted someone to feel that way about me but also I couldn’t handle the rage that there was some woman in the world that had that kind of love being sent her way, and god did I feel so unloved and lovable – and maybe if I took advantage of that feeling I could harnass some of its power and maybe shift that energy to mean me! ME! But instead it just made me feel empty and ashamed and it made the guy, whether he gave in or not, feel empty and ashamed as well. And I’m so sorry for ruining the beauty and the suffering someone else was entitled to because I was so love hungry and desperate. And I feel awful for not only young me but also for those guys who’s lives may have been made more complicated or unpleasant because of my predatory need to usurp love”


        “God, Simon is so capable of writing such amazing, beautiful words; I want to throw them in a large jacuzzi bathtub and roll around with them”


        “Love sure is a reliable muse”


        “I guess this means Simon went back to Australia”

        and other stuff I’m sure I’m not even thinking of right now – because I felt all of this at once and I was at work and I didn’t have the time to say any of this, but I wanted to make sure that I said something and that it was sincere, so I just wrote “wow.”

        I’ll bet you feel bad for making fun of me now, don’t you? 😀

        From now on, when I read but don’t have time to comment, I’m just going to write Gloria wuz here.

        • Gloria says:

          Please ignore the ridiculous number of omissions and errors in that long ass rant above.

        • Becky says:

          Hey! Even I like belly-rubs.

          I can’t speak for Emily Dickinson. I think she was an agoraphobe.

          And, errors and omissions or not, I’m glad you said it because no one else did (or would), and I totally know what you mean about trying to siphon the love. I’ve done it before.

          My preferred selfish reaction is to growl and pace between said guy and the world, elevating myself to level of protector to a person who probably needs no protecting, all because I’m too bitter and emotionally ungraceful to cope reasonably with feelings of loss and/or grief. Get all obsessed with protecting people from my fate when the fact is, it’s my fate. Projecting and all. Like just because I can’t deal with these things gracefully, everyone in the world needs my help to avoid succumbing.

          Becky will save you! *cape flapping in the breeze*

          Dys-function, yo.

          So far I have avoided offering to kick anyone’s ass on Simon’s behalf, though. I think. So you know. I’m getting better.

        • Gloria says:

          So, when we meet and I rub your belly, you’ll be okay with that?

          It’s weird to realize all these things about my young self that I’ve been realizing lately. It’s weird and it’s uncomfortable and it requires a great deal of intentional breathing. It’s good.

          I’m totally buying you a cape. See also: a utility belt and an invisible jet.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Hmmm. Interesting on the siphoning front. I hadn’t thought of that before.

          What an awesome comment to leave, Gloria! I’ll often leave comments (or responses, too, if I’m being honest), and then be unsatisfied that I didn’t have the time to get to the depth I wanted to.

          But you… you covered every front 🙂

          And thank you for doing so. And for sharing appreciation and honesty in equal measure.

          And yes. I’m responding from Melbourne, Australia.

        • Gloria says:

          I know it’s none of my business, but I’d like to sit in your head right now – for, like, 24 hours or so – and just watch all the thoughts fly by. Right now, there is a 4th of July celebration going off outside my apartment. My world is rife with fireworks and explosions right now. I’ll bet yours is too. Or, perhaps, you’re in that post-travel, jet lag stage where you’re not thinking yet. But it will all start happening soon. And I’ll bet it’ll be fascinating.

          Welcome back.

          Thank you, come again.

        • Simon Smithson says:


          The thoughts are certainly flying.

          So many. So very many. They have been all month, and now they’re coming thicker and faster than ever.

          I really need to make sure I write them all down. There’s so much work to be done!

        • Becky says:

          Gloria, I have tons of these romantic (as in fanciful, far-fetched) delusions; the cape-flapping part barely scrapes it.

          My suppressed Piscean tendencies have a habit of expressing themselves, one way or another, with or without my consent.

          You may try rubbing my belly literally, but I’m pretty ticklish, and if caught by surprise, I may lash out. Or take it as a come-on.


        • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

          (Note to Becky: You Piscean tendencies are not suppressed. First clue: regular commentary utilizing the words “swoon” and “dreamy.” And keep ’em comin’. Dreamy swoons are right up my alley.)

  9. Jude says:

    Simon, although heartwrenchingly sad and achingly honest, this is such beautiful writing. Kia kaha and much love to you.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Jude! Thank you. I can’t wait to see you again tomorrow.

      Kia kaha to you too. And plenty, plenty, plenty of love.

  10. Debbie says:

    This is beautifully written. Letting go is the hardest thing to do, but sometimes it is the only thing you can do.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, thank you, Debbie.

      It’s hard. It’s so damn hard. And there are so many reasons not to, and so many easy convictions to grab hold of, but Aristotle was right when he said the hardest thing to do and the best thing to do are usually the same thing.

      I think it was Aristotle.

      Aristotle or Michael Caine.

      Either way.

  11. Irene Zion says:

    God, Simon, you are just the sweetest thing.
    If all you did, and you did way more here, was mention a “wind cheater,” I would love you.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Aw, Irene, you’re making me blush.

      I would love you for mentioning a windcheater too. Apparently you can’t say ‘jumper’ in America, which is Australian for ‘sweater’.

  12. Sarah says:

    Not that I didn’t know it before, but this confirms that you absolutely do deserve the powerful and sustaining love you’ve talked about. Fuck the roller coaster. You’re brave, sensitive, and wonderful and I have no doubt that you will find all the love and happiness you deserve.

    Don’t give up. She’ll be a very lucky woman when she finds you.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, Sarah!

      Wow. I’m saying thank you to so many people. I hope everyone knows I mean it, and I’m not simply mouthing empty politenesses.

      Brave, sensitive, and wonderful? Wonderful accolades to hear – and surely anyone who was a combination of the three would truly deserve powerful, sustaining love.

      I hope that not only is she a lucky woman when she finds me, but when she buys lottery tickets, too. Papa needs a new pair of shoes!

  13. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Second only to the feeling of love is its expression. Sharing that expression is a true gift.

    I was driving around Venice Thursday morning, drinking coffee with Mark Twain (proof? he spilled his nonfat cappuccino in my car…), when he said something that totally reminds me of you. He said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”

    If this letter isn’t fearless, it is certainly brave.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Expression is such an important part of things, I think. Because otherwise, how would you know?

      Mark Twain sounds like he had some wise things to say.

      Thank you, Lisa.

  14. Heidi says:

    That was just beautiful. Really.

  15. dwoz says:

    …and women condemn us because in their minds, we’re just in it for the cooter. Thanks, Simon, for carrying the standard here.

    and, of course, for raising the bar.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      In their defence, from time to time in the history of mankind, we have been. Three or four times, but no more than that.

      You are very welcome, Dwoz. And thank you for reading.

  16. Judy Prince says:

    ” . . .you have given me the knowledge of what it is to be loved”—-how wonderful, Simon. A deep, clear, solid place that you came to rest. You took us from the terror of loss, of trying to fit together each memory to assuage your fear, to an appreciation of the one you love for the gift she has given you of opening you out to more love—-of yourself and of others.

    Oddly, and finally, it would seem, it’s not a matter of “letting go”, but of recognising that you’re closer to her and to yourself than you were before. I often feel that *appreciating* someone is essential to loving. And you’ve beautifully described that appreciation, its permanence and its surprising pleasure.

    This passage especially resonated with me, and I thank you for it: “I wouldn’t leave you, no matter how separated we were by distance and by chance and by accidents and wreckages of the past we never had a chance of preventing.”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thank you, Judy. And thank you for pointing out the particular passage that resonated with you – I always like to know if something has jumped out at someone – it makes me feel more positive about my writing and it also makes me wonder if there are similar notes in our experience that make this more peculiar to you than another part.


      Closer to her and to myself?


      I think so.

      But I don’t think I would have made that realisation without someone else making (and talking about) it first.

      So thanks, JP!

  17. Greg Olear says:

    A fitting endnote to the trip of a lifetime.

    (I’ll write you offline, when I get back from our not-quite-as-long-or-adventurous trip to Connecticut).

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks amigo. Have fun in Connecticut, and it’ll be good to talk to you, now that I’ve got a face and a body and a voice and a person to put to the emails.

  18. Uche Ogbuji says:

    So not just an adventure across the the US, but a progression towards reckoning with ghosts of sensation.

    You have layers to you, Simon. Such depth.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Not just an adventure at all, mon frere. But also, an adventure of many kinds.

      Thank you for reading, Uche, and thank you for commenting. I appreciate it. Now to hope they never make onion soup out of me…

  19. Jessica Blau says:

    Is it possible that you are the greatest ex-boyfriend a girl could ever dream of having? Can you teach all the ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands in the world to be just like you?!

    Boy did that girl blow it. She should have boarded that plane with you.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ah, Jessica… you flatter me.

      But yes. I will teach. At a surprisingly reasonable rate!

      She’s good people. We understand each other.

  20. You brilliantly captured a piece of space and time that exists only for you, Simon. You drew the reader in with such honest raw clean emotion — exposing the universal human ache for connection and the almost infallible certainty that we somehow will never be able to really make that connection last. Lovely.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, thank you Robin.

      For reading and for your kind words – but also for your wonderful analysis (although analysis feels like too clinical a word to me… it’s just that it’s early in the morning over here so all cylinders aren’t quite going yet).

      It was as I was reading your comment that it clicked and I realised that without even realising it I had that ache in me, and that drove a lot of this.

      Thanks for helping me help myself….

  21. Stacy Bierlein says:

    This is so beautiful, brave, and important and I feel honored to have read it. Thank you for sharing this, Simon. And I simply have to second Jessica’s question: Please can you teach all the ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands in the world to be just like you?!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, thank you Stacy! It was something I’d been thinking about writing on and off for a little while, and the right moment and circumstances presented themselves. Stars aligned (and so did plane tickets).

      I will see what I can do to get some seminars set up…


  22. Erika Rae says:

    You made me live that moment. Like I was you or the girl or both of you. Is that weird? But you wrote with such beauty, I *wanted* to be her, you or the both of you. Good, good writing.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thank you, Erika. Surrounded as you are by such daily beauty, it means a lot to hear that from you.

      God, I wonder how it would feel to be both of us.

      I’m going to be thinking about that for the rest of the day.

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