Chris Lombardi's fiction has been published in minnesota review, Anything That Moves, Lurch, The Pearl, Living Room, and assorted anthologies, including Hey! Paesan: Lesbians and Gays of Italian Descent. Her journalism has been published by The Nation, Ms. Magazine, Poets & Writers, Women's Enews, ABA Journal, American Book Review and Inside MS.

Lombardi's novel The Suicide Project was one of 12 finalists for Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize. In the fall of 2002, she appeared at the New York James Joyce Society to present excerpts of her novel blue:season.

Lombardi teaches writing at the City University of New York and Gotham Writers' Workshop. In addition to occupying herself with an insane number of writing projects, she natters on a blog called Book of Days.

San Francisco in the 1990s

posted Feb 9, 2005

I spent the early '90s shopping for tattoos and letting strangers finger me in public parks. Not complete strangers: I'd met them at a dance club, or a cafe, or my job telemarketing. San Francisco was in recession then and the rents were cheap, the weather too warm and the sound of steel drums filled the parks. It was the year my divorce was final. I cried every day.

Patrick was a juggler and gymnast, who turned me upside down when we danced and propositioned me on a highway doing 70. Joel didn't dance, but cooked mochi for breakfast. His tattoo peeked shyly from under long hair.

Alex didn't wear a shirt when he danced. He let the white-blond hairs advertise his surfer-chest; his perfect teeth made his smile a little scary and new. I didn't fall for Alex, he had no tattoos or mystery, but Fort Mason was quiet at night and the Bay Bridge glittered over his shoulder as he leaned into me. "You have fabulous legs." My newly-skinny divorced body a clumsy new weapon. A shock, how little it took for men to want to take me for a ride.

I swooned early in those days, and San Francisco with me: Mission District streets sweaty with fog, skins blazing tattooed. I'd get mine done above my left breast, I said. "The place where it hurts the most," Carl teased. "Impossible." His body shaped like a guitar, thick honey-colored hair and tattoos on each ankle: I dove for both. We smoked pot in his crappy loft until his roommate threw us out, and ran before my legs dried to my basement apartment in Noe Valley. Carl raped me one lazy Sunday morning, as I shut myself down rather than wake the landlady's kids. He turned out to have some other name entirely, which I only learned after I'd made a key for him. Jerzy, who had broken up with me the week before because he felt too bipolar, showed up with power tools and changed the lock so Carl couldn't get in. We went dancing after, Jerzy's skeletal body and pale eyes flashing. Dance with me. Help me forget you don't love me and never will.

I was a terrible slut, as in, not good at it. I lost my heart every seven minutes, and was a pretty bad fuck. Jerzy's tattoo was a slender bracelet that danced when he did. When he danced with Sky the tattoo changed shape with their sweat. Sky's tongue in my mouth mixed tamago and cigarettes, sweet and nasty. He and Jerzy sighed and cried around me. All three times we did it everyone cried, muted by layers of plastic at each point of contact. We danced with Sky's virus. Later Sky took us to a wedding in three matching tuxedos, his tattoo deep ochre against chocolate skin. He offered to take me to the parlor to do mine.

The needle hurt too much. I never got a tattoo. When Jerzy faded away again Sky held me while I cried. A limousine crashed into Patrick's car at 5 a.m. on the way back from a dance club. When I came home from the hospital he went back to his girlfriend. I stopped going home with people and got a full-time job. Alex moved back to Marin. Jerzy moved to Vancouver and walked into traffic. Sky moved to Texas and married a banker. San Francisco stopped sweating and swooned for cash.