Today we got lost, the Boy and I. We intended to walk through China Town and head to the Presidio, instead we ended up taking a wrong turn, not wanting to walk with the cell phone out in a sketchy area, walking past a park near Haight Ashbury, and then swinging round to Van Ness in a huge nonsensical semi circle, before clipping China Town, and eventually the Ferry Building, then back again, but we took another wrong turn and ended up climbing to the moon up Bush Street. One of the steepest climbs you could ever wish to avoid. Maps of San Francisco online should have warnings if you are about to try and climb Mount Everest. Half way up, I took my mask off. It was either demask or have a heart attack, and stood there crying. My leg is no good you see. I am not the youngest bunny in bunnytown, and I have a leg which needed medical attention, didn’t get it, and now hurts like I am stepping on a thorn every time I take a step. If you add a very steep incline to the long detour it is just too much for me. I got into trouble halfway up, and not having any money on a card to get an uber, there was no option, except keep on going. I started to cry round about halfway up it, seeing what was ahead of me, the Boy in a state of panic at how on earth we were going to get me and my leg up the hill. The thorn feeling in my shin turned into an alarming tornado of pain. The boy had to take my arm and help me limp up to the top, by which point we were both in shock – him at wondering what to do with his mother without medical insurance, me because I could not collapse on a hill near Chinatown.
As I walked, I saw a Chinese woman about the same age as me. She was wearing a hat, a fetching yellow baseball cap, and it read in simple white embroidery, a simple plea: LOV E ME! I wanted to go up and hug my homegirl. Of course, I can’t run up to a total stranger, on the basis that I am the mother to an Asian child, and I know a little of her fear and hopes and desperation right now, and smoosh her in a pathetic paltry little hug. I can’t do that, nor could she see my smile in my mask and sunnies, so I settled for a small Japanesque bow of the head and hoped she felt my solidarity. Love me! Isn’t that what all of us want? To be loved, to be accepted? To be valued and appreciated. Love me! For a second I felt immense love for her, this woman that I do not know, then she passed by and so did I. I told the Boy, he told me it was probably just cheap on Amazon and she likely was not asking for the world to love her, it was just a hat. Boys….boys…you have so much to learn.
I started to wonder how Billy was. His phone is unpaid or not working, one or the other, anyway, he is out of touch. I heard strains of the Eagles Desperado as we walked, booming from the sound system of a motorcycle…a gigantic wolfhound ran past us dragging a tiny woman who had been far too optimistic in her choice of dog, and it felt like the universe was sending me a message. The wolfman is out there, somewhere, thinking of me too. However angry I am with him, I cannot just let him go and forget my oldest friend. It is a curious mixture of sadness and rage, and I do not like it much.
Signs flashed around me, a pile of concrete blocks with a sign next to the mess saying “precision engineering”, a laundromat declaring “open” in half dead neon lights, flashing blue and red, uselessly hopeful, in the bright of a Californian afternoon. As I stopped and looked back, the deprived area of town behind me, I noticed the trees were dead looking, leafless, cropped, ugly, the sky was grey, there was little of beauty back there, but just look ahead, and there was the Shining California Ave, its trees and its luxury and its hope and affluence a beacon of everything anyone could want or imagine wanting. It seemed faintly ridiculous arbitary, the haves and the have nots. The wanting and the devotees to slavish consumerism. I felt vaguely sick.
I suppose that is what I want from this city, acceptance, not luxury. Interaction, some kind of future, some kind of possibility. I won’t ever live up on California, but I can see us in a little apartment somewhere where we fit in and can say…”we kinda love you guys….won’t you kind like us too.”
Almost home a methy short man in his 30s started talking. He teased the Boy, saying he should be carrying the small bag of apple s and green tomatoes I had in my hand, after all, he reasoned, what are kids for? I yelled after him, “meanie!” He turned round and said, “yes, yes I am.” It was almost funny, almost a gas, almost. The boy grabbed the bag out of my hands, red faced and concerned, as the addled guy stared at a pigeon and declared “that…that is a very nice pigeon. Very good looking.” I wasn’t sure if he wanted to eat it or screw it, and hurried on, not wanting to find out. I was glad to finally get back to our room and close the door. To be honest, sometimes I feel very very normal.