Where else can the boys sit in their tents, searching for something other than which they had besides a bedside table missing the drawer, a stolen bicycle and a broken lawnmower with no lawns on which to go? A torn up scratching pole for cats, which looks as if a tiger has had at it, a single shoe. A bread roll. Half an peach, covered in flies. A lump of poo. A baby’s arm… holding an apple, or is it some insurance guy caught with his pants down, who having sold his last policy, exchanged it for a large rock, and opened shop on Geary.
Everybody here has a story. Every body here has no body except themselves. Sometimes they do not have themselves either. The man’s hands dug into the raffia and rope, burrowing in deep, feline ecstasy, clawing with bloodied fingertips, moaning softly to himself at the satisfaction of it all, grasping the pole between wasted thighs, eyes rolled back. His feet are bare, but only one shoe has migrated discarded behind him. It gives him no pleasure. It triggers no joy! It is gone. Marie Kondo’d. Gonzo’d. His psyche a no go. His nails are gone too. He weeps openly. I feel the desire to go and lay my hands on his dripping head, tell him, brother, peace! Enough! But he tiger-growls, goes low with himself against the brown-stained sidewalk, and jealously holds onto the object of his affections with the detritus of his affliction scattered about him. There is nothing to see here. It is just the Geary Street Boys.
A mite of grit blows into my eye as I walk up an alley towards Post. Gloved wet hands, sweating in the San Franciscan June can’t solve the problem. I have worked out that if I wear my shades, the dollar fifty round black ones, the square perspex clear, or even the glasses I use for reading, that the Boys of Geary are a touch more aggressive towards me. I don’t know if they like to see my eyes, or if I either look too hip or not hip enough. Whichever, whatever, I don’t wear glasses when I have to walk through the ‘Loin. My dress choices are decided by crackheads. Black denim and a baseball hat, no make up, with my round black spex is the most excitable combination, this gets ’em running at me. Add some make up, no glasses and my little scarf with foxes on it, and I become somewhat more invisible. More feminine, softer and the ride out of downtown is smoother.
“Hey whatchooneed?” A skinny white boy shuffles over to me with a half smile on his face and fairy wings lashed to his backpack. A half hearted smear of glitter silvers his cheekbones. I have never seen such a desiccated and dry man look so bedraggled. A small rainbow pin whispers that love is love is love. “It’s ok, sweetie, I’m good” – I give him a small smile. Sweat runs a clean line across his forehead. A shower, a meal, a bit of gentle care and this boy would sparkle. He shifts away slowly as the walk don’t walk shows green. There is fear in his walk, there is hesitancy in his posture, a broken slouch in his step. One wing droops half heartedly, dejected, limp. He makes it to the other side, and I watch as a man in a suit touches his arm. Pride is expensive in San Francisco. Selling a little to survive. Selling a little more to get comfortable. I want to run after him and buy him coffee, but now he is busy, and besides, I don’t have that luxury. The luxury of trust, of friendship, of human contact has all but been abolished in this plague year. The Boys of Geary have me pulling myself up out of sadness by my bootstraps again.
I barely make it up the alley and hit Post at a swift speed-walk. A barely covered man has migrated onto Post with his cardboard box. A teeshirt forms a basic loin cloth. Wasted beneath his muscles. Glowing with pharmaceutical harm, he is standing in the center of the road arranging the flaps of the box, standing back, yowling at the wrongness of it and then tearing at the thick paper once more. Both he and the box are shredded. Geary is down there, I want to say but nobody taps a velociraptor on the shoulder, not even me. Post suits him fine, on second thoughts, Post in it’s transitory beauty as it becomes Nob Hill cool. If someone doesn’t like it they will tell him soon enough.
Civilians are walking beside me now, headed to the hospital or ‘Joes cross the road a ways. Fortune has deserted the Cardboard Box Man, and they fear the loss is contagious. A wide berth is given. I give him the same courtesy, even if it seems like the space between him and others is infuriating him. The box is tricking him. It looks like a dastardly operation involving chalk and origami. I can’t help but wonder what he was trying to accomplish and if he even knew himself. The Boys of Geary don’t need a reason, it is always the season of the witch in these parts. The rent-boy-dorothy can’t click his heels together three times and get anywhere good, not today, not now. It is a wicked wind which blows from the west to the east, a wicked wind which knows no bounds to it’s ruin. Those wings are not wings to fly. No one flies out of the TL, they run, they flee, they swim the gutters, they climb, they ant-crawl slowly… but there ain’t no wings downtown. The only flying is done on the ground, that is only flying permittable in this part of town. They have all fallen through the cracks, and it is a long way out of fifty square blocks, a lifetime of walking. A lifetime of hauling. I am not sure it can be done. I am going to try anyway.
The Geary Street Boys set fire to tents and howl as the sirens wail sending rescue towards them. The Geary Street Boys have nothing left for sale, and everything they can find is left to rent by the minute. No one round here has an hour they can bank on. The Geary Street Boys carry their burdens on their backs. The Geary Street Boys live on the wrong side of their tracks. I realize I am panting into my mask as I make it onto Polk, walking much too fast, the adrenaline and the fear pushing me forwards. I have to pull the mask clear of my nose and mouth to gulp in the downtown muck. You gotta breathe, even if all there is left to draw in is made out of dust, and grime, sold sex and other people’s sin. You gotta breathe, even if you don’t care for the taste or the smell. You gotta breathe while there are stories from Geary Street left, even if you are renting them by the second, and disappearing by the hour.