The world feels different. People’s attitudes have changed towards me and the Boy. Walking out of the shelter people stare at you, they look at you funny. I was removed from society, separated from the rest of the City whilst living within it. I was passing through, a ghost, a spectre of Bad Luck. I was contagious: whatever I had, whatever had put me there, no one wanted to be a part of. Even walking around the city felt as if I was removed from the rest of the world that scurried back to their apartments and houses, their jobs and their lives, while I hung around bookshops and parks in an attempt to not have to go back until Clipboard and her army of Tutting judging look down the nosing agents of the occupation into our lives, had done their ‘welfare checks’ and gone home. Even the Uber drivers we occasionally used would ask when we were ‘going home’ and give me tips on fun things to do in the city. “No, no,” I’d tell them, “we live in the hotel. It’s a shelter.” They would huff and puff and ask where I was born and where my accent is from. I would give them various answers. None of their business, really, but some people can never comprehend that minding their own business is the polite thing to do. If the information isn’t offered, it isn’t theirs to ask for.
Now, things are different. Nobody is asking me to take my temperature to enter my home. Nobody is knocking on the door to see if I am alive. Nobody is insisting that the Boy cannot just stay home while I run out to do some chores, nor telling me he isn’t allowed out without me by his side. Nobody is asking where I am going, and why I am going there. That place is run like a jail. Not letting adults go outside without telling other adults where they are going is an imposition, it is more than that, it is treating people who are not in custody as if they cannot be trusted with their own lives. Nobody has lectured me today on my decisions or choices. My lifestyle is not their business. My past can go back into its box.
One of my friends who worked at the shelter and was one of the decent, good, kind people there, called me up. She wanted to know if I wanted a date with someone she knew. I told her I didn’t fuck men. I don’t think she has come down from the ceiling yet. I don’t think I have ever had such a strange reaction coming out to anyone.
Walking outside by myself, had me feeling more like myself. I found a bounce to my step, a stalk to my walk. I felt as if I had melted into San Francisco. People don’t stare or judge when I walk out of this door. The taxi driver was positively deferential. I don’t enjoy that shit. I am no better or worse than anyone else. The boy came back from a run, and flopped down on my inflatable mattress, “Hey ma. I wish we could buy this place and just live here forever. Do you think we can just live here?” I told him not to worry, that I was going to work and work and work and try to keep us in here. I promised him if I could ever afford to buy this place, I would if that was what he wanted. Right now that seems like a pipe dream. The apartment has bright white clean walls, and wood floors. It has stained glass windows and a seat built into the bay window area. I will be forever obsessed with showers: years of living on the road turned me into a connoisseur of showers. The shower here is powerful and the water hot. I stood under it for over half an hour, just letting the water run over my head, spouting the droplets from my mouth like some ornamental garden feature. I staggered back to the living room that is my bedroom, bright red and panting, throwing open the windows. Boiled octopus, the Japanese call that state of having had a too hot bath or shower. I know how the octopus feels. Languid, loose, ragged and peaceful.
I’ve cooled down, but still feel loose, ragged and peaceful. I feel as if I can almost pass for just another San Franciscan, a good citizen, or at least the good citizens at least mistake me for someone who belongs.