The world ticks on. Despite viruses, insurrections, addictions, earthquakes both tectonic and political, disasters personal and global. Despite water spilt on laptops and balancing bowls of soup on my lap as I eat supper sitting on the polished veneer of my own clean floor, it keeps on spinning, and the laptop keeps on whirring. I left it upside down overnight on a towel, and everything seems safe and functioning – unlike much of the world that keeps on spinning outside my window.
Yes, the world ticks on. It is early the cars start pouring down _____ St, people start emerging onto the streets, tipping out from their hiding holes and resting places – from doorways and subways, all night cafes and alley ways; from smart apartments with doormen, and one room sleeping shacks with a single burner and a bare lightbulb, and their graveyard shift jobs in nearby hospitals or driving taxis through the dark nights of the Bay and it’s foggy morning blues. There are apple chewers and mask breathers, bag carriers and runners in lycra bootie shorts zooming through the streets. I would run too if I had such gynecological details in full view. Might as well run in spray paint and a crop top. Dog walkers and dogs walking their humans intermingle with small children heading to school. “Bye bye! See ya later! Have a good day bye bye bye, Sal! Bye Mei! Bye gramma…Bye bill….goo’ bye….Bye bye hoping that later sees a hello hello hello and nothing stops those connections reconnecting, yet knowing that one wrong turn, one disaster, one blip on the radar could mean no more goo’byes forever never any more.
Shoppers buy buy buying even though it ain’t even 8am yet, bags full of groceries, hands grasping potentially molten cups of coffee, masks hanging from one ear, croissants and burgers hanging from hungry mouths. Pigeons and feeders, men in fake cop uniforms with plastic badges who are paid to stand in the foyers of fancy apartment buildings, giving the illusion of protection from those of us that roam the streets. Little toy soldiers collecting parcels and opening doors so they can pay for the tiny apartments with their single burners and bare lightbulbs. This land is your land only if you haven’t fallen through the cracks of its highways and cities.
The unhoused are up and at it – they are some of the hardest working people in this country, the business of survival taking up their every moment of their waking and sleeping lives. To eat, to get water to drink, to find a place to rest and survive that rest, to buy the bag, buy the rock, get the bottle that makes life outside bearable is a 24 hour a day 7 day a week job. Hoping for scraps of sleep under the safety of the morning light and a new wave of people rushing in like the tide coming in, before retreating like the water when the lights fade on down again and again, in some circle game deal that no body ever wants to get off of.
A coffee drinker with an eco cup strutted below my window seat drifting like seawood, smooth as sea glass, flowing like the Mississippi. There is no banana tree in San Francisco city to dance around naked and free, following suit in yer birthday suit carried out to the sea of people: the survivors of the virus, the pandemic travelers apprehensively navigating strange waters.
A man with a leaf blower and a safeway bag lets himself into his truck. I watched him walk down the hill, swinging his leaf blower and air compressing gear. He parked outside, late last night, but doesn’t live in here. There are smart cars and jalopies. Beaters and the Heat, seeking sirens wailing for the muses and the writers, the jokers and the pickers of guitars. The flashing lights fill my sanctuary, strobic and red light warning. At least I am not out there. At least I am not on the road Not on the street. It is like playing chase for decades and finally reaching ‘home’, the iron fence point of safety. Paxes. From my ‘can’t-touch-me’ haven looking out I feel guiltily invincible. I know from the other side of the window it feels like such luxurious safety is unobtainable. It is bad knowledge. There is no going back from it. There is no forgetting. No thankful amnesia.
A mutt strains at his leash, lurches and tumbles down the road. I am still that dog. Pulling, straining, fighting refusing to be led by the neck. A small puffball stares at the mutt in distain. A good girl, walking nicely by her mistresses feet. Unaware or uncaring about the leash that restrains her – she ain’t straining anyhow, she ain’t leaving, she knows where her dog bowl is filled. She isn’t hesitant to comply, it is not so much that she isn’t aware she has a choice, it is just that she doesn’t care to take it. I will never be content with restraint. I will never walk on a leash and collar. He still won’t divorce me. I am not free. I am not free to move on, I am not free. My master will not allow it. One day I will turn around and bite the hand that beat me. Look out!
Look out from my window nervously. I cannot run any longer. I have an Alice in Wonderland poster and a bed that cradles me while I sleep every night like a woman who has not slept safely in decades. I am Rip Van Winkle in San Francisco. The door locks. The window locks. There are bricks and mortar, wood and glass. I wake up and stretch, pull my guitar from the stand that it lives on, tame and inside, safe and sound, and start to play along with old Ramblin’ Jack. If he was the Brooklyn cowboy, I am the Annie Oakley of the Bay. Give me a good horse with a black mane and a brown body, a six shooter and a bounty, baby. I’m already home.
A young man is standing outside by my front gate growling. “Come on! Come on!” Bent double, and sweating, hands red and sinuous, tattooed and dusty, veins popping in fury at the blood pressure rise of the amphetamine rush. I almost yelled down “Billy! Billy! Honey! Calm down! It’s gonna be ok, baby, you jus’ got too high!” As he growled at the vein and the needle I restrained myself and closed the curtain and cried. Maybe I am that puffball after all.
A mask lays like a discarded pair of panties, white and forlorn on the roadside.
It looks like rain today.