I have a pair of orange vans I wear. I am too old for them. They are dead flat. Skateboard shoes, with a bit of kick. I kinda love them. They are a pain to get into and out of. My left leg is screwed up from being kicked and stomped on repeatedly, I can’t get down to lace them, or stand on one leg to bring my foot to my hand. I have to sit down on the floor to get my shoes on. Sometimes the Boy helps me. It is pathetic. I am not that old. I must do something about it. I can’t haul the window open. I can’t get around like I should be able to. I do not want to be this person, gingerly putting left foot to floor. I want to run! I want to dance in my orange vans. I don’t want to have to nurse a bad leg as it aches and throbs day in day out.
So I decided to do something about it. Get fit again, or at least as fit as I can get. I want to live! So I have a list of things I must do. A brisk walk every day. A few sit ups. Some strength training with the Boy’s resistance bands. I must go and try and get an epipen. I am used to not having medical care. It is not something I expect to ever have. I haven’t had a doctor for years. In my situation as a person who is deemed ‘illegal’, going to an emergency room or into a hospital is risky. One phone call from a Trump supporting medic and ICE will be there for me, even in beautiful San Francisco. I could be taken from the hospital to the detention center, lose my son. Lose the bit of safety I have fought for. Lose everything. I cannot need a hospital if I can possibly help it.
So I took my vans out for a walk yesterday. I took myself out of my neighborhood, and down towards the water. That was my goal – to get a glimpse of the water. I have become horribly reliant on my google maps. I wanted to feel free! not tracked, not tethered by internet, not in touch, not informed of which way to turn. I simply headed ‘out’ and ‘up’, then ‘furthur’ and ‘down’ until I could see bridge and blue and sky and sea. That sweet sweet nuthin’!
I decided to walk to the Top of the Mark. An old penthouse bar, built on the site of railroad magnate Mark Hopkin’s mansion that burnt down in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It sits supreme at the highest point of downtown San Francisco, presiding in all its elite glory over the best views of the bay. Weeper’s Corner was where grieving girlfriends and wives huddled trying to get a last glimpse of departing warships as their men left to fight in WW2. Radio doyenne Marjorie Trumball interviewed Richard M. Nixon, Frank Sinatra, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald amongst others from the Top of the Mark. Of course I didn’t go in. I didn’t take a picture. I just walked on by and noted how high I was up there on top of the hill looking down down down a steep slope that leads to where the poor people live. What must it be like to always be looking down and never up? I tried it. I didn’t like it. The climb was horrendous and the view down made me vertiginous.
A woman stood a few doors down from the hotel that houses the primo bar on the hill. She had a bag of belongings and a headful of righteous rage. She was screaming and shouting and banging her head against her hands. Her distress shattered the genteel calm of the top of the hill. It woke the ghost of Nixon up in that penthouse glass cage that serves a hundred types of martini to those who can afford the price of entry. I will never set foot up there. You couldn’t pay me to drink a ..let me think of a flavor they probably don’t have….blueberry, violet and sage….martini looking down from the 19th floor on a woman just next door, on the ground crying for succor and relief amongst so much having, so much possessing, so much pure enjoyment of life when she has none.
I turned around just past the Mark, a man was outside the building polishing the brass. He looked weary. Weary of his job, weary of all the polishing, weary of brass and glass. I asked him if the trolley took cash. All I could see was a sign for paying on the phone via some kind of app. I was moving unhindered. Unnoticed. Untracked. De-phoned. He politely disregarded my torn kneed jeans, my Smashing Pumpkins teeshirt, and my bright orange vans, and told me it was eight bucks to travel one direction, and directed me towards the stop that travelled back downhill and tipped out somewhere less steep down downtown. As I dodged the trolleys and hopped over the road, I still hadn’t found the water. I figured I had better head back before I went too far. I had no money for a taxi, and it was against the rules of the street I had set myself.
Looking at the downhill slide, I figured I could try and walk back the way I had came, and forget the trolley, save myself eight bucks. Eight bucks! For a five minute public transport ride! Ridiculous….It was then that I saw the sea peeking out at me. That same sea that I have hugged the coastline of for years now. The same water I have dipped toes into and watched crash upon rocks, that holds the imprint of love for me. It was enough, that glimpse. It sufficed. I didn’t need to touch it, to swim in it. I didn’t need to walk right down onto it’s shoreline. I just needed to see it. Touch base. Make sure it was staying in it’s basin not being shaken till it climbed the hill and drowned the City. I needed a glance of the deep blue before I walked home.
Home I walked. Down the hill, past the dog park where good boys carried sticks and sniffed butt, past the Cathedral with its lying rainbow staircase, past the masonic strangeness and the angles and apple holding reverse saints, past the laundromat which fails to clean the stains of the street from the orange vans. Don’t try and tumble dry them. It doesn’t end well, past the pot shops past the grocery stores and florists, past the corner and drug stores, past past past…until the road gets dirty and the people look desperate…and it is here I have to leave you. I can’t tell you where I live. Swinging into my part of town. Home. Returned from the ladidah on the hill and the screams they do not hear, and down yet another hill I had to walk up to get out of here, and up the stairs, and through the door and there
Tadaima! I am home. Greeted by tea and asking where were you and sitting down back at my window perch looking just a little bit down on the street below. A satisfactory height, and not one I cannot descend from.
….and the juice is still being squeezed from tender bones like mine