I haven’t been sleeping so well. I wake up at 4am and sit at my window on the seat that is built into the room and stare outside past the voile curtains. The light in the early hours is dim, the sky barely lightening, the street light shadows spilling onto the sidewalks, and the slick dampness of the late night fight between the sun and the moon, darkness and light, between the up and the down, the inside and the outside.
I love this time of day before the normies are out and about. A few worker bees stride purposefully up the road, trying to look like they are going someplace fast and are not to be fucked with. A few unhoused people drag their belongings behind them. I was about to go to bed when loud bangs peppered the quiet, and a fight started up outside. I don’t like the sounds of conflict, especially not dangerous sounding conflict. It makes me nervous. It shatters the peace of mind I have within these four walls and instead projects death movies in patterns on the walls promising danger.
The illusion of the world being a safe place to walk at 5am is shattered. No matter how purposefully you walk with your hand on the trigger of the pepper spray, no matter if you are heading to work, or to a place that you are meant to be at an antisocial hour, the illusion of civilization and peace cracks easily. It splits when put under the slightest pressure or stress and the reality spills out. The brutal dangerous actuality of the state of California, the city of San Francisco in 2021.
Don’t get me wrong, I love this city. This is my home and I never want to live anywhere else. I could not imagine being happy in any other place. I need the view of the ocean from the Bay. I need the cool foggy days and the streets where the beats have trod, their footsteps heading to Jack Kerouac Alley, which used to be called Adler. I stood there by that door where Ginsburg and Dylan once stood and wondered if I could pick up the faint traces of the past, the impression of a time when things were different, when things ‘looked like they were dying but they had barely been born’…and now bad things look like they are being born, but only lead to death in the damp afternoon of a winter in San Francisco.
There is nothing for it at 5am, but to make a cup of tea and give up on sleeping. There was no way anyone can sleep with world war three breaking out between warring factions outside the window. They are not fighting for freedom, nor fighting for truth, but instead some imagined slight or disrespect. Someone is shouting out there about a distinct lack of power in the situation. No one has power at this time of day, the power is waiting in the wings, waiting to be brought into the daylight, blinking and wondering, in the way power does, whether to take a turn for the better angels or the worst demons. Power and glory, or the kind of power that hangs red flags of marble arches and marches through Paris confidently asserting the evil that runs through the acts and demands of men.
I am in a fix. Power and violence. Dark mornings that spill into days that pass quietly with me gulping down the fear and the pain and paralysis that has invaded my soul. There is a fear to writing. I am no wimp, yet looking at the past, listening to the music, holding onto the burning moments where I was happy and not alone. And yet I am happy now. I have never been happier, or guiltier for my contentment and safety, than this moment right now, safely ensconced within my four walls, with my Boy and a small christmas tree with tiny baubles and soft yellow lights.
The dreams and hopes of my past were always more powerful than the reality. The babies I never had. The house I never lived in. The years not spent but wished for. The crushed hopes of rhubarb in the back yard and an aga in the kitchen. The steam cleaner I used to joke that I wanted as a birthday gift, that I never got. The Christmases not spent together. The small town in Minnesota, where I bought tomatoes from a stand on the side of the road, and we ate them like apples they were so good and sweet, and the talk of your grandmother that used to grow them for extra income and how they tasted just like hers. The sheer tomatoeyness of the fruit. The intensity of the colors, the deer that ran alongside the RV, the strangely alpine surroundings with good sledding hills that we never got to slide down in the snow, but instead held hands, and ran down tumbling and laughing, as Canada blinked on the other side of the boundary waters, and the lakes with names like Little Cut Foot Sioux, shone blue and grey and whipped up foam in the failing light of a summer that had to end.
Getting out of the RV, dancing in the failing light, in the dust and the dirt and the forests and the gravel paths, the scrub and the bushes and the trees, mystical perfect dying only to be reborn in the new year. And you standing stock still, hat over your eyes, one leg kicked up against the wall. Chains hanging off your belt, and a smile hanging from your lips, and that goatee beard you grew looking faintly not like you. Not like you at all. And walking, looking over the water, past the boats and the fishing Minnesotans maniacs who are out there come heat or ice, past the birds that dive bomb the water, and the stones built up in natural walls at the point, and the rushes, the cattails that play in the wind. And the children by the campfire, poking at a mushroom with a stick, and cooking smores. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you too. I love you four ways and back again. Love squared. Love broken. Love killed. Love wild. Love leaving. Love left in the Minnesotan fall. And my head on your shoulder. And my hand on yours.
And the cop that came to tell us to leave even though we had paid. Always on the move. Always moved on. Always shoved forwards..Never allowed to stop and rest and just live. Never staying still because still was never an option. His pink pig face twisted in an attitude of insistant quizzical questioning. Where did we live. When were we leaving? How long were we planning to stay? Were we living in the RV. Were we living? Were we? We were surviving, just barely, and their invasion into our peace and quiet, into my useless feeling of safety and illusion of being allowed to stay, to remain, to love. To live. To survive.
I became incensed as we packed up ready to move. We paid. It was not safe to stay. Furiously tipped back to Oregon. Oregon to die. Oregon my nemesis. Oregon my misery. Oregon where all hope gets lost Oregon infertile, it’s dust killing dreams dead. Stone cold. Burning hot. Oregon the high desert. Oregon the watery ending. Oregon swamps. Oregon with the people who having got there from out east on some wagon train hell ride, certainly don’t want others there who didn’t earn its valleys or its dirt. Oregon that made me bleed. Oregon that almost destroyed me. Oregon the wild. Oregon the green. Oregon the bitchass hell hole where hopes go to die and dreams become nightmares. I hate Oregon.
I sulked all the way there. I sulked as we crossed the border making it from Minnesota in record time. Oregon who can never just live and let live. I try to pretend it is not just to the north of me. I pretend I am on an island, the isle nation of Cal-i-forn-i-a, where the cops aren’t interested in mere lack of documents, where the sun always shines, even when you don’t need it to, and where the people are looser. California the golden egg of a state. Burnished California. Free and wild.
The sun came up, flooding the room with unwelcome light, bringing it all back to the front, all back to mind. Another day. The power. The glory. The risk and the danger. I went back to bed as the city calmed down, the busy bleaching out the danger, and shut my eyes as the road sweeper grumbled outside my window.