Out of the door. Turn right. Roadworks as far as sight can see. Walk don’t walk. Gasp in the mask. Discarded underwear torn and soiled. The curlicue of the lamps twist between the branches of dead-for-the-winter trees, intertwining between brown leaves holding on for dear life, way past due to fall to the floor to be trodden into mush. The rain comes down: cold from the Pacific, pure from the mountains, wet from the sky and falling onto my head, soaking my shoes, forming droplets on my glasses, blurring my vision. Has it come down from Oregon? Has it drifted from the past, to haunt me, migrating from all those restless dripping days huddled round campfires in the bitter December rain? Somehow it doesn’t feel so wet now I have a front door to shut behind me; it doesn’t feel so cold knowing I can get out of it when I want to.
It is a damp squib of a day in shades of milky grey and dim light reflected through the rain and the cold. A blue streak in the distance somewhere over the hills and far away, promised some kinda respite, some traditional Cal-i-forn-i-a mild winter sunshine in the distance. San Francisco failed to take off today, it hovers around the basement floor, swirling down the drain. A man stands, nodded out, pantless, falling out without grace, bare ass to the rain. Another sits eating candy on the floor, writing a sign on a piece of soggy cardboard. Someone huddles in their blanket, all barriers, all dignity, all comfort, all health getting soaked and frozen to the bone.
An old building, now over priced apartments, and a small shop on the first floor, paint peeling of in shades of cream and blue, declaring “Bakery” There has not been a bakery there for many years by looks of it. If you blink your eyes a few times you can see flared jeaned, afghan vested, be-beaded flower children hanging out on the street outside, hauling lovers and guitars. The thin grey smoke mixing with the clouds and the sky. Headfuls of acid from a cat called Owsley. A raggedy dog or two, and some of that summer of love hep cat jive. You are all just too hip, I can’t hang with you, I think, but it doesn’t matter, they all evolve and dissolve in the rain, and disappear down highway 101, past Franklin, heading north to Big Sur, leaving me on Polk heading towards Walgreens and wondering if there is any chance of okra in trader joes, despite the fact it is not the season for okra. There wasn’t. I had to get seasonal and haul home a bag of kale and sprouts instead. I don’t want it to be winter. This is the winter of my soul, my love has frozen over, my hands are cold and my heart is in the deep freeze. I wonder if when Spring comes if I will thaw along with the skies? I intend to find out despite the doom porn ramblings of the politicians and the purveyors of bad news.
There are worse things than days too wet to explode. The painted man still flies from the side of a building, snowboarding, forever flying. California bears stalk southwards away from Russian Hill. Bookstores are full of coughers and gaspers, so I leave quickly. It is one thing to not be a sociable person out of lack of trust, it is another to be repelled because each of us are scared we could kill each other with a sneeze.
Post office workers sigh under the weight of deliveries. I buckle under the weight of the past. I can’t stop the flashes of Christmases past in my minds eye. Kindles and movies involving bunny rabbits. Christmas cakes dotted with sugared strawberries and slathered with cream from the days that I could eat such things. Chattering toys gibbering from under wrapping paper. Staring out the window looking at the snow on the hills and the mountains, bitter to the bone, but full of love love love and the people I loved and the love that came back. My legs are moving on autopilot. I am not looking where I am going. It is a blur as I stumble down the down, the back of my shoes digging into my heels, gratefully painful, keeping me grounded here and now, in my beloved California.
There is nowhere I would rather live than there. Time moves faster and slower, it is both more exciting, and more settled, and sometimes blissfully boring. Footsteps on the sidewalk. The faces blurring into stereotypes: Christmas sweater, red and green. Holding glasses outside the bars. The smell of good coffee defeating my mask, and I stop and breathe it in. Heading uptown I look up the hill, and there stood a lone willow tree, it’s sad branches draping and dropping cascades of green in ordered, manicured, cultivated floods of foliage. It looks sunnier up there. Cleaner. I was not in the mood to play tourist today. The streetcar overtook me, announcing California and Chinatown, full of damp people, the jockey guiding it along the rails cursing at cars that don’t obey the STOP sign and risk a collision.
It feels like early winter in some desperate eastern block nation: grey and desperate. Faces would be sad if they were not hidden. There is little hint to suggest festivity. Everywhere is sad and cold and grey and bled of the color and the warmth and the joy of life in this city on the bay. Some of the magic disappears when the weather turns on us, or perhaps it is just my mood. I don’t think so. These damp squib days are best spent in a fug of disappointment, a cold sad haze; a half remembered past in memoriam. I can’t even remember what their arms felt like around me, or what their kisses felt like on my face and hands. I can’t hear their voices, and when I do the recordings sound like something dead and gone, not alive and vital and loving. Something is missing. Something is gone. Something is drowned in the lake. Something is buried in the dunes. Something is bled out until it is dry as a bone. Something. Something, that is not me.
Perhaps it is the weather. Perhaps it is disaster fatigue that has had enough of this dull, lonesome, muted car crash of an Armageddon. Perhaps it is the time of year. Perhaps it is time of man. Perhaps it is the sunlight cut out from the day by the winter solstice and the ocean cloud cover. Perhaps it is a sense of foreboding. Maybe it is those aliens that I am convinced will show up soon enough in some strange sci fi version of the book of revelations. Perhaps I am unwell. Maybe I am depressed. I don’t feel depressed, just sad. There is a difference.
And the trash and the shit bags, and the cold and the rain, and the naked and needy, the needles and the bacteriostatic water pods; the discarded clothes, the pigeons strutting amongst discarded giant lego bricks, the splatters of food, the spotches of blood, the puddles of rainwater turning from pure to rank on the sidewalks, the hills washed cleaner, and the gutters that collect the detritus of poverty and desperation. The footsteps of the beats. The shadows of hope. The desiccated and dried flower children living in the mental echoes of acid test adventuring. The shivering chihuahuas. The scratching cats and the children who have nowhere to play amongst a world living tossed on a tide of shit and disease. All of this and more, bundled up against the end of the year and the start of another tumbles like Keith Richards’ old skool tattooed dice reading lucky thirteen.
A man reaches out his hand. I only have a quarter on me. I give it to him, and he smiles at me. “Sorry, sweetie. I don’t have anything else.” His hand pats my purple gloved one. “Thank you,” he says in a voice that should be singing the blues. His eyes are kind, despite the cold and the inadequate quarter, and like the man a couple of days ago blesses me in the name of a god I believe to have deserted us all. I bless him back. No point in taking away what hope of relief he has left.
Hail Lilith, who rejected Adam and cried on the banks of the river! No regrets. No tears. No future. No life. No light. No nothing, except the blood that keeps flowing and the small and gentle realization that I don’t hate y’all after all.