I have been in this apartment a little over six months now, and settled into an easy routine of blissful domesticity. I get up around 6.30am, shower in my clean white-tiled bathroom, get dressed, make tea and read the news. I immerse myself in the usual parade of pigs and dogs, murders and misogyny, hatefulness and humanity, then throw some cereal into a bowl, or else I get lucky and the boy makes me pancakes, or rice-balls and miso soup with little shreds of green onion and shizo leaf floating in the bowl. Around 7.30am I get to work, trying to stitch together my novel, or else writing something for here, or some publication that pays a few bucks.
I work until late afternoon, then stop to read a book, or pull out my guitar and pick a few sad lonely songs. Some days I go out, running up to the grocery store for potatoes and soy milk, or else I trot down to North Beach or Chinatown, or down to the Bay to watch the ships come in. Evenings pass quietly watching movies, writing notes for poetical escapades or sketching something that no one will ever see, but I kind of enjoy it anyway. I talk to the boy, or hear from friends, clean the apartment and vacuum the floors. I might clean the bathroom, or tidy my closet if I feel particularly driven to do so. This place sparkles.
I have my plants on the window seat, a little impromptu garden. I read somewhere that having houseplants can reduce indoor pollution by up to 20 percent. I like clean air. Even if they fail to clean the atmosphere, they sure look pretty, a little behind the window avalanche of green, dotted with cactus flowers and tall bamboo sticks asking the world through their reflections in the windowpane if they think they are lucky like they are some kinda vegetable Travis Bickles. Life is good.
Of course I worry. I worry that I can’t possibly afford to stay here after August 31st this year. I worry about what happens next. I worry that that will be the end of the happy, the good, the time to recover. To be frank, I need more time to recover. I feel stupefied, stunned, knocked for six. After a nasty tumble I took, banging my head on the San Francisco sidewalk I have felt particularly dazed. My knees are bruised and grazed, my head is banged, the black eye bruises only just starting to fade. I hurt. How can anyone recover from life after only six months? How can anyone who has survived so much recover in a year, especially when let down so brutally. Oh well. It is what it is. I’m doing my best.
The Boy is doing so well at school. They called me up yesterday and gave me an update on his progress. He is thriving, hungry for knowledge, and enjoying having teachers that care and put so much into his education. It is working for him, and he is happy. I have never seen him so happy. He hums as he walks around the apartment. He keeps his room clean. He cooks and helps me round the house. I never have to take out trash or scrub the kitchen sink. He never fights or argues, nor gets sullen nor difficult. He appreciates having a home and throws everything into happiness and self improvement. I am a very lucky mother to have a son like him. Heck, he even likes to hang out with me, and makes snacks for our movie nights. Things have never been so good.
I am now without a jacket – it got ruined, as did my good jeans when I took a tumble outside a week or so ago. My outside distance seeing-glasses broke when my head hit the floor. I came home and scrubbed my face and my grazes with rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide but still have a lingering sense of defilement. That sidewalk is grotesque. It is grotesque and still there are people out there sleeping on it, head against the sidewalk, day after night after week after year. I got lucky. Nothing can persuade me that life is not better than it has ever been.
It is not to say that sometimes I don’t look back onto some of those days in campgrounds, and even parking lots, as good days too, sometimes. I didn’t want to be out there, but if you don’t have the best out of what you have, if you don’t find good and enjoyment even when things are terrible, then surviving disaster and deprivation is simply impossible. The only way to survive is to see the good, smell the roses, enjoy the day and the sunshine, the campfires and the people around you. The only way to make it through is, rather irritatingly, to count the good and make the best out of what there is to enjoy. In my minds eye I travel back in time and hug them all, kiss their faces and wish they had not been quite so fucking nihilistic. I suppose not everyone subscribes to my philosophy of ‘smell the roses, don’t bury your head in the horseshit’, but maybe they should. I think I am a dying breed.
I have been thinking about my own mortality a lot recently, as have all of us that think about things such as nuclear war and Russians going all 1939 on the world. I guess I count myself lucky that I am worrying about the next 18 months, that must mean I have some hope that I have eighteen months left on this planet, or indeed that the planet has eighteen months. I admit to wondering if the USA was dragged into a nuclear war whether I would still have to pay rent, or that perhaps rents would fall to something realistic. I suppose that is wrong of me, but what would it take to make life affordable for everyone, not just the select few.
Food prices and living costs are astronomical. I am back to skipping lunches and worrying about how on earth I am going to get the clothes clean. People just can’t afford to pay what life costs to keep going. At this rate there is going to be the ridiculous situation of a lot of people living on the street and a whole bunch of empty houses. Right now, in San Francisco, 10 percent of the housing stock, that is 40,000 units, are sitting empty long term. They have been purchased by the ultra rich as investments and neither rented out nor lived in. It is a travesty. If it was up to me I would give them an opportunity to either live in them, rent them out at hugely discounted prices, or else relinquish to the City for people to actually live in them, rather than rest their heads on the sidewalk.
It is all too easy for people to demonize the homeless. Perhaps it will take the average American being thrown out of their homes due to chronic inflation, in order to get people to realize that homeless people are just like them. The lies that some housed people tell about homelessness being solely due to bad choices that the individual makes are hard to stomach. Besides are people not meant to get a second chance at life? Do chances have to be purchased by rich families coming to the rescue? Not everybody has somebody…
Homelessness is not caused by addiction, but it sure is hard to have no home and not want to numb the pain and discomfort and fear somehow. Homelessness is not caused by mental illness, but try and remain sane when you have nowhere to sleep and have to constantly work out where to go when you are moved on time and time again.
Children are homeless too, they are not immune from the suffering of shelter being out of reach. I have had enough of the inhumanity, but what can I do? I am barely holding on myself. I think future generations will look back on this time as a time of great barbarism and short sightedness. People need homes. It is an essential, and essentials should not be marketed as luxury items. Hey, at least my tea bag stash is full, and I have a big bag of gluten free flour. Things could be, and have been much worse.