I live in a nondescript apartment in a nondescript little building. At one time this place must have been rather grand. Not much remains of it’s former glories. A sweeping staircase. Oriel windows. Plaster mouldings and a fancy enclave where a fireplace used to sit. The building is old, at least old for America, and has sat here through two world wars, the summer of love, and the tech explosion, and still it stands. I had put brightly colored voile curtains at the windows. They stood out far too much, a beacon almost. I moved the blocks of color to the back windows and put up plain cream ones in their place. It looks much more nondescript now. Now I don’t walk down the road and see my oriel window dressed like a scarlet woman going to some fancy party. Now she is virginal. Boring. Plain Jane. Safe. Shy, almost retiring. It is better this way, even if I am missing my begonia red windows. Now they are ivory blank. Tabula rasa. Secure.
There have been a lot of loud bangs outside recently. Some fireworks. Some not. There have been a lot of disturbances and altercations outside. My bright windows seemed far too prominent for the area. Now they look almost shabby. You can’t have shit in this neighborhood, and you know what, that is ok. That is how it is. This is home. I wish it would be a little safer out there, but inside these walls, behind this door, this is the safest that I have felt in many many years. This place is my life raft. I hold onto it like a drowning person.
I suppose the clean up the ‘Loin drive has failed. Of course it has. Any push to shift the problem around without solving the root of it, without offering shelter, without providing solutions, is simply smearing the glass, displacing and shifting the people on the street from here to there and back again. All it does is remove people’s belongings and force them to try and survive with nothing. All it does it harass. Nobody benefits, not the city, not the homeless, not the housed, not the politicians. It is failed policy. Failed humanity. Failure. I keep hoping that the hotels will reopen and people will be put back inside again. Tourists don’t need so much provision when San Franciscans are living outside. The pandemic showed what could be done, and what could be done quickly. I am living in hope that people don’t require another disaster in order to do what works.
I am not getting any younger. A bit like the windows I feel rather shabby, a little disheveled, a little nondescript. I can’t be bothered to color my hair, even though it makes me feel brighter. I used to be interesting. Now I just fade into the background. It is safer that way. Low profile is possibly the only way I stay alive. I am scared to be too happy in public. Scared to stick up for myself. I let people push me around, sometimes recently, quite literally. I turned myself into a mouse. I am not a natural mouse.
I feel as if this is home. Sometimes I sit here and think to myself that I can imagine a day in the future where I look fondly at these days out here in my little apartment in the ‘Loin, and think of them as days I would gladly return back to, golden days, glory days, happy days, and that makes me sad. I don’t trust life to allow me to continue in my happiness. I don’t trust life to say that this is all I get for quiet and peaceful and happy and safe, and that this is my lot, and to thrust me back into the streets and roads and desperation once again, and next time, to throw me out there without the only comfort I have day to day, my treasure: my son.
It is mostly too hard to think of those I lost. I try not to look at their photos, or take their memories out of the box and think of them often. Instead I shy away from them, and barely look at their images, or read their words. Occasionally I pull out a now faded letter and read words that tell me I was loved, that I was adored, that I did my best and moreover my darling knew how hard I tried and loved me too, but doing so reduces me to ashes. I cannot function. I cannot breathe. So nowadays I barely look anymore, and instead try and push out the memories of what was, and the thoughts of what should have been. Instead I embrace the reduced, the deadened, the mild, the sideways glance, the dulled, instead of looking straight on at the technicolor happiness of days here and there, periods of time when I was loved and needed by more than the Boy.
Time is a kind mistress. It fades things to make them less brutal and more of a gentle blur. Sometimes I realize I can’t quite hear their voices, or see their faces, or know exactly what they would have said, and that makes me heave in panic until I remind myself that living in that state of loss and longing is deadly in itself. I was making myself ill. I was making myself unwell. I was not able to live so intensely with loss.
Everything has to be a little more nondescript if I am going to be able to continue. Everything has to be a little more bland. A little more oatmeal and a little less bright and tangy and vital. Sometimes I can let myself out of the box. Sometimes I can allow myself a little more brightness, but for now I need it all to be a little darker, a little less sharp, and a little more fuzzy.
I wonder how things would have been if I had done everything differently. I wonder what I could have done to make things better. I don’t much care who judges me to have made good decisions, or correct choices, or even if they deem me to have been lacking or wrong in some way. Walk a mile in my damn shoes and I would applaud any woman who did it better and won any more, or lost any less. I did what I did. I am living how I live. I am hoping I will be allowed to continue, and that I don’t have to look back at this last year as the last best days of my life.
Life have mercy on me.