The Sweet Little Apartment In The Good Part of Town

Well, I have moved. I am no longer in the sweet little apartment in the bad part of town. No more mice. I went into an unpacking frenzy, throwing boxes and bags outside to make sure we didn’t accidentally transport the vermin with us. No more shivers at the thought of a little mouse running, shitting as it goes, over my feet and under my bed. I think I might eventually uncoil from the horror. Eventually.

We moved way way out west, about as far west as the USA allows without falling into the Pacific Ocean, right to the other side of San Francisco. It is, in fact only a little less than five miles away, but it might as well be five thousand. Life out here is far different to life in the Tenderloin.

It is almost silent. A few dogs bark now and again, and not because they are being beaten or run over, but happy doggy barks of joy at being walked or thrown a ball. Occasionally a voice might drift up from the street, but they are the voices of children playing on the way home from school, happy families laughing, couples on the way home from a drink or two after work . . . not the sounds of a ‘head – crack, smack, fent, booze or otherwise, in the throes of what sounds like the lower rings of hell. There are no sounds of gunshots (crosses fingers and hopes not to tempt Lady Fate), people being stabbed, or people, both male and female, fighting like they are in the Coliseum.

There are no constant sirens sounding making it feel as if the world is ending. The threat level has gone from apocalyptic to almost bucolic. I had to go out in the early evening, to buy a connector for the coaxial cable and revive my internet access. Little things like that are utterly ignored, until they are needed, or go wrong and the world then retreats into the shadows of dysconnectivity. I needed my net, so out I went. In San Francisco. In the evening. On foot. I was not threatened once. I did not have to cross the street away from trouble. I walked there, I walked back, and nothing happened. Dotted along the street were posters with a number to call if someone homeless needed assistance. I never saw one of those in the TL. “Call this number and we will come to help the individual you are concerned about” – translation, if ‘they’ make it up to this part of town, call this number and we will relocate them back to the TL. It is a tale of two cities.

Here on the outskirts it is safe, it does not smell of shit and piss and trash and vermin. I did not have to dodge a single turd, but in the TL I know the bathroom hotspots to avoid or watch out for errant turds on the run. The wall of Wells Fargo Bank is an infamous stinky spot, with people shitting up and next to it regularly. The corner of California and Franklin is always left littered with literal shit. Here? I walked quite a way, hobbling with my little walking stick, and did not see one shit, nor did I smell the overwhelming stench of piss.

The Tenderloin, Civic Center and Nob Hill have been left to suffer, while these areas are protected. It is wrong on so many levels, even if I now benefit from this policy of area containment. I saw very few unhoused people on my walk, and the ones I did see were not in too much trouble. I didn’t see a single soul passed out or looking like they were in need of immediate assistance.

The apartment is much safer. I am up high in the air. We have more space, and there are no mice or other pests. The only irritation are curtain twitching neighbors. When we came up with our first lot of stuff to collect the keys we were left waiting outside for a while. A woman stared continuously from her window opposite, cup of coffee in one hand, phone in the other. They protect their enclave fiercely, I see. My neighbors in the bad part of town, at least most of them, were quite friendly. Here, a few people said hello as they walked their dogs, but there was an air of ‘what are you DOING here?” though none of them asked.

I got to sleep through the night. No one woke me up with screaming and fighting and threats to each other. There was not one siren. It was so eerily quiet that I could not get back to sleep. The rush of the traffic was absent too. This road is very quiet, so the roar of cars going by is missing, and not only that, I am up too high for a lot of noise to make it up here.

I have a room of my own. I don’t sleep in the living room. I have not had a room of my own for my entire adult life and much of my childhood. I have a door to shut. I keep feeling as if I am in some terrible danger, that I have not quite put my finger on yet. I am terrified for no reason. The echoes of the past are as loud as ever. I think I will go and organize some books, perhaps try and find a few to move into my room, from the living room. I might go and find a cup of tea and some breakfast. Mice would run over the worktops as I prepared food. I have spent months shivering in horror at it. Now I am not dodging traps and rodents. I have barely been eating. Perhaps I will pull out my guitar and see if my fingers can loosen up enough to play a little. Perhaps I will sit here, and wonder how long this dream, this heaven, this kindness can possibly last, and what I will do to fuck it up or what will happen to ruin it for me. Surely safety and happiness like this, even if tinged with loss and sadness, can’t possibly last, not for me. Surely this is a mirage, a trick of the light. Surely I can’t possibly be on my way to being truly safe at last.


  1. Janice Reid

    Yes, you can…believe it!!!! Just enjoy the change and don’t think too much 🤣. I’m so happy for you, and all that other stuff that gives you pause and make you nervous, you’ll get over them soon. All the best!

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