West Side Foggy Mornings

My head is cold. I woke up a few mornings after shaving off my hair and realized how cold it was without any hair. On the second day I had got out the clippers and taken it down a little further at the sides and back, jarhead style. Yesterday was cold and foggy and a fine rain filled the air. My usual walk to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods has morphed into a new usual walk. I needed toothpaste. I always seem to be out of something essential. One of the big chains is not too far away, so I popped in hoping to be there and back in five minutes. $17.76 for gluten free toothpaste! Plus tax! I have never seen $18 toothpaste in my life! I walked out shaking my head. It was the same price for the mouthwash. It was not going to happen. That is at least a couple of days food money for the both of us! Outrageous.

So I walked back out, bald head and all, and headed off for a longer walk to a discount shop. I am spoilt for parks in this part of town. The walks are not unpleasant. No shit on the sidewalks, no stench of piss. I rarely feel unsafe. In fact the most unsafe I felt since I have been here was when a raging high white middle aged man had what seemed like a coke psychosis breakdown in the street, screaming that if anyone looked at him, he was going to kill them. I looked at the floor, grabbed the Boy’s arm, and we crossed the road away from him. “Apart from that man! The one in the baseball cap!” he yelled, “He can live!” Sheesh. Some people need to stay away from drugs. The man was well dressed, looked clean and was not on the street. He had no excuse apart from the fact he was clearly high and not handling it well. He needed to go to jail to chill out. I found myself wondering what would happen if someone not white, rich, middle aged and male made similar threats in the street. The scene that played out in my head was not quite as calm. There were a lot of people around, all reaching for their phones. I had no desire to deal with cops. I minded my own business and walked into the bookstore, surrounding myself with books and words.

But back to the outrageously priced toothpaste and the cold headed walk in the rain…My head was cold; the top of my head so frozen it gave my a headache. I was shivering in my shirt and thin jacket, my hands blue and shaking. No clothes shops to jump into a hope to buy a hat. I just walked faster and hoped it didn’t rain any harder. Toothpaste in the discount shop was under $4. Gluten free right on the label. It was another forty minute walk back in the rain. The weather is colder than previous Septembers here on the Bay. We have not taken off into that real late summer, early fall heat that San Francisco is prone to. Apparently if there is a government shutdown there will be no fleet week. Terrible news for the economy of the City, great news for my PTSD.

My PTSD is kicking my backside. After the crazed woman screamed at me for no reason I have been struggling to feel safe again. This does not feel like home. Years of abuse means my body is stuck in flight or fight, and it will not switch off. I feel as if I am crumbling, as if I cannot cope, but piece by piece I rebuild my walls, and gradually, very slowly I am feeling less disheveled. At least there is a good chance there will be no planes in the sky, making the City sound as if it is at war. I suspect it will be less intense out here in the ‘Burbs, anyhow.

By the time I got home with my cut-price toothpaste and my cheap gluten free vegan waffles I was chilled to the bone. I changed clothes and put myself under my comforter in my bed. My bed now sits in a bedroom of my own. It is big and empty. I bought three cheap plastic and plywood tables for $25. One of them sits in my room with a modem on it. I have my old bedside table and my bed and a guitar sitting in the corner. I can’t play as often, but I still play. My hands are wrecked with arthritis and bone erosion. It has been a tough old year. I won’t be sad to see it go.

This place still doesn’t feel like home. It is twice as big. I get to sleep through the night because the area is basically silent. It is clean and comfortable with a lovely kitchen. It does not have mice. It still does not feel like home. I put the signed photo of Lou Reed on my bedside table. He stares out at me wondering what the heck is up with me. I tell him I don’t know. I suppose, as Lou once sang in Candy Says, “I’ve come to hate my body and all that it requires in this world.” I have given up hoping that there will ever be bluebirds flying over my shoulder. I gave up on romantic love. I have given up on living very long with this disease. I have given up on trying to get better. I have given up on my writing. I have given up on feeling safe. I have given up on everything apart from the Boy. That is my line in the sand. That is my hill to die on.

My head is cold. Out of this west side of the Bay it is colder and foggier. The fog horn pats me to sleep like a mother’s hand on my infant back. I feel as if I am shrinking, turning into a small fragile thing. All the Karens and the Prince Charmings and the lawyers and the judges of this world have reduced me to woman-shaped pieces, and all the wild horses and the memories of better times cannot, will not put me back together again.

I am off to find my beanie. It is around somewhere. Everything got displaced in the move, and half of the things have not drifted back to me. I just need to warm up and I will feel a lot better.


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