Friday, July 8, 2011

San Francisco 3am

[ I wrote this just after the 4th and thought it would be an appropriate piece to post here.]

It takes longer than two years to really get to know a city. At the end of my first year lease, my remaining roommate Sherelle met me in the middle of the night in front of my place of work and together we lugged empty boxes back to our townhome apartment. Along the way a young guy looking lost by the train station fell into step with us. Since we were headed in the same direction, he said he felt bad not helping, so we all took turns sometimes dragging, sometimes hefting upon sore shoulders our bounty of empty boxes flattened and stuffed inside two other boxes.

When we all three arrived at my and Sherelle's apartment, we invited the guy in for a beer to thank him for helping. Sherelle mixed some margaritas for her and myself and the guy mostly drank beer as we sat in a triangle in the middle of our empty living room with the hideously stained carpet. To thank us for the beer, he offered us weed. He knew he had some on him somewhere, he just had to. Sherelle and I didn't smoke, but that never matters with people who do, so the guy took an empty beer can and made a pipe out of it. He only had a dark, stale nub, but he insisted and we let him smoke. Maybe we each took a hit to be polite, or just to be able to say “I've smoked pot out of a beer can.” We were probably too drunk and too pissed off about our other roommates skipping out without paying the last month's rent to care any which way. $1000 gone, God damn it.

I remember the guy didn't have a place to sleep because he'd been locked out of his friend's apartment, and maybe his cell phone had died. We said he could crash on our floor, so he curled up using his backpack as a pillow while Sherelle and I headed upstairs to our own junk-filled rooms. In the morning he was gone, but he'd left a scribbled note on a scrap of paper he'd scrounged from God knows where thanking us for letting him stay and leaving us his number. We never called him.

That was San Francisco.

This time last year I was in the back seat of a car stuck in a traffic jam while the driver looked for a place to park so we could all go see the 4th of July fireworks set off from ships anchored out on the Bay. The indie radio station played a new song called “I Heart California.” It also played “I Want What's Bad For Me.”

We finally found a place to park, but we missed the fireworks over the Bay and ran to the corner just as the Grand Finale was going off over Ghirardelli Square. We didn't really see much because the Fog had rolled in and was hovering just high enough that we could see the roofs of buildings, but the fireworks all but disappeared into a thick whiteness that was invisible until the fire lit it up.

On our way home, we pulled off at a beach where the wind was cold and loud and found a group of strangers shivering in thick coats, gloves, and scarves setting off their own fireworks at the top of the cliff. We asked if we could watch, and they said yes. We huddled together and made small talk over the roar of the waves invisible beneath us. Everyone was cheerful and friendly.

That was San Francisco.

Some days I feel like I'm still there and everything since has been one long foggy dream, and I wonder when the hell I'm going to wake up. Maybe San Francisco is a state of mind and I really have never left. And maybe what we call life is just one long string of dream after dream and we never wake up.

One time, I dreamed of New Orleans and it smelled like jasmine. On the streets of San Francisco, I smelled pot, churros, urine, the ocean, the bay, and the Fog.

To me, that is San Francisco.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this and I love your writing style.