It’s a bit of a warm evening tonight, even for April, and there seems to be a lot of activity going on around me as I venture outside for a stroll. Across the street there’s at least ten taxicabs parked in front of the Pakistani restaurant and as I walk towards Bryant Street another cab pulls to a stop in front of me dislodging a couple who look a little out of place in these surroundings. The younger of the two being the woman who appears to be exhibiting a bit of what I’d consider a risqué attitude as she surveys the few comatose locals who in turn stare longingly up at her from their spots on the sidewalk. And from the way her eyes keep darting around all wide with intrigue it seems as though she’s out on the town looking for kicks. While her companion, an older nattily attired gentleman, looks at ease and though I’ve never seen either of them down here before he at least acts like he knows where he’s going and grabs her by the elbow as he guides her past me in the general direction of my apartment building.
Can’t possibly be tourists – is what I am thinking! As what’s there to really see around these parts? There’s certainly not a breathtaking panoramic view or a wondrous architectural structure or some monument to progress for people to walk around and take commemorative souvenir type pictures of. And its way too early for anyone to be going to the nightclubs and if they were only coming down here to buy drugs then they should a never let the cab go before making their purchases; thus assuring a quick easy exit while still in possession of the dope and their lives.
Yet even as I turn around to watch them as they quickly dissipate into the darkness of the alley I get this odd feeling about the two of them. Like something just isn’t right, like there’s something weird going on. And if its really gonna bother me this much shouldn’t I do the right thing and escort them through whatever business they may have here? Or if nothing else keep a watchful eye out making sure that they’re alright? But who am I after all? Saint Fromage – the future Pope of the South of Market Area? Or do I have to just let them take the chances that they seem willing to take and go about my business tonight regardless of the final outcome?
And like an aberrational omen to minding my own business the screamer suddenly materializes in front of me leaning against the fence of the vacant lot. A shabby caricature of a man is what he is really starting to resemble these days and as he looks up from behind his half drunken bottle of King Cobra the expression of his eyes are the desperate pleadings of salvation. Like could I please help him out by taking everything away; all the voices in his head; all the hallucinations that he sees; and all the demons that constantly harass him so badly that he has to yell at the top of his lungs in order to keep them at bay! Though how I’m suppose to do this is a mystery to the both of us and as I pass him by he leans his head back closing his eyes in frustration.
And no I’m not out on the streets jogging or buying life threatening snacks at Jacks. I’m just out walking around in a bit of a frustrated mood, as either the stars along with the planets are out of alignment again or maybe the fact that I’ve finally kicked a nearly decade long dependency on antidepressants has left me indifferent to what or how I’m feeling. Only I had hoped that it would be the opposite and I’d be all in tune with the world or at least feel something, anything other than what I am feeling, which is bewilderment or better yet disenfranchised with myself and my surroundings.
And its not like I haven’t been attempting to instill some definitely profound and significant changes in my life as of late. Like trying not to isolate so much and be a little bit more sociable, and of course all that physical exercise and even the uncharacteristic behavior of joining the gym, and just last week throwing sensibility aside and scoring the hot car that I’ve always wanted. And now the last item on the list – losing the “be cool” pills has finally been checked off that ever expanding directory of my proposed internal revolution and I’m not really sure just what it was that I was expecting.
But was it this?
Its funny when I finally do make a decision and then achieve what it is that I wanted to do I am then left asking myself – what now?
Four blocks into my evening stroll and I take a left on Brannan only to come face to face with a gang of gutter snipes half of which are out in the street trying to ride their skateboards against the oncoming traffic. And it seems so futile or at the very least quite dangerous. As one of them suddenly slips and falls sending his board beneath the wheels of a city bus and with a crashing roar of defiance the skateboard is snapped in half beneath the massive diesel’s tires. While the ensuing reverberations force everyone who’s out this warm evening, either posted up on the sidewalks or in the shadows of the doorways, to stop whatever it is that they are doing and look to where that noise came from.
Everyone that is except the stunned kid who’s skate was the one that just got destroyed and even though his act of defiance was unintentional to say the least it still sort of sums up how I’m feeling tonight. That going against the norm until it almost kills you is a concept that feels all too familiar. Like old habits and old behaviors and thinking about it leaves me a tad shattered and with the conclusion that I’d seen enough for one night. Probably seen enough turmoil and disillusionment to last me a lifetime; definitely seen more than enough despair and way too many impoverished people for a one block radius then should be thought possible. Yet in my heart I know that there’s still more to be seen before its all over and as a final thought its really just a matter of what’s left for all of us to do in order to make places like my neighborhood nothing more than a memory and so a bit overwhelmed in thought I call it a night and turn around heading back to my place.
However it isn’t until I’m walking off the elevator onto my floor that I realize I didn’t bring the key to my apartment with me when I left earlier this evening. So here it is ten o’clock Saturday night and of course there’s no front desk security personnel working here anymore to let me in with a master key. But there is a house-phone downstairs in the lobby that’s got a sign above it stating that by lifting the receiver I will instantly be put in touch with the on-call person who’s turn it is to be onsite and on duty!
“You have reached the emergency voicemail of the building manager Tony. Please leave your name and apartment number and a short message describing what it is you need and I will get back to you A-S-A-P!”
Hmmmm, emergency voicemail as opposed too what? And I cannot begin to tell you how just the mere sound of Big Tony’s voice and that oh so sincere tone of his has all of a sudden completely reassured me that I am not going to have to spend the night in the stairwell with the crackheads. However for some unknown reason I still catch myself scanning the lobby floor for any misplaced sharp objects just incase I do have to actually spend the entire night waiting by the elevator. Because then I’ll have something to cut my wrist with as the prospect of hanging out in the emergency room down at SFGH would be a somewhat preferable option. And just why is it that I’m assuming it would only be for the duration of overnight that I’d be left here waiting for assistance? Because its not like I’ve actually seen Big Tony in the building since he’s gotten this automated security program of his in full operation!
Meanwhile as I’m left standing here with the phone receiver in my hand that mismatched couple from earlier gets off the elevator and almost prances across the lobby and seemingly without a care in the world heads out the front door and into the night.
And to think that not less than an hour ago I was worried about the two of them and their fate!