What do ya think, it was the medication? Or maybe to be more precise the lack of it: The depression appears to be setting in again and I keep getting this nagging sense that everything isn’t gonna be right with the world anymore. Yet it’s over six months after the fact and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop from being off the anti-depressants, but it doesn’t matter. All isn’t right with the world anyway and it never has been, at least not with the world that I live in!
Today outside my apartment building, I was walking to the liquor store and this woman in black leather passed me going the other direction and our eyes met as we held each other’s gaze for that millisecond of time that it takes for people unbeknownst to one another to form an opinion. Like a judgment call, only this wasn’t boy meets girl and let the mutual lusting begin. It was more along the lines of the predominant food chain’s vicious cycle of predatory stalking and the territorial rights to the hunting grounds. As this woman was obviously desperate and on the verge of committing any mitigating sin in order to fulfill her all consuming addiction’s desires and interestingly enough I could tell all this from just ten seconds of eye contact slightly diluted by the lenses of my sunglasses.
In fact it was highly apparent that she was actually contemplating what it would take to liberate whatever monetary funds that I had while simultaneously calculating the amount of effort it would take to do so. And in return it had then become my obligation to bristle with savage intent, thus exemplifying what an ordeal it would be to actually try and take my money in the hopes that she wouldn’t attempt such a futile move.
Though to be perfectly honest I had at first taken the shimmer in her eyes as an advance of the sexual nature. Like here I was slightly depressed and in search of some sort of relief from Jacks Liquors, something that I already knew wasn’t going to be there, and when we passed each other and made eye contact I thought – hmmmmm, someone’s actually showing an interest in me! That was until I could see that her observance wasn’t coming from attraction, her intent was preservation and I just happened to be the questionable source of salvation—since obviously I was being viewed as an easy mark and that too kinda freaked me out as when did this happen? The last time I looked, people shied away from even getting on elevators in broad daylight with me and god forbid if we happened to be strolling together in the same dark alley late at night. Yet here I was in a semi-dark alley and my fellow pedestrian, a somewhat attractive, though a tad rough around the edges, woman was sizing me up for slaughter.
Obviously out here on the streets things have continued to evolve for the worse and the climate is getting more desperate by the minute. The shear magnitude of crack’s short lived high followed by the all consuming craving for more has turned even the little girls into desperadoes of vengeance! And now here I was left reflecting on whether or not I was still manly enough to protect myself should the next migrating flock of catholic schoolgirls attempt to take my hard earned lunch money away!
Yet of course I was convinced, since she was a she, that I’d be alright, that is if she didn’t have a knife, or worse a gun, and that she wasn’t so desperate that she’d use it. Only unfortunately having been stabbed before I found myself thinking that this time I’d prefer to press my notoriously bad luck with a bullet, because for the benefit of the uninitiated I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing more unpleasant than getting a sharpened shaft of steel shoved into your body, except maybe a dull one. However I may or may not live to regret that statement as who knows? She may just be the one to take me up on that offer.
Two minutes later I’m entering the corner store and for the moment at least this little quixotic interlude is all but forgotten as I greet Ahmed and wander through the brightly lit racks of shrink wrapped porn magazines in order to get to the “food” section of the store. Where twenty different two for a dollar packs of cookies sit below the cup-o-soups displayed in rows advertising their various synthetic flavors. And it’s then that I realize that this is going to be extremely hard for just like the woman avenger awaiting me in the shadows outside I too will be unable to find anything that will satiate the desire to fill the void inside. There just isn’t enough overly processed sugary foodstuffs in this entire store to fix my mental ills and maybe, just maybe, this relapsing on sugar could be the source of my depression, as well as my lingering sense of foreboding doom. And just when did I stop caring about what it was that I put inside of my body? Why had I recently given up jogging or exercising at the gym and wasn’t it me that had said that if I did stop the anti-depressants that I had to be extra vigilant in order to keep in tune with my mood swings?
This hard-line approach to my internal spiritual inquisition was pressing down on my mind causing unrelenting pressure behind my eyeballs as I paid for the bottle of water that I had absentmindedly grabbed form the cooler in the back between the racks of malt liquors and beers. Quietly lost in these thoughts I turned towards the front door while shielding my eyes with my hand from the intrusion of today’s headlines sprawled across the newspaper rack screaming of the war in Iraq and the latest fuselage of bullets that the local gangs were contributing to the oppression of San Francisco’s population of people like me who had to live here amongst them.
Fumbling with the three dollar bills and change that Ahmed had given me from my five spot after ringing up my purchase, I shoved them in the front pocket of my jeans like a jumbled mess that one treats worthless paper. However this movement wasn’t lost by anyone within a one block radius out in front of the store. Even the wino lying by the trashcan took note. That’s what they do out here—look for where the money is.
Of course I hadn’t forgotten about the menacing dirty leather-clad girl who was now just a few feet away to my right standing between two parked cars at the mouth of the alleyway. The sun had gracefully set while I had been in the store so I didn’t need my sunglasses anymore and as I slowly removed them she strode over to where I was standing and asked me if I had any spare change.
“Naw.” I answered her. “I haven’t got much to spare these days.”
“How about a date then? I could do things that you’ve only dreamed about!”
Ok, so maybe her weapons weren’t the kind that drew blood as I had earlier imagined. But they were just as consequential all the same and now we were negotiating on a new plane, yet in reality we were worlds apart.
“I, I just don’t do that…” was all that I could find to say.
“What? You don’t have sex?”
“No, I don’t pay for sex because, I, ah, I try not to participate in the exploitation of women.” But even as I said this it sounded lame coming outta my mouth as maybe I don’t exploit women by engaging in prostitution but I also don’t do hell all about a society that allows it to proliferate to the point that this woman felt it was her only option of survival.
Suddenly I became aware of the traffic behind me as once again I stared into the eyes of this stranger until she turned her head and looked off down the alley and when she turned to look back at me her eyes were full of tears.
“I ask you for money and you talk feministic politics to me instead? You are truly a strange individual, you know this? What are you doing down here in this neighborhood anyway?”
How do you answer a question like that? I live here out of circumstance, I live here out of necessity, I live here because when I first got sober this was the only place that I could afford as well as the first place that would take me as a tenant! But what does that mean to anyone out here on the streets, especially to someone that’s selling themselves to strangers?
“This is where I live.” I told her as I gestured toward the front door of my building. “I guess that’s what I’m doing down here.” And having said that I pulled out the crumpled dollar bills from my pocket and tried to hand them to her though if you were to have asked me afterwards why I tried to do so I’d be at a loss to answer.
“Keep your money honey,” she whispered while never letting up on her steady gaze and in her eyes where there had once been tears there was now a look of pity that slowly turned into bewilderment. Then it was gone, replaced by her former cold expression of desperation. Apparently her sights had changed and she was now busy looking over my shoulder at some dude walking behind me.