Saturday, May 24, 2008

Comfort

Walking down the street in the cool breeze I see a woman up ahead with an interesting walk, the kind you'd usually see from some straight guy trying to model like his cock is something so big between his legs there's no other way to strut. But I'm curious here because this woman appears conventionally feminine otherwise, but then up close I see oh, no, her face is totally pale with red splotches and tears and she's staring somewhere into the distance, somewhere way past anything that's out here and I want to say are you okay? But I know that's ridiculous -- she's obviously not okay. I'm staring at her to try to meet her eyes with some kind of compassion and she's only maybe 10 feet away but miles inside her head she's stumbling like she has to get somewhere, anywhere, and that's when I think oh, maybe she's walking that way because she just got raped. And her body isn't working. And I'm struck by the hopelessness of everything right now, especially because I can't even figure out how to say something, she's past me now I'm turning the corner and she's a block behind.

I'm thinking about something Katia said one of the first times she came over -- this is where you feel comfortable, right? And yes, I feel more comfortable here in the Tenderloin than anywhere else even though sometimes there's such obvious desperation I'm trying to stay present and not shut down. I feel more comfortable here because no one owns this neighborhood, I mean horrible manipulative landlords own the buildings just like anywhere else, only here a lot of them are corporate nonprofits making millions off subsidized single room occupancy hotels. But I mean that the people who live here span such a wide range -- Latino, Filipino, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants and migrants; elderly people; transwomen; older gay men; disabled people; people who can't afford a deposit on an apartment or whose credit isn't clear enough for a lease so they live in residence hotels; sex workers; drug addicts; runaways; young white hipsters; single office workers trying to live close to downtown; subsidized housing tenants who are mostly working/poverty class African-American and white people; art students and culinary academy students; homeless people; budget travelers. It's all of us mixed together in beautiful, decaying old buildings this dense urban proximity and there aren't many neighborhoods in San Francisco like this anymore, maybe there aren't any others. It's what helps me to dream.

But of course there's a lot of sadness, a lot of sadness because it's expensive as hell to live here too and the luxury hotels and yuppie bars are encroaching and a lot of people are having an incredibly difficult time surviving on a day-to-day basis.

Right now I'm wondering about the difference between comfort and safety, because I think Katia didn't feel safe so I'm wondering what that means. To go outside and feel safe: I mean I like to go outside without worrying that someone's going to harass me just for existing and that kind of harassment is relatively rare around here with so many different kinds of people, except sometimes with suburbanite jocks or other young, angry guys trying to front some kind of gang-like anger. But safety? Maybe that would mean that I could feel like a little child and not worry that I'd be destroyed, I mean destroyed by the world around me. I'm not sure I've ever felt that, I mean not for more than a few moments at a time maybe sitting with a close friend or late at night when the air is fresh and I'm not too drained.

My walk doesn't last long because I'm too tired, on the way back to my apartment I see the same woman, this time maybe she's waiting for the bus although she's walked two stops ahead and now she looks red but her skin isn't as splotchy, maybe it was just some crazy combination of drugs, drugs are so common around here and maybe that walk is how she moves all the time, the drugs just made it seem more desperate. Or maybe she just looks more comfortable when the sun is in front of her and she's standing still.

8 comments:

The Bobsters said...

Matt, I loved it. I could feel the grit under my fingernails.

The Bobsters said...

Matt, it is Robert Ganshorn, by the way...

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Robert, so lovely to see you over here!

Hmmm... I'm not sure it's about grit, but I'm glad it made you feel, yes to feeling! And thanks for writing...

Oh, but do call me Mattilda, that's always what I prefer -- even my hooker name feels more familiar than "Matt."

Love --
mattilda

grantatee said...

i loved reading this,

Sarah said...

Mattilda,

Have you read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (of boing boing)? i just stayed up all night reading it (the last book i did that with was Nobody Passes, actually).

It's all about security and safety (especially post-terrorism/waterboarding/spying/fuckedupgovernmentshitexpo2008). Lots of it is set in the Tenderloin and the author talks briefly about organic cities that just GROW with all kinds of people mixed together instead of being planned and separated out from each other. Basically the book is awesome. You should check it out.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yay -- thanks, Grant.

Sarah, that book sounds great -- I'll have to check it out, for sure! And thanks for staying up...

Love --
mattilda

KATE EVANS said...

Hi-Love your writing. I'm gonna check out your book.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, thank you, Kate! I look forward to hearing what you think...

Love --
mattilda