The first car of the N-Judah squeezes out from the tunnel on Duboce Street, wheels screeching in their groove and the cables snapping with electricity overhead. The bars of light inside bathe the riders in a yellow haze; their heads are bent, their minds in any place but the train car.
I spent yesterday afternoon at Fort Funston, roaming north and south along the beach below the bluffs, admiring the beauty of black sand bleeding into white, and scaling the graffitied concrete housing of the storm drain. It’s a stunning place, with the peachy cliffs of sand towering over you and endless ocean opposite. From the top you can watch hang gliders diving low over the parapet and rising back up on the airstreams.
I rode the late bus home tonight. Two AM from Mission and 16th back to the Panhandle. On the 5, I was sitting in front of two men having this conversation, which I had the gross displeasure of overhearing.
Our eyes met, separated by a thin pane of glass and 10 feet of concrete, but entire galaxies couldn’t fill the gap in our individual experiences. I was sitting in the backseat of a car, head leaned against the glass, enjoying the infrequent luxury of quiet and comfort in a cab on my way to work. I saw him as my car slowed for a red light, hunched with one other man on the sidewalk nearby. He was my age, dressed casually with the patchy start of a bleach blond beard. He appeared nervous, as if on edge, but friendly. His head rose and made a quick assessment of his surroundings. He saw me staring, but I held my gaze; when he looked back a heartbeat later, he held his. We shared three tantalizing seconds of eye contact; I can’t know what he saw in my look, but in his I read fear, or perhaps surprise at receiving such direct attention. I looked away first, feeling uncomfortable for a reason I didn’t understand, and in my periphery I saw him bow once again to the crack pipe.
It was just after 4am when I turned the light off. This was last night, and as I consciously attempted to quiet my brain, I lay on my stomach and willed myself to sleep. My third consecutive day spent, in its entirety, at work. My eyes fluttered shut and I felt thankful that I’d get a full five hours of sleep. Now it’s nearing 1am, just about 24 hours later, and I’m overeagerly writing in anticipation of the sleep — a glorious 8 hours or more tonight — that will follow.