Friend Quigley, staying with us last week, wondered if his impression of San Francisco as a gentle city was skewed, having only seen the "nice" neighborhoods.
Tonight, waiting for the bus where paint curls off buildings, smell of decades-old cigarette smoke and mildew drifts from the corner cafe, a man with white hair to his shoulders waits with me, porkpie hat, hook for a hand clasps the strap of a duffel. A trim man walks by, suit so impeccably tailored it takes a minute to realize his legs are half the length of mine, he stands no higher than my ribs.
A finely built woman, dainty in a pink sweater, deep mahogany skin, ponytail, face of a man, walking quickly the other way.
Hipster taping flyers to the telephone pole, tattoo of ten arrows pointing away from a black center circle.
A man in a baby mohawk and combat boots, wide chin, broad shoulders.
The bus arrives, and mohawk and hipster move toward the door, but mohawk stops, arm out, blocking the hipster.
He nods gravely at me.
I move past him onto the bus, a dumbfounded Thankyou trickling from my mouth. I find a seat and the others climb aboard, hipster laughing and shaking his head, mohawk last, walking past me without a glance.
I finish the ride alert to this odd grace, and think Quigley's perception is right, there is something softer here, something gentle, a welcome for people who aren't at home where we grew up, a shared nostalgia for places that would never be ours, I can talk about us here and it sounds truer than it ever did, a community of unmatched puzzle pieces, we're remaking the picture every day.