I've hardly been outside all day. Rain was forecast, but when I step outside the sky is blue and a vicious wind whips hair across my face.
No, the sky is not blue. It's lit up like a scrim. The sun is setting somewhere west of here, invisible behind downtown buildings. I used to live west of here, and the house where I grew up had enormous windows facing west over the valley. It's easy to be seduced by garish sunset, but you can miss the light of the sky behind you, the blue over pink, fading to white at the curve of the earth.
I walk uphill, gazing down corridors of buildings at each street crossing. Two white skater boys carry their boards listlessly, not talking. A Chinese guy briskly exits his building, checking that the door closes behind him. One black girl is reading from her iPhone to her friend. Bits of her monologue float over the street:
"I'm sorry...I never imagined I'd meet someone like you, someone who brings together all of my dreams in a single person...what you don't know. So beautiful and creative, artistic in a real way, I didn't think people did that anymore, and funny...I don't know where to look...such grace and intelligence...a goddess, you look around and don't see what you do to..."
At "goddess" she releases a nervous laugh, reading on.
The Golden Pearl Spa at Sutter has a bright awning but vizqueen over all the windows. I want to walk in and ask what services they offer, but I don't. A Subway sandwich place is directly above.
A tourist stands in the middle of California Street, snapping photos of the long road down the hill.
Grace Cathedral, with its yellow lights shining upward, looks like a cutout against the bright sky. In the park across the street, dogs off leash snuffle in the bushes beneath the sign saying Dogs are welcome on leash. Two white guys with dogs stand next to the fountain talking loudly. One has a throaty voice, deep for his age. A lanky Asian guy in black leather pants, jacket, and leather newsboy cap pulled down over his eyes sits in half-lotus on one of the benches. An iPod in a speaker dock plays soothing music. His left hand is palm up in his lap, the right palm down, held in front of his face. He holds air between his hands.
It's dark when I start home down the hill, but the air is still and mild. A young guy in a cap offers me a fist bump. I know what's going to follow, but I can't resist the fist bump. Then of course the ask, and I have to tell him I'm sorry, I have nothing with me.
This is how I know I'm back in my own neighborhood.
A woman with lips painted black, extending so far beyond her own lips I think she's wearing a false mustache. Crazy Horse and the Warfield, where I saw X and Henry Rollins play, never imagining I'd live here.
The lights of Market Street Cinema shine the way to my building. In the lobby, someone has set a flower arrangement at the edge of the water feature. Yellow roses and dark purple blossoms.
The flowers are real, just on the edge of withering.