It's Saturday morning, and the sun is out. I walk through Civic Center, where the giant dandelion sculpture replaced the giant blocks. A young man in artfully scuffed leather jacket and steampunk goggles steps between the metal leaves, looking up at the dandelions. Maybe he's rolling on acid, or maybe he's never been in the big city before, but his face shows open wonder, that soft toddler gape.
A neighbor is just getting up, shaking out his shoes before putting them on, standing on his bed for the night, a clean rectangle of cardboard. I'm in his bedroom, walking down the street. A woman in a wheelchair is forehead to forehead with a man, her boyfriend maybe, the man kneeling in front of her, her arms tan and toned, a scarf around her hair, they're having a private moment, and I feel rude looking, but I don't want to look away.
Last month I was in Utah, and as my nephew drove us into town I was lost, the place has changed so much, I thought I was in a different neighborhood entirely when I saw the bones of the tabernacle, and I was jolted, the whole town shifting around this point, one of the few lovely old buildings still standing in my home town. And only barely standing, its burned naked ribs exposed, this is what they mean when they say a shell of its former self.
This week it was announced that the tabernacle would be rebuilt. But they're turning it into a temple, which means this sinner will be prohibited from entering ever again, unless I undergo a conversion, see the light, and purge my amiable apostate's soul. Not likely. So the place where Dad sang The Messiah with the Ralph Woodward Chorale, where I sang countless times with church choir, where I solved the mazes my brother drew for me, where we played hide-and-seek backstage, where I attended Stake Conference with the Osmonds, and we cracked up - silently, our faces turning red - to see that Donny wore spangled purple socks with his Sunday suit, that place lives only in my head. The last time I was there was for a friend's memorial. A nonsmoker, he'd died suddenly from lung cancer, leaving behind a wife, small children. I reconnected there with his little brother, a best friend when we were kids, I'd promised to pack him in my luggage and take him with me when my family went to Paris.
I was already on my way to other homes, even then. I'm home now in San Francisco, my neighbors making occult signs to nobody at all, arguing and singing in the alley beneath my window, when my music stops at night I think for a moment it's still playing, but it's my neighbors, the people who share this piece of earth, this moment, voices calling into the night.