so. today i got a new job (!) (it’s actually my current job, just with fulltime hours & more responsibility & more $$) and went thrifting in the mission to celebrate. i got some really rad stuff (captive genders for $1! an original edition of work of a common woman by judy grahn for fifty cents! etc) and decided to cut through clarion alley to get to BART–partially because it’s efficient & partially because i love the murals there. they’re always changing & always inspiring and rad.
i saw a new one there that i hadn’t seen before. the link doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s a comic about a girl who overdoses on heroin & is saved by narcania! a superhero giving her naloxone, a drug that reverses potentially fatal overdoses. it’s cool, a much needed public service. what was NOT cool was a well-scrubbed hipster family–a white, hetero couple probably a little bit older than i am now, with their daughter who looked to be 11 or 12–taking smiley pictures in front of it with an expensive camera. the dad and the daughter (as i say this, i realize i don’t know their exact relationship. they could all be cousins or friends or siblings or whatevskies) posed around the last panel, where the girl who’s been saved says, “thanks, narcania! i’m not sure that i have anything to live for, but thanks to you, i’ll be able to find out!” that is the happy ending–a heroin addict who states that she has nothing to live for, but is grateful to be alive, to live another day, to find out if there’s any fucking point to this existence. this is what passes for a happy ending in san francisco these days–or at least, a certain segment of san francisco.
the “dad” and “daughter” were on either side of this pale, suicidal, yet hopeful cartoon. they were smiling so big. the dad had a fist curled, on the side of the cartoon’s head, like he was just about to punch her. the punch line. like this was all a joke. like youngsters dying, like youngsters having no reason to live, is something fun to take your picture next to while on vacation, no different than a picture of a smiling ear of corn in iowa or something.
i stood, dead in my tracks, a look of abject horror on my face. the woman turned to me and said, “oh sorry, were you waiting to pass by?” big smile for me, because i’m white and vaguely hip and don’t look homeless or strung out. i wanted to say something. as usual i froze.
i had been thinking about freezing, because earlier that day i was gossiping with billi in front of our workplace while we smoked cigs. an argument at the housing complex across the street got heated and a man held a woman by her hair and bashed her face into the gate. i said to him (his back was to them), quietly, “holy shit, look what’s happening…” and before i could even get the sentence out of my mouth he was running down the street, yelling, “HEY STOP IT! FUCKIN’ STOP IT RIGHT NOW!” in all his faggy glory. i stood with my feet rooted to the ground, my voice ground down to nothing. i hate myself for not fighting back more. always. i hated it then and i hated it in the alley. i should have said something. it could have been a moment like this one for that young girl, where she realizes certain things, where it changes her life forever.
instead i just kept walking. can’t stop. can’t talk, my voice will break. can’t start talking too much, what if i say everything. what will happen to me. i walked down the alley, i gave my spare change to the guy who asked me for it, he asked where i’m from but i kept walking, didn’t answer. i just couldn’t.