Monday, October 11, 2010

Martine and the Monsters: the ubiquitous battle part one

It is necessary to say that I have struggled; normally the words come freely, from my fingertips to the keypad and then, conveniently and in a manner I will never understand, they appear before eyes on a backlit screen with the decisive click of a button.

Perhaps this struggle is indicative of the difficulty I have found in the transition from my New-England life, quaint, full of colored leaves and clean, bright air, to my metropolitan life of trains and clouds and the inexorable scent of urine.  It has not been easy... but then, I suppose, that is what I was hoping for.

We arrived in San Francisco with sticky, pimpled skin - our dried sweat a chilly film.  We walked with our bags and pillows and red eyes to an apartment and opened the door to a friend.  We washed, drank some wine and went to bed.  In the morning we woke to mist and a vast expanse of rooftops, our minds barely grasping the notion of permanence.  We walked through the streets, our clothes absorbing the swollen air, pregnant with water.  Around us there was ponderous life.

We have been walking for months now; it is more familiar, we no longer need maps.  I live in the East bay with two girls and the sunshine; he lives in the city proper with four people and two dogs and one bathroom - I rarely stay there.  During the week I set my alarm for twenty-to-six, shower, dress and walk to the BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transit.  Someone should change the name.  The screeching, stinking rail-cars are rapid only in the slowest sense of the word) by seven-twenty-seven.  I ride the rapid transit under the bay, all of its viscous, shifting weight, and into the city, Embarcadero, road of the riots.  There I change over to the metro, up and down escalators, tickets spitting; the N train takes me to the edge of Golden Gate Park.  I stay in Sunset for eight hours a day at any vacated desk answering phones and responding  to emails for a popular .org list I never knew was based in SF, where the king Craig lives.  Sometimes, if I am very lucky, I get sent to the attic to re-arrange the fifty-pound files, boxes and boxes of them; lifting and adjusting at the command of my surly, compact boss.  More often, I am sent to the basement to battle the mail machine.  This maniacal, diabolical contraption of groaning, churning metal and plastic is the embodiment of all things hated.  Banished to the underworld, I spend dim hours ripping paper from the jaws of this monster, disguised devil, jabbing, smashing, sweating, begging, pleading in my cemented inferno.  Eventually I win, however lowly my tactics, the last envelope sealed and stamped a crimson forty-four.  But at the high price of my sanity; I spend the remaining day muttering, my eyes twitching.  I return home, back to my wonderfully small room at seven-thirty.  I eat dinner and fall asleep in bed watching Netflix streaming as BART grinds by on the lifted, cement tracks and the world outside disappears into ink.  I lay behind closed curtains only to drool dreamlessly and repeat.  I pass my days in near solitude, my ears wrapped in headphones, my vision facing inwards, I see the details.

I have friends here.  Activities are endless; I accelerate (the meaning of which, I learned from a favorite math teacher, encompasses both increasing and decreasing in speed, as well as a change in direction). I am wide-eyed, a kid staring through a kaleidoscope; the colors revolving, the patterns adapting.  The burritos are delicious, juicy, and so are the mangos.  Art is everywhere.  It is as if I am exactly where I want to be but that place does not exist; the screws are coming loose and a wall is falling - something is missing, or out of place.  Perhaps I am.

The transition has been awkward, like I am trying on different outfits in a dressing room with a curtain that does not close; as strangers walk by the gap widens with the disturbed air and they can see in to my half-naked silhouette, gauche, vulnerable.  It is as if I am meeting my family but they are foreign; I greet them with an embrace, a soft kiss on one cheek, and pull away as they advance (of course!) once more in that uncomfortable, nearly forgotten attempt at the second cheek.  My encounter with this city, this era of my life, is the lingering, consistent awkwardness of the second kiss.  Le deuxiem bisou.