His name was Jay, I asked him. He got on the bus on Market Street, at
what I guess could be called the edge of downtown. I knew him from San
Bruno, a older annex of the San Francisco County Jail, about 10 miles
south of the main jail in the city and about 100 years older. we had
done some time together. Nothing much, about two weeks about five years
ago. Give or take a few weeks and a few years.
He was wearing his hood up, pulled tight around his head making his hugh
white eyes even more pronounced against his dark skin. He’d been smoking
crack, no real suprise as we had done it together many times in the
past. He headed to the back and sat down in the last row, just behind
me. I asked him his name, he said Jay. I dont know if thats true, but it
is the one he was using back then too. I told him mine, and told him a
bit about how I knew him. “We were in Bruno together, bout 3 (I really
couldnt remember how long ago) years ago. You had that Buick. Remember
my girl, the little blonde one?”
He just looked back at me dazed. Not really confused, there would have
had to have been a certain amount of interest in what I was saying for
that, just dazed. But there was meaning in his stare, the sort of
X-Ray-crackhead-wheres-my-next-hit-vision, staring past my eyes, through
my brain, searching for the finance department and trying to decipher
exactly how much moneys in there. Bless his soul, he let me continue a
bit longer down memory lane before he redirected the conversation to
finances, and his need thereof. He says yeah, yeah, I know. But the look
in his eyes says different. Vacancy as far as this topic was concerned.
To be honest, I didnt care. I was stoked to see him. It had been a long
time, for most of which I had been gone, living in other states, even
countries. No matter the perils of the past, I saw someone I knew. It
was framilure. “Hey, let me get a dollar” he finally says, just as hes
starting to squirm around, his previous high wearing thin, and the bus
approaching 6th Street, a veritable crack-head carnival. “I don’t got
it” I said “I haven’t been working” This, the second part anyway, being
true. He turns and heads for the door.
A few weeks ago, a similar situation. Accually it happens often. Having
spent years in this city as a junkie, most of the familure faces I see
involve that life. Last week it was Sonny. So high on speed, it was hard
for me to get any words in at all. He told me about his last time
getting arrested after running up and down Haight Street naked, except
for his near complete covering of tattoos, screaming to no one and
everyone. Before that it was Hannah, and before that another one I knew
from jail. All strung out on one drug or another, and at least seemingly
homeless. Hard-knocked shambles of the incredible kids they are.
I still get excited to see them. Theyre what I knew and who I know.
Their reaction to me varies from exhausted interest to stoned
disinterest. Even when they do remember me. I dont blame them, their
minds elsewhere; what to eat, where to sleep, but usually on my pockets.
I always leave these conversations feeling the same way, wondering just
how long it will take for me to join another community in this city, one
which among other things, lives indoors.