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Monday, November 23, 2009

Just Another San Franciscan on the T


The air is ice. The wind strikes my cheeks, and it’s like the glacial Pacific Ocean is sweeping me away with its powerful current. I can hardly catch my breath. The sensation is menacing, raw. I don’t remember last year’s weather being this frigid. It’s only November. As I cross the street with my arms wrapped around my body, hugging myself, I peer down at my improvised ensemble and grimace. It’s completely wrong for the climate. I’m wearing washed-out designer jeanswhich are exhausted, worn to the threads, and patched in the knees and back pocketsflats, a fitted cotton tee with strings hanging from the unkempt seams, and a lightweight wrap-around jacket that I’d bought for spring and summernot fall and winter. The conditions don’t require my massive sunglasses, but I wear them anyway because they hide my swollen eyes and the fact that I haven’t had coffee.

On a normal day, I’d be dressed more appropriately and have a latte in my hand. But today is only day two of residing in the new condo, which means my clothes are piled in suitcases and cabinets and every corner of the floor, and I don’t know where anything is. We haven’t finished unpacking, and I have to make do with what I can get my hands on.

As I approach the train stop for the first time in eight months, a nervous butterflies swarm my insides. It feels like the first day of high school. My legs shake anxiously, in no particular rhythm, as I wait for the T on the 20th Street platform. I whip out my BlackBerry and text my parents about how weird it is to be nervous for a train that I used to take every day. (I justify my childish fears by reminding myself that I used to ride it the opposite direction. Last winter, I took it from my downtown apartment to work at the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Now I live right by the Guardian, and I take it to work, downtown. It’s an entirely different routine, see?)

I search my purse for two dollars in change as the train pulls up. After I step inside, I rub shoulders with professionals of all ages who wear trendy shoulder bags and surf their iPhones. The foul smell that I remember about the train is gone, and I don’t see even one hobo dragging a black plastic bag full of aluminum cans. Before, I used to sit among the putrid beggars who’d hop on and off without paying the fare. They’d shoot out the doors just before the Muni police would step on and check for tickets; their scandalous routines were timed flawlessly. I wonder, is this the same train? Because it seems different.

I gaze out the window, knowing exactly how frigid the air feels but wishing I were breathing it in. I wish I were walkingnot ridingto work. The train whizzes by AT&T Park and the Embarcadero, and the sapphire water sparkles the whole way. Suddenly, everything is beautiful, not like I remember it eight months ago. I wonder, is it because I’m in a new, gorgeous apartment and out of the grime? Is it because I’m out of the armpit of San Francisco and am simply happier? Or could it be that I’ve grown accustomed to the grime and the hobos and don’t even notice the foulness of the city anymore? Am I becoming a true San Franciscan?

I don’t know, and I’m not trying to figure it out. I like this feeling, whatever it is.


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  1. I'm impressed by your writing style, Meghan. This posting read like the beginning of a chapter in a novel set in downtown San Francisco. Do you have any plans to write one?

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