06 September 2008


Living here in SF, I've become accustomed to a lot of things.

I don't look twice at two men or two women walking down the street hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm. (Unlike the busloads of tourists now being let out to take pictures of people in the Castro these days...wtf?)

People in chaps and leather? Neon and feathers? She-male hookers on Polk street? A random qi-gong parade downtown? I've come to expect these sights. Really - almost nothing surprises me anymore.

I'm *not* yet - and hopefully will not ever be - used to seeing people sleeping up against walls, outside in makeshift cardboard "shelters" and wind-barriers. I do notice, however, that when in other cities, I tend to mentally compare the numbers of homeless people I see on city streets. Usually, there are fewer than here, and if I'm with people not "used" to seeing people out on the streets, their reaction is different from mine. I will offer to buy people food, but not give them money. And I hope that I would continue to be like that.

But last night, I saw something I never expected to see and never hope to see again. My college friend was in town and we were on the bus. And our bus pulled up to the intersection at Fillmore street just as the SFPD was taping off a crime scene. A man had been shot, and we could see the body. Lying right there outside of our window, in the road, by a parked vehicle. And it was one of those horrifying moments of...not being able to look away and being so shocked at what we were seeing. It was surreal. And neither L nor I had words to say anything. Eventually I croaked out that I was glad I hadn't let her come by herself downtown (I am sick, and considered not going at all) and let's pray for that guy and his family.

I have been to (too) many funerals and have seen many dead people in that context. But not in this one. It was such an odd feeling...I felt much more detached than I thought I should feel. But I think that was just shock: my mind numbing itself to keep me from going over the edge. When we passed by that same quardened-off intersection a couple of hours later on our way home, two young women in front of us were loudly discussing the whole incident. "I wonder who it was who got shot? Wonder if it was someone we know? I wanna know who it is. Let's find out. Let's ask around...I wanna know what happened." Her friend stayed silent, but a young man turned around and said, "You should just be praying it's NOT someone you know. You don't want to know - I'm telling you - you don't want to have to go through that." As he said that, his eyes were filled with a combination of admonishment and deep sadness . . . someone who *knew* and had lived through such an experience, but who had had part of himself die in the process.

It was - and still is - very surreal. It will probably be a while before my brain wraps itself around this one. Or, well, perhaps it never will, but perhaps . . . I don't know. Closure? Something. In the meantime, I'll be praying for the families involved. Tragic.

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