Friday. I futzed around at work; so boring, so boring, so boring. I can't believe how late people stay here. How can they care so much; but it's not a question of caring, it's a question of *responsibilities*. We have entered into a contract with a faceless organization that pays us money to do things we find boring; or maybe they do not find these things boring and I do; or maybe they can contain their boredom and I cannot; or maybe they've seen much worse.
After work I got lifted and headed towards Palo Alto. At Happy Donuts I thought they were going to have me arrested. For loitering? Loitering is my favorite activity and here they've gone and made it illegal. The aversion to vice is so much a part of our culture, but vice is the best part of life.
I got on the bus and experienced the series of sharp shocks to the heart that are matter of course for those who ride SF muni late at night. Several times drivers honked at us and the bus slammed on its breaks. Every time a crazy person gets on the bus you have to start tracking them. This old guy who reminded me of Gallagher or a pirate came on-- he was wearing a bandana and pretty drunk. He sat down and mumbled, people ignoring him, and then got up and addressed a lady whose distaste was evident on her face:
drunk guy: Can I borrow a pen?
lady (takes out pen, holds it at arm's length (literally)): Here.
"Keep it," she added, as he returned to his seat.
The guy sat back down and wrote something or other. Every so often he looked back at the lady. I wondered if his pride was hurt by her "keep it" comment. Maybe it was, because in a little bit he lurched back up and towards her.
drunk guy: Here's your pen back.
The lady took it silently. Her mouth was a straight pursed line.
Who can blame her. Compassion is both easier and more difficult in the flesh. It's harder to ignore someone who's sitting, impoverished, 10 feet away. But at the same time the idealized notion of 'the homeless' gives way to specifics-- beligerent drunks, bad smells. My nose wrinkles on the bus, all the time.
We finally came to my stop, SOMA, and I got off with trepidation. The streets were dark, near empty and scary. I walked 'with purpose', trying not to look anybody in the eye. Straining from not looking. Someone passing by shouted something at me, drunk. Short sharp shock. I was thinking: what if every one of these tiny moments of terror add up, in the same way they say every cigarette takes 15 minutes off your life? The circumstances may be tame stuff, and I recognize that, but the fear is real.
The beginnings of this moral discomfort that kind of feels like heartburn were there. And now I'm worried that the moral heartburn will go away. For whatever reason, I want to be a good person. And no matter what you're thinking it's good to do something, anything. Maintain humility, don't talk or think too much; just do what instinctively seems right.
On the train to Palo Alto I wondered, as I sometimes do, if I'm in love. It seems like something you'd just know but for me it's not clear. But I try not to think about it because in my case a positive answer is really bad mentally. It's better not to be in love, or if in love to be in love with a stranger.
I got to Palo Alto and was waiting for Jenny to pick me up. I got in a conversation with this old lady who spoke only Spanish. I didn't know how to say that much but this was the main part of our conversation:
me: De donde estas?
her: [some place I don't remember]. Es peligroso.
me: Si, peligroso a noche.
Cheerful. Then Jenny came and we were off to some grad student party. Also along was Jenny's roommate Kristine, who I hadn't met before.
At the party: well I was still mildly lifted, so I spent a lot of time eating marshmallows and naan and whatever else they had. Towards the end we had a funny conversation with one of the guys throwing the party (who I'll call Joel, though that may or may not be his name). We were talking for a while and then suddenly J.t.t.m.o.m.n.b.h.n. says to Denise (who, so you know, turns out to be a very quiet and subdued girl-- friendly, but not exactly effusive or excitable):
"Does your pulse ever rise above 75?"
When said that out of the blue I laughed. I couldn't help it, it was funny. It made me think of DFW's comment about how he met someone who was "calm in a way that made you think of how Hannibal Lecter's pulse never rose above 100 even when he was tearing out someone's throat." She didn't react.
They then proceeded to have this semi-hostile semi-bantering (they knew each other) conversation that consisted of him making cracks about her subdued personality and her not-reacting (thus egging him on even more). After that had died down we started talking about (why not?) his pet black widow.
me: Doesn't it creep you out?
J.t.t.m.o.m.n.b.h.n. : No. It's beautiful. It's like a machine.
J.t.t.m.o.m.n.b.h.n. : You know it doesn't just catch its prey in its web. It actually rushes over and binds them up in silk before eating them.
me: (noncommittal "mmm hmm" sound)
J.t.t.m.o.m.n.b.h.n. : Yeah, and one time it got pregnant... had like 200 eggs.
me: (utterly aghast): 200 EGGS? IN YOUR APARTMENT?!
Turns out he kept them at the lab where he worked. But for a minute I was picturing his roommates freaking out. Just the thought of 200 squirming black widows in my house makes me want to get a flamethrower and blaze a trail through my bedroom.
Then sleep. Then Saturday.