The journey home stretched before me as I stepped off the ferry. The Muni sign was visible, but it was a mirage; it would certainly disappear before I reached it, and I would be searching again for its twin across the street, or a flying carpet, a camel, a rickshaw … anything at all.
I spent time in the ferry building until I solidified. Hefting fat little onions in my grip, smoothing my fingertips over sweet potatoes, tasting the tart artisan cheeses: I did my grocery shopping without even entering a supermarket.
And when I emerged with packages tucked under my arm, the City felt less like an ocean too big for me to swim. So I walked to the train.
“That’s the fire alarm,” said Inkbot, matter-of-factly, and stood up. I had fallen asleep earlier, and woke up when she came home; we were sitting in the living room, talking. It was half-past midnight. The UNFH had gone out, and I was savoring precious moments uninterrupted by their new toy: an airhorn, which they amuse themselves with by sneaking up on each other, sounding it, and then running off to the other side of the flat.
Wearily, I got Zen into the cat-carrier and lugged her downstairs. No fire; no smoke. Three of our neighbors stood in the hallway with us as we discussed what to do.
“It’s nice to know the fire department doesn’t even bother to show up,” one said.
I nodded. “And they’re only a block away.”
Inkbot turned off the alarm. We could find no emergency. It was time to go back to bed.
Five minutes later, it went off again. Back into the carrier with Zen; back down the stairs. Nothing. The building manager, when called, thought that “someone must be cooking.” We knocked on the doors of people who hadn’t vacated with the alarm. No one responded.
I did not fall asleep until nearly 02:00. Four and a half hours of sleep have left me restless and irritated, sounds too close and loud, air hitting raw skin.
Moreover, I am disappointed in myself. I have always considered myself a good sport, flexible and accommodating. Right now, I feel stiff and angry and old. I see what I should be enjoying about the City, but I am not enjoying it like I thought I would. Perhaps it just takes some getting used to, and I don’t remember this stage when I first moved to a big city because it was twenty years ago, and I didn’t choose it happening to me. My mother and her family were there to ease the transition somewhat.
This, I chose. This, I have to learn how to do. All by myself.
There are so many homeless people, ranting to themselves about unseen enemies. There are so many rich people, ranting to their cell phones about unacceptable terms of million-dollar deals. The difference between the two is slight, if you squint your eyes, but I’m neither, so I end up feeling like a tourist in my own home.
I miss belonging. Where do I belong?