Despair

This evening on the bus returning home from visiting my friend Ray in the hospital recovering from lung cancer surgery I was so lost in dismay I overshot my stop by nearly ten blocks.

Since the 2016 election—if winning the vote but losing the contest is really an “election”—every day brings some kind of bad news. It’s become part of the atmosphere. But this past week has been especially, horrifically bad: thirty-nine dead from consecutive mass shootings; no gun laws and a controlling government unwilling to legislate restrictions; a reprehensible President, stoking fear and violence; the country’s legacy of bigotry, racism, and exclusionary policies coming home to roost. More locally in San Francisco it’s a rare day I don’t encounter either a homeless person on the bus, sadly filthy and stinking from life on the streets, or a raving mad person screaming obscenities at everyone and no one. The streets themselves are littered with refuse, excrement, filth—no neighborhood escapes this fate.

And “returning home” is a euphemism. I don’t have a home. I live in a house I’m moving out of, or more harshly, from which I’ve been asked—no, mandated—to leave. Every day a little bit more of me is packed into a box, awaiting the end of the month when all the boxes get packed in a storage pod and taken away, to await their own time when they can be shipped to some new place on the other side of the country. New place. New life.

In truth, though no fault of my wife, I haven’t really had a home here…a home being a place of comfort, familiarity, family, and refuge. My wife to be graciously made room—more than room—in her house for me to share. I was never made to feel like a tenant (until I was told to move out) but nevertheless I felt like one. I was always conscious of living in someone else’s house, intruding on her space.

In the meantime, my wife and I live side by side in a surreal calm of purposeful compatibility. Apart from my packing, one would never know we are a divorcing couple. There’s no surface tension, no drama; there’s nothing personal. We mostly prepare dinner and eat together. We talk about the dog, the wind, the South End, the people in the nearby park. We never talk about us. But she has withdrawn herself and blames her silence on my writing. So be it. Every day her presence fades just a tiny bit more. Every day she’s becoming someone I once knew, once loved. I truly want to hold those memories.

In twenty days my storage pod arrives at the curb and my life here gets packed inside. A few days after that I leave and this house returns to pre-Niland condition. I want no tearful farewells. I don’t even know what I’ll say.

Will I say,“ I love you still?”

Will I say, “Please say nothing?”

Will I say nothing?  Will I cry?

I don’t know.

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