Outside my window in the night

Sitting in meditation at 3:30 in the morning, the waking hour. Cross-legged on the floor, in the dark, facing the window, the San Francisco street. The sound of someone passing — a quick lean in forward on my knees, a slight crack in the blinds — he’s right there, his back to me — dark skin, dark jacket, navy wool cap pulled down in the summer cold damp. In his 20s, I think — pulling a suitcase, carrying a small backpack. He stands upright, pauses and looks for a moment at the small park across the street, its locked gate, considering. For a moment, looking down, I have the urge to tap on the window, open the door and let him sleep on the couch; maybe make him eggs in the morning? Then he moves on, up the hill.

The newly homeless, perhaps. I saw another one on the street the other day, a white man, in daylight, on a street corner — with a bike, still new-looking, a couple of bags, a guitar. His stuff was too nice, too much. He would shed it soon, I knew, couldn’t keep up this balancing act. He just stood there, disoriented, not knowing what to do with himself.

Other nights, other sounds — the one who lurched up the hill, swaying and singing to himself. In the mornings, the crackled piles of glass from the punched-out windows of cars. Everyone knows not to leave anything — anything — in sight.

Whole Foods now has a uniformed security guard at the door. When my daughter and I enter I smile and say hello and he nods and lets us pass.

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