You could never be lonely when you had a story in you
February 14, 2003
It was the city and me on Valentine's Day, as I walked around in the streets in the evening. San Francisco is a good city for Valentine's Day because it goes in the same direction as your heart.
I walked up Powell and there were places where it was Valentine's Day more than other places. It was the same street that had looked at me like the heart of the whole world when I first come to the city. It was not the same thing now but it was good to be outside and walking in the busy street. I had been writing in my room and I liked the story I was writing.
There had been Valentine's Days when I had been one of those whose heart had soared toward someone else, and I felt like there would be those moments again. But this time around I was not asking for much. I had had a rough time of things lately, as far as believing in the world, and it was good to just walk around and accept.
There had been times when I had wanted nothing to do with the human race. It seemed like in the end all its efforts amounted to very little. But I just wasn't sure about that point of view any more. I didn't know if that was really the best way to look at things. There was something about the entire race that was trying hard and I could see it on Powell Street.
I went up the hill to the cable-car crossing. There were tourists waiting at the stops. I walked in the direction of the bay. It was good to know that the bay was there, even though I was only going as far as North Beach. I walked past the apartment buildings. I liked how the city turned quiet there except for the whir of the cable. For a while I thought the problem lied in where I was, and going to another place was what I needed. But I was glad to be in San Francisco because I was discovering that a man had some say in how he felt about the world, and it was a good place for discovering that.
I turned down Washington Street into Chinatown. The streets were empty but the restaurants were full of Chinese families. I did not know what Valentine's Day meant there but it looked like a nice world to me. I wondered perhaps everything you wanted had been here on earth all along, and that it was only a matter of getting at the thing in yourself that believed. I felt there was going to be some hard work to be done, but it certainly seemed like having a heart was worth it sometimes.
I turned up Kearny Street anad walked up to Columbus. That was where the street opened up into the real soul of Valentine's Day, with the big jazz mural on Broadway that often seemed to be exactly what I was trying to say. It was still a very nice image to look at. The bars and cafes and restaurants looked like a secondary concern compared to what was happening inside. I looked in one of the restaurants and saw four women sitting together. And I guessed at the circumstances. I felt glad for Valentine's Day because I was glad for what was inside people.
Along the street I saw an old woman walking by herself; walking purposefully through a lingering crowd, and I thought of my grandmother in Iran, and I felt a story in it somewhere, and I knew it was a story because it had the feeling for it. I sat at a table outside a cafe and tried to put it together a little in my head. And the story seemed to take place in the street and North Beach. I remembered how it was always true that you could never be lonely when you had a story in you. I did not entirely understand it but that was how it was.
I walked down Columbus to Washington Square Park. I went past Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. It was beautiful to see, lit up by street lamps. I went up Green to Grant. Outside one of the bars on the corner, there was a man yelling angrily at another man who was leaving in his car. They were part of the night as much as anyone.
I turned into Grant and went down the narrow street. There were little bars and restaurants that looked like they would be nice places to be in on Valentine's Day, away from the main rush of the neighborhood. I remembered how along the beauty of the evening there was a girl, and I felt awfully glad that this was still the world for it. Whatever else happened, this was still the world where a man could really live in and write in, and that was a good enough beginning for me.
There was nothing to do but head back home and I did, through the empty streets of the Financial District. I came back down Powell to Market Street and I knew that Valentine's Day would still be going on for a while as I walked to my apartment. But I was glad it was spent between me and San Francisco this time around.
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