little girl snuggled close to her mother at a display counter in the cosmetics section of Saks Union Square suddenly begins tugging at the blouse, wide eyed, pointing down the aisle. ``Mommie,'' she squeals, astonished, ``Look! ''
Preening in the wide main aisle two counters over is a pair of black men in tawdry drag, short leather skirts, ripped magenta fishnets, leopard spike heels, enormous false eyelashes, one daubing makeup on the other from the floor samples, arching back the long painted nails of fingers that hold the brush. ''I think you need a little more right HERE!''
The newly annointed leans to inspect the result in a countertop mirror and the other steps back to proclaim as heads turn, ''Dahl ing, you look fab ulous!''
The mother has already looked and takes the daughter's hand, ``Yes honey, I see, now let's just go over to this other counter right over here.'' They walk away through the odor of perfumes and powders as the little girl continues to swivel and gawk, her face still turned as they round a corner. Then she looks up and confides, ''Mommie, I'm not sure I'd like to live in San Francisco.''
wo young men with their arms around one another wait for the light to change at the corner of Powell and Geary by Union Square. The red bandanas in opposing back pockets of their jeans flutter and twist in the gusting August wind. One leans closer to the other with a nudge to indicate another couple also waiting, a black man holding hands with a white girl. He lisps to his partner, ''I don't care what you're supposed to think, I'll just never get used to that.''
n the hallway space on the fourth floor of Macy's between the doors marked ``Men'' and ``Women'' a woman pulls a resisting twelve-year old boy by the arm toward the door marked ``Women.'' He keeps announcing loudly, ``I don't like this, I don't like this one bit.''
``I don't care,'' the woman snaps as she pushes open the door. ``As long as you're my son you are not going into a men's bathroom alone in San Francisco.''
❖ ❖ ❖
he Pacific squall that shook the window frames and slapped rain hard against the panes during the night had passed through and now in the morning the wet streets gleam in the sunlight and are littered with twigs and small branches that show the new green of spring. Jack has the car window down to breath the cleansed air as he drives to Irving Street to check out the junk shop Auntie Mame. He needs an armoire as there is no closet in the room he's been relegated. The radio warns that a small craft advisory was still in effect on the Bay until noon.
The guy at the register nods as Jack enters the shop and turns back to conversing with his friend. Tables, low dressers, random chairs formed a maze he has to traverse to reach the far wall where the tall lacquered wood cabinets are lined. He passes an open doorway to a second room with a "No Admittance" sign strung across the opening. The person standing just beyond asks if he needs any help and then says let me know if you do.
Jack opens a few doors and looks inside but the interior space seems so tiny for their large form factor. Before backing out he scans the framed pictures and beveled mirrors lining the wall and then wends his way to the front. All three guys are standing at the counter now and Jack smiles as he nears the door.
``That was some rainstorm we had last night.'' one says. Jack nods in agreement.
The guy at the register turns to look directly at Jack and adds, ``Yeah, there sure was a lot of blowing going on.''
❖ ❖ ❖
ne summer the medical library at SF General was allowed to hire a teen from the minority community and they got Lisa, a sweet, shy, studious black girl about 14 or 15 years old who lived in the Bayview. She quickly learned to properly reshelve books and put out the new journals each day and fell easily into the casual pace of library work, humming softly as she pushed the cart around the stacks. Every week the staff went to lunch as a group to one of the inexpensive restaurants around the hospital and on this occasion they ate at a Chinese place. Lisa stared at the menu and told them that this was the first time in her life she'd ever had Chinese food. Then, as more of an admission, that this was the first time in her life she'd ever had a meal in a restaurant of any kind. The Bayview was a reality quite removed from that of the glossy tourist brochure San Francisco. Lisa fumbled with the chopsticks, giggling embarrassed as she dropped one before she used a fork, she was bemused by the fortune cookie, was it serious? and the experience would've been pleasant if she hadn't had an adverse reaction to the MSG.
A few weeks into the summer Lisa came in to work on Monday with one arm slung in a cast, face scraped and scarred and a dark purple bruise on her brown skin around an eye. Taking Muni home there was always a long wait at Evans to transfer to the 15 so standard procedure was to hitch-hike, if you got a ride before the bus showed you were that much ahead. The guy that stopped last Friday was going to Bayview and she thought she'd be home early until he turned back toward the freeway heading away from Third Street. Lisa sat there in the front seat and knew she was about to be raped.
At the end of the school term the San Francisco Department of Public Health had given a lecture with a film on the dangers of venereal disease to these kids as they entered their sexually active years and the talk had made an impression on Lisa. So as the guy accelerated up the on ramp she pushed open the door and dove out of the car.
It wasn't the probability of being raped that scared Lisa, she could've handled that, it was the fear that the guy might have one of those diseases she'd been warned about and she didn't want none of that VD.