i went to visit my good friend in san francisco up in merced heights. the wind was several knots and the Pacific foaming at the beach. my friend had fallen back to sleep. something happened to his knee so he walks funny now. he needs surgery cause he tore something and its inflammed. i remember when my whole life was swell. we went to lunch in daly city on a sunday when all the country’s got politics and black lives matter on its mind. robots detonating bombs to take out snipers. honestly i wouldn’t want to be black in this country, when simple traffic stops can turn deadly. racial tensions are growing again like they often do. our country is founded on tensions. you could argue tension is what makes the whole thing tick. i’ve known my friend for a decade and maybe half that time we were incommunicado. at the cafe by the beach and facing the wind, he told me he thinks we have agreed about 87% of the time. i thought about that number while i sipped on my iced americano. no cream. no sugar. just water and finely ground coffee. he’s a banker and he’s always calculating. 87%. i’m not gonna argue. he’s probably somehow right. 88% of the time, he is.
You were my friend. You had reached out to me in January of this year, randomly, and I was so glad to hear from you, I don’t know why I did not follow the way to see if we could hook up for a moment in this life, one last time? Life gets chaotic and there’s nothing much you can do. Suddenly starts, suddenly ends, and gradually you realize you never know when. We can try, though, and that’s exactly what I forgot to do, about you. Jennifer Mendiola aka Alana Kane. I will miss your enduring smile. I cried very hard tonight when I discovered you sailed out on a Ghost Ship and never to return. The clock struck midnight and you and your lover, you were dancing, you were gone. I remember back in 2009 when I met you South of Market, San Francisco. We were counselors at a painful place. Sixteen beds for sixteen lost and homeless souls. I brought my desire to help. You brought your presence and your smile. We got along easily, though the work we had to do was hard and brutal. Just outside those double locked doors in this sanctuary city, people were driven to desperate intoxication and suicidal panic, and all the time. I could not believe you at first, I wondered how could you smile all day long like that? From dawn to 3pm when we got out. There were times I thought you must be faking it, I confess. All the methadone nods of sixteen souls all around us? The cutting scars and track marks? The lonely vacant stares, up and down the carpet stairs. But we knew we could make a small difference in a semi-safe space. Listen to them tell us their stories. Hold them if they cried. Teach them simple skills if they wanted to learn. Laugh like we were family, and for a time we were. Everything about it could be cold, day by day. Yet you smiled. I guess you had just recently been married around then, I didn’t really know or maybe I forgot. All I know is we worked well together and kept the place running, which was the best we could do with phones ringing, doors buzzing, and sixteen souls in need of something all the time. I really admired you. I knew I could trust you, you worked real hard and really cared. If I walked in the door and saw you, those early foggy San Francisco mornings, some of that tension, that burden a social worker experiences inside, fell off of me immediately. I could take my earbuds out, warm my hands with breath, take a deep breath and look to you. Talk to you. Get willing with you toward the day ahead of us. I will miss you my friend. I will think upon you when the work gets brutal, and try and smile through.