by Rachel B. Moore

You can’t stand still without feeling your equilibrium’s off. 

Blame everything: bright light, the wildfire smoke drifting over the city, the delighted shrieks of children at the daycare next door. 

You are convinced you can feel the world turn. The Richmond District constantly shifting underfoot. 

It happens in cars, too. No amount of Dramamine in the world will make a difference.

Take two pills before you leave the house anyway.

Later, drink a Coke with lemon until the world stops spinning.

You have to work it out. Your static pace of life is unsustainable now that the city’s taking down the plywood window covers, enticing tourists back with package deals.

Your shoes are old, soles worn out walking the city. North Beach to Baker Beach. Potrero Hill to the Richmond. 

Spend a pandemic year on foot, no public transit for 367 days. 

The Sunset Shoe Repair guys won’t resole them again. They say, “It’s time for new shoes.” 

Keep walking.

Your first time back on a bus, a train, you remember.

The rhythm of the starts and stops between stations and traffic lights. The hydraulic sound of doors opening and closing, the shudder of brakes. Squeal of tracks. The metallic heat of underground transit stations.

This is where you get your balance back, clutching the pole, your back against someone else’s elbow. Your feet planted like the ballerina you never became. While you look out the windows at your life’s landmarks, while you watch your fellow passengers go about their solitary pursuits, you hold back from crying. 

With relief. With love.

You need to touch everyone now. On Clement, you recognize Marc, who worked in your office building four years ago. Hug. 

Carmen, Terry, the owner of the German bakery. Miguel used to call it the Miss Rachel’s Neighborhood phenomenon. You rolled your eyes at him, but it is still true.

On a windswept afternoon at Geary and Masonic, you see a familiar face in a crowd of strangers. Call out to him, point, laugh. 

Embrace Leon, your favorite bus driver, who you haven’t seen in almost three years. 

“I’ve been looking for you,” he says. “On the 22, then the 5, now I’m doing Chinatown.”

“I’ve been looking for you, too,” you reply. No two people ever smile wider.

You walk to a bus four days a week now. Your old routine, abbreviated. It’s quieter than it used to be. The same delivery guy toting sacks of flour and sugar to the bakery. He tells you he just adopted a baby girl, Angel, cause she’s his little angel.

The elderly homeless woman you always worry about is still on her corner, washing her feet with bottled water before she gets out her broom and sweeps it down into the storm drain. 

Spring mornings, families of newly fledged pigeons everywhere. They pull stale bread from compost bins and fling it to the sidewalk. Their feet are bright red, wrinkly, and perfect. 

They weave down the sidewalk and you barely avoid stepping on them. 

They haven’t learned to be afraid of people yet.

The rest of the time gulls and the crows own the street. The gulls swoop down from rooftops and raid the trash outside the fish market. The crows gather in twos and threes and gossip for a while. You walk by and they stop what they’re doing, like suspicious townspeople in an old western movie. 

You know they already know everything.

Rachel B. Moore earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University in 2012. Her recent work can be found in The Stonecoast Review, Peatsmoke Journal, MIDLVLMAG. Rachel’s literary obsessions include disappearances of all kinds, missing people, and urban nature. She lives and works in San Francisco, California.

SLAG GLASS CITY • Volume 10 • May 2024
Header image by Dimitris Spathis.