Taking the 22 Fillmore bus – I can still remember hearing Too $hort being played from the back with kid wearing SF Giant Ball cap with Rhinestones laid over the logo. Those buses were filled with silence as all of the SF buses were back then. The cables attached to the back ran on electric wires that stretched through the city. When we stopped, there were no sounds of engines, only the people stirring about and the music going from those little boxes. There was no stereo sound, which is why I think that Rap music from the Bay area has that distinct tin sound.
I got home and saw the Goat faced boy standing in front of the building balancing his time between standing under the clam shell awning and stepping out into the sunshine to look up and down the block. He didn’t notice me until I was next to him.
“Hey,” he said, seeming to be spooked for a second before he started his looking again. “You going upstairs?”
“Sure,” I told him. “You waiting for somebody?”
He didn’t answer, but looked up to the window of our building and waved his head no at his girl (I need to get a name for her!), until she pointed a man walking up the steep incline that I had just walked from. The goat faced boy ran up to him and I headed upstairs. Carolina was dressed for work and cooking something in the kitchen, but when I walked over to see a little closer, she seemed to be half asleep and just moving an empty pan back and forth over the flame. I reached in and turned it off.
“Thanks,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to just get going. I’m pretty hungry though. Have you eaten?”
“Not yet,” I said.
“Tell you what – if you go to the store, I’ll pay for everything and then we can have a feast – how’s that sound?”
She reached into her leather pants and pulled out a wad of hundreds and peeled me off one.
“Just get whatever you think you can cook okay,” she said, slumping into the kitchen chair and flipping her hair like a high school girl would, exposing her white face and newly polished fangs. “Keep whatever’s leftover for yourself. I know we’ve been eating a bunch of your food. Okay?”
I figured why not – I loved to cook anyway and I knew I could shop for some good stuff and pocket some of the cash for the rest of the night. Extra money in my pocket for me meant that I’d be able to take a girl out . I passed the goat faced boy who was bouncing up the stairs with his fists tightly clenched. His smile was wide.
Outside, up the street, and to the market out on Fillmore. Now this is what’s strange about San Francisco – is that the rows of Victorian houses gave way to projects very quickly and a row of streets that never appeared at all in a postcard. Back then I didn’t think much of it because I was living in it, but now, as I write this up in Harlem, so many years later, where areas are separated out as well, it makes me think that there had to be some type of plan for this.
I went up and down the aisles of the market not even looking at prices – buying cheeses, eggs, the nice coffee with the label, loaf of bread – everything I wanted. That’s how you know if you have money: If you go to the market and don’t check prices at all.
Walking back up the block, away from Fillmore and up McCalister again, I struggled with the weight of everything I’d bought but had my mind occupied with what I was about to cook. On my way back upstairs, the tweaker techno DJ from downstairs poked his head through his door.
“What you getting into?” he blurted out.
“About to cook a feast,” I told him proudly. “Want to join?”
“Food? No – I’m good. I’m good.”
He slammed the door and went back inside, and I started up the stairs.
I found my roommates all sitting at the kitchen table, very relaxed and listening to my A Tribe Called Quest CD. The second one. They were bopping their heads and seemed to be into the music.
“I’ll cook,” I told them.
I remember now that the kitchen was giant and I had plenty of room to spread out what I’d just bought. I chopped, buttered and laid it all down. The fresh basil and garlic I had bought As the base of the eggs started to fill the house. What was usually a dark place now turned a bit lighter – I think it was the first time we’d all hung out in a long time. They were just in their moment and I was in mine. By the time Scenario came on I was finished.
I presented all of them with their plates, put the toast in the middle of the table, hit the replay button on the CD, and the feast was on. I must have been hungrier than all of them because I was devouring my meal, while they all ate slow and stared in different directions. Now I didn’t grow up with a big family so sitting at a table with a big group of people was fun for me – it was like in the movies where everyone shares their stories and sets up their day.
Florence turned to me and smiled, revealing a piece of basil on her fangs. “Thank you so much for doing this. We made the right choice.”
Carolina motioned to remove the piece of food.
“We should tell him,” she said. “He cooked us this meal. It’s only right.”
“I hope he doesn’t freak out, the goat faced boy said, shoving the eggs into his toothpick body. “I’m not sure he’s ready.”
I wasn’t ready, but they told my anyway.