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San Francisco Story


Theresa Allen

Part 1

I walk to Market Street at midnight to catch the "F Market" train. Nightly. I meet panhandlers, beggars at the stop on the island in the middle of the Street. I endure the half-baked spins, pleas. I become numb to the verbal assaults and spits that follow my rejection. I am at a space, at this very second in time, where I am bored with the game. It's all a game. It's not a very interesting game.

I approach the train stop. I am alone briefly. Then a lone man dressed in army surplus rags strolls up to me. He asks for money. I am tired of this game too. I think it is so predictable. I am bored. I am bored with my standard reply, "No, no money to spare." I am bored with work, love, life. It is all a very itinerant game with no reward for my cooperation. I decide to rebel.

I say, "Signomi, ma then milo Anglika kai then se katalavaino." Greek for "I am sorry, but I don't speak English and I don't understand you." The expected uncomprehending look of massive confusion washes over his face. I am pleased. For the moment, I am not bored. Then, something unexpected happens.

A look of comprehension lights. Gradually, a smile spreads over his hungry, sun burned lips. I ask myself, "what are the chances that this person speaks Greek?" I am stymied. I cannot believe my bad luck at using Greek on the only homeless person in the whole United States who speaks Greek. Tense. Mute.

He says, "Yo hablo Espanol!"

Yes, you do. I am off the hook, on the hook. I look blank and dumb. I hug my purse tight. I stand there. Mute.

He hand gestures. "Espanol!" Thunder, as though I were suffering from a hearing problem, not a faux language problem. "Espanol!" Thunder. I am sure that egrets on the Farallones can hear him.


His hands wave around like arms on a windmill. I stand back half a foot to avoid those loose windmills.

Suddenly, one of the windmills flies forward, grabs the strap of my purse down off of my shoulder to my elbow. Dulcinea in chains.

"Money-o!" Don Quixote yells.

Where are you, Sancho Panza?

Don pulls on the strap trying to reveal the contents of the US Mint under my jacket.

"Money-o!" Don points his index finger. Don releases the strap, points the same index finger into the palm of the hand that held the strap prisoner.

"Money-o!" Don repeats his windmill mantra. "Money-o!"

The train pulls up to the island. I jump on and leave the multilingual Quixote on the island alone to rant. I dump a dollar's worth of pennies into the fare box. I laugh all the way down Market. Dulcinea escapes.

Part II

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