I spent a lot of time In San Francisco toward the end of my “juvenile delinquent” days. I could never appreciate it then, and would love to go back one day. Walk down Market Street, picnic in Golden Gate park, re visit Macy’s in Union Square and actually buy something, as opposed to staring longingly. I have nothing but lovely thoughts of San Francisco, I met some wonderful people there, great friends and people who changed my life. I’m starting the Juvenile Delinquent series with a story about San Francisco. Remember, these stories are in no particular order and follow no specific timeline. This story happens during my 1st visit to San Francisco, in late 1996 when I was 14 and a few months pregnant.
(Before my time.)
I hadn’t seen her before, she was not one of our crowd. There weren’t many girls in our crowd, I would’ve known her. She was much older than me, anyway. She was from somewhere else, a different area. Sean’s area, though not really. I think she was drunk or high, she swayed on her feet and was in my face almost immediately. She told me I had to go with her. They would take “care” of me. They would take care of me and my baby. I was naive. I had no idea what she meant. Go where? Who would take care of me? I was terrified and screamed for Sean. He had known what she wanted immediately, though and he was already there. He and the other boys, Anavrin, Powder and Levi, quickly got rid of her. She laughed hysterically as they shoved her along, screaming that she would be seeing me soon.
It would not be the last time a strung out prostitute would try and “recruit” me, though. A naive 14 year old girl was probably a tenderloin pimps wet dream, pregnant or not. Sometimes I would be tempted. Surely there would be money in it, right? But, these girls weren’t exactly poster girls for the profession and I was to scared to ever go with them. I like to think I wasn’t that stupid, either. I didn’t know what I was going to do about the baby, and I wasn’t doing a great job taking care of it already but… I knew I had to take care of it. Had to do better for it, and going to the dark place would be one of the worst things I could do.
I called Polk Street, SF’s old gay area before Castro got big, “the dark place” in my head after Sean took me through it once at night, on the way to Golden Gate park. It had scared me, the way he kept me very close to him, how he made me walk on the inside of the sidewalk. The strange men who leered at me, or made threatening faces or comments as I walked past. The girls did not come from Polk, of course, I think they were from elsewhere in the Tenderloin, closer to our area, (Market Street and Powell) but I never differentiated in my head, it was all “the dark place” to me and I wanted to stay the hell away from it.
In spring 1997, I went back to San Francisco and my friend Si went with me. I hadn’t known her long and I don’t remember why she had come to San Francisco with me, or even how we got there. When you’re homeless in San Francisco, the only person you are accountable to is yourself. Every day leads to something new, and you never know where you will end up at the end of the day. This sort of energy was amazing and Si loved it. She was as naive as I had been six month previous and was always looking for attention. She lived on it. She was always disappearing with new people and not turning up again for days. When I did see her, I tried to talk to her, get her to stay with me, but she didn’t want to hear it, wanted to do her own thing, and we argued. Toward the end, I remember thinking she was high and just… out of it every time I ran into her, and was fairly sure she was spending a lot of time deep in the Tenderloin. I guess selling herself was not something she cared much about avoiding, or maybe the girls that worked the area just got their claws into her in a way they hadn’t been able to with me. When I left San Francisco I felt sick at the thought of leaving her. I hadn’t seen her though, didn’t know where she was, and she was already lost to me by then anyway. She never would have agreed to come back with me. It makes me sad to think of her now, not knowing what happened to her after I left, I always hoped she made her way back home.
When I left San Francisco that time, it was the last time. I went home. Got a job, enrolled in school and had a baby a few months later. Another time, I will talk about the wonderful San Franscisco organization who helped runaways and pregnant teens and the wonderful lady I never met who donated the money for me to get on a bus and go home. I don’t know her name, but I’ve never forgotten her.