I started the morning of the first day easy. Wasn't feeling nervous at all. I was actually feeling quite confident and ready to start. I met up with the rest of the group, the Faithful Fools, and we did a little opening ceremony. The second we broke off I knew exactly where I was going to go first to start off my week. I walked to St. Mary's Cathedral, the main Catholic Cathedral in San Francisco; if it sounds familiar it's because they got caught pouring water on people sleeping in their alcoves at night. The Cathedral is not as big inside as it seems outside, but still pretty big; and it is extremely fancy inside. I'm sure most people would describe it as beautiful and amazing but I can't bring myself to describe it that way. I can't do it because there is an actual beautiful and amazing church, filled with a hundred people getting rest, a couple of blocks away. After sitting in the Cathedral for a bit I headed out to the heart of the Tenderloin. I ate lunch at St. Anthony's and hung out at Gubbio until it closed. At 3:30 pm that Friday my comfort ended and the fear began.
When I am in the Tenderloin I am volunteering. I am never there just to be there. First thing on the agenda is to meet with the Fools for our evening reflection. In reflection we talked about having a mentality of wanting to do this street retreat "right". I share that I am struggling to put into words why I decided to do this retreat; resulting in me having a hard time figuring out what I want to get out of it. After our gathering we all walked to the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist for a show and dinner they host every fourth Friday of the month. It was a little far but the food and community was great.
|Episcopal Church of Saint John the Evangelist|
It was raining on our walk back. Now we had the challenge of not only finding cardboard to lay on but finding dry cardboard. I kept telling myself that it was going to stop raining by the time we got to the UU Church. We arrived at the Church at 8:30 pm and began getting ready to sleep; still hadn't stopped raining. I put all my stuff in garbage bags so it wouldn't get wet and got into my sleeping bag. I got as close to the building as possible and prayed for the rain to stop. I am as ready as I can be to go to sleep but it is impossible. I was incredibly uncomfortable. I used a couple of books as a pillow so my head wasn't on the concrete. The lights above me were strong enough to power through my closed eyelids. I had to keep alternating from suffocating inside my sleeping bag to getting my face wet on the outside. Every position I try laying down, on my side, on my back, on my stomach, is painful. I realized early on that I was going to have to wait for the pain to turn into numbness and then try not to move again to be able to get any sleep. Finally, I give up on trying to fall asleep and accept that I have to lay there awake until I can't anymore.
Early in the morning, maybe like 4:00 am, a strange noise woke me up. Finally it had stopped raining. I opened my eyes and saw a man bending over, his face right in front of mine. He grunted something that I didn't understand; I'm staring at him trying to figure out what is going on. After a couple of seconds he took out his pipe and smoked the remainder of his crack. I realized he was high and didn't think much about it. I've seen and dealt with my fair share of people that are high. He stands near me for a couple of minutes waiting for the rest of his high to kick in and then crosses the street.
I fall back asleep.