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A BIKE ODYSSEY,
or,
ARABELLA'S ARTIFACT

Dreamed 94/7/24 by Chris Wayan


THAT DAY

Beautiful day. I pack a lunch and bike across San Francisco. A date with the artist inside me. I'll just wander free, and see what I see.

A cute woman at a garage sale down our block sits among furniture. I imagine saying "Are YOU available? Please come live with me." Spin into fantasies about used girlfriends sold cheap at yard sales. A sex slave? But I notice I have to treat her nicely, even in fantasy. The peak of the fantasy is the moment when roles dissolve and love (or at least generosity) bursts out. Straight outa romance novels!

Bike down Mission a few blocks. Traffic's heavy, though it's Sunday. I nearly get hit by a big tattooed jerk in a convertible. Scares and angers me. Get off Mission and take a back street for safety. At the next corner, I'm in crosswalk when two vatos booming their stereo see me, make eye contact, deliberately gun their motor and turn, nearly hitting me--stop only at the last instant. They stall their motor! Poetic justice.

I HATE the Mission. The only part of town where men hassle me.

Pass a cute Latina in tight black jeans and a white tank, with wild Cher hair. Find a quiet back alley. North a mile. No one interesting at all--except if you're Goya or Da Vinci--I know derelicts have character, but they're no fun for me. To my eye, cartoon grotesques are everywhere, a dime a dozen. I think the way I see has to do with being a child prodigy. What excites me is harmony expressiveness and brains--all rare on American streets. Maybe rare anywhere, anywhen.

Pass the Women's Building with its gigantic golden murals. They're working on the side now. One of the artists is up on the scaffold.

Pass Mission High. Guys slouching around the park. I have to play a street-crazy in a video this Friday and I ought to study them, but I don't want to. They scare me. On corner, a gang of high school kids, half girls half boys, crosses deliberately on the red light. Cars honk angrily. One girl's sexy even as she sneers. (And sneers normally turn me off! Is that why I don't like Elvis? Because usually when I saw a teenager sneering at me they weren't defying some authority, they were sneering at ME.)

I zigzag northwest thru the Castro. In Duboce Triangle, a woman comes out her door and I stare--long long naked legs. She sees me looking and beams at me. I'm flooded with delight and beam right back.

Duboce Park is filled with dog-owners. Very doggy dog-owners.

Lower Haight. Two couples walk by, I look at one woman, sexy body but a spoiled combative face, then notice her boyfriend sees me watching her, and I panic, he'll hit me for my impertinence. He nods "Hi!" quite amiably as if he's pleased to noticed--I'm cool, I'm one of the fabled weird people of the Haight. I ride on amazed at how my childhood brainwashing persists in the face of so much disproof.

North on Divisadero. Narrow sidewalk, grubby, traffic. But it's a pass between two hills, so I stick with it. Guy selling junk, excuse me antiques, on the sidewalk. Hmmm... if I want to be an acrylic painter, I could get framed canvases really cheap and paint over them!

Pass half a block of firetrucks and cop cars, flashing. Horde of gawkers, but I see nothing.

Head north past Geary, three more blocks to Pacific Heights. Not far from my therapist's office now. Everything's clean up here in the rich zone. Tall blondes look in shop windows. Beautiful (smart, harmonious, expressive) girls walk by, ten for every one in the Mission. If I lived here, I'd meet some. Of course isolating myself behind the barrier of the Mission is a way to keep from having to face the pain of feeling sexually wrong and hopeless.

Past the house where the twelve-step Anorexia Group meets. I want to go again--not because I'm undereating again, they were just so cute. "But with problems" I remind myself. So? Who doesn't have problems?

Past the Jewish Community Center. Almost stop and go in to see the new mural--a friend of mine painted it. North, climbing, breathing hard, hot from the effort. 300 feet up now.

Over the top. Below, the Bay, Angel Island, Golden Gate Bridge, a big container ship slipping in. I zoom down sharply to Kahn Playground at the edge of the Presidio. Stone wall. Seven huge dogs burst through the gate. A willowy little black teenage girl lets her mom herd the dogs onward--she heads for the playground. I follow, but it's all in the searing sun. I head into pine-shade. The slope's all sand. Walk my bike, still hard going. NW across the hillface. Boys hiding behind a tree eye me. I pass them. Walking away, my bike wheel tosses something up, and I flinch. Thought the boys were throwing things at me, as they did when I was nine.

Down into a little valley, flowers, water underground. Lift my bike over branches, thorns. Climb a hill, hot and dry. Sign says erosion control, don't go further. I turn away west.

Sudden fantasy I'm an alien dog-lion-person; my species disliked for being sexually pushy and promiscuous. And I have to convince a human woman that I'm still worth loving, trusting. But then, this isn't a fantasy exactly--just a metaphor for my real perception of men.

Come to a high saddle, with a level winding road heading north. Follow it impulsively. Views north and east, deep woods. Bikers, but few cars. Stick to the heights. Road winds thru housing, neat, spare, few personal touches. See a lot of the residents, out in their yards... and they're the same! These families who must move out soon as the Presidio reverts to civilian control at last... who are they? I record this for future generations: the auras of the military people I saw showed no evil, nor any great discipline--just a lack of imagination. Was that what nearly destroyed the world?

Wind thru houses, along the ridge, over the Tunnel, west to the drop-off. I climb to the peak--a YMCA camp hidden in grove. Christians and the Army, it figures. No view here, so I return to the road and find a lookout to the north. See Mt Tam and the lighthouse and Pt Reyes, faintly, two counties off. China Beach, cliffs with gunmetal green water under them, all the rest silver, backlit.

Down, down down. A big hospital, inexplicably mothballed.

Lake St Park. Swans on a lake. Exercise stations ignored by old Russians everywhere, gabbing on benches. Signs NO BIKES so I walk mine. Others ride around, blithely ignoring the signs. Three bikers pass--one a pale freckly 20 year old who is actually too thin for me! I was starting to think that even with my eating normalized, I'm so skinny that NO ONE could look too thin to me--anorexic distortion. Wrong. And I AM still a bit anorexic: planned to eat lunch here, but I'm too hot and not hungry. Cool off for a while, walking walking gently through the park... do a few stomach curls at one exercise station. At next, chin-up bars, try, though I still can't quite do one (I tried at the gym).

I do one.

Walk on, amazed. Find water, drink gratefully. Dog trainers. Black hound with her nose in a gopher hole--forms an amazing shape, deep chest and wasp waist, haunches high and wiggling with excitement. All S-curves and spirals. Realize she too looks sexy--I don't just want to paint her shape, I'm actually turned on. By a black dog digging. Go figure.

Three youths enter the park. One is a tall slender blonde in a gauze minidress. I shiver with pleasure looking at her. And sadness as my training walks me away. Go round a loop where I can look at them once more. She looks nothing like Andi from my dance class (who I had a major crush on for a year) but I get the same feeling from her, the same aura--like a little kid dressing up sexy, who just happens to have an adult body too... Wonderful effect.

Then I notice she's smoking. Nearly taste the bitter smell in my mouth, though the wind's the other way. Andi smoked too. Drugs are a part of that playing with grownup things--like Mommy's lipstick, only the animal testing is us, we're the guinea pigs.

Bike on, across the Richmond, toward Golden Gate Park, an uneventful mile. Pleasant but unexciting area--except for Clement. Nearly hunt for Green Apple Books or the giant toy store, but it's Sunday--probably shut anyway.

Golden Gate Park. A biker gang having Sunday barbecue in the chess pavilion. Their dogs ignore humans but go after a leashed dog--huge roar from all the picknickers as they scold their dogs in unison, like a demented Dr Seuss story.

Dozens of skaters swirl around the Crystal Palace, happily ignoring the NO SKATING signs. One tall thin beautiful girl after another. But skates do flatter the figure--like high heels--no one looks worse on skates.

Do they?

They WERE all tall and thin, that group. Several as thin as me. Yet they were beautiful. Maybe that means I don't look as pathologically thin as I think. Or maybe I do and similar women don't--double standard. Well, wait--dimorphism is real, my frame IS bigger, the same weight IS bonier on me, and denotes real emaciation. But this still makes me realize I don't have a clue what weight I need to be healthy. Though that isn't necessarily same as LOOKING healthy, let alone attractive. And I don't know what's attainable anyway. Not much more, not easily. Getting up to 125-130 was okay, but it's a struggle past 130 or 135 lbs. Not psychological--my body just rebels.

Look for a place to stop and eat. Afraid I'll get ticketed for my bike though I'm walking not riding it... Know the fear's silly, as swarms of active lawbreakers go by... yet I walk on past the crowded lawns where I'd like to sit and watch people, past the jugglers' and hacky-sackers' green (still mostly guys, all the women sit on the side eating, watching the performances). I don't want to stop there, it smells of piss. The only place since the Mission that has. Ugh. Find a bench, sit alone, rest and eat, feeling quietly sad. Defeated by shyness and fear.

On toward the Haight. A wheelchair man wanders across Stanyan Street, having trouble coordinating. No one helps. I don't want to go near him either, his eyes have a hard animal distance--doesn't expect decency anymore and his glare guarantees his privacy in hell. Welcome to the Haight. A police car pulled over two teenage girls in a VW bug on the corner. Of course that's more important than a guy in a wheelchair trapped in traffic.

Walk the length of the Haight. I feel tired and gloomy (because I gave in to fear, didn't eat where I wanted?) and the Haight seems seamy. Almost everyone a repulsive cartoon. No, not everyone. Slight girl with black hair, intelligent eyes big as a lemur's on her small ballerina face. Locking up a sewing shop with a friend, sees me admiring her, smiles warmly. Hear her murmur something about me to her friend... as the robot in my hips keeps me marching mindlessly on.

A spacy teenager near Double Rainbow offers her left-over ice cream to two guys. She sounds drugged. I can't tell if she knows them--they don't act like friends OR strangers. Lots of beggars and bad musicians for a block or two. Resign myself--it's my mood that determines how I see people. After acting I was high. Now I'm down. And then I'm proven wrong.

At the corner of Haight and Ashbury, three fifteen year olds huddle under the famous sign. Two of them are exquisite--sly sloe eyes blinking sidelong at all of us, full little lips with archaic smiles. I almost cry out when I see them--for the first time my automatic walker almost falters. But they ignore me. If one looked me in the eye I might really have spoken. They don't.

I walk by. Turn and look behind, embarrassed to stare, unable to help myself. The two with the soft wet animal gaze are leaning into each other, rubbing like lovers. With the third. Who has no such aura. Same general age, look, complexion--but it's not in her eyes. Just the two. I can't see why. But she doesn't have it. And she tells me--it's not my mood. I may not be reacting to what others do, but whatever it is is not just my own mood. And if it's not there--

Lemon-silver-crewcut, aloof, with tattoos, a triangular short skirt and power-shoulder jacket. She stalks along in boots, clearly a captain (at least) in some star-navy 1000 years from now. Or the Eurythmics.

Grocery near the anarchist bookstore. Three women, lithe tall and sloppy, like absent-minded otters, emerge and lug a big wobbly bag of food home together, slinging it by the corners. For a moment I see it as fresh-caught and still squirming, their motions are so animalistic.

I stare a long time at the school tile-mural where I acted on Friday in a video my friends are making. Quite a pretty mural, a local treasure. And of course scribbled on, smeared with garbage, pissed on, food and paper plates all over.

My left knee is getting sore. Mustn't walk much more.

Woman in splendid brocade like a Botticelli blonde (with a Barbie nose) ducks into a bangle and bead store, emerges to parallel my path for several blocks in front of Buena Vista Park. Bustop. About six teenage hippie girls sit playing with yarn, waiting for the bus. One of the six has whatever it is, and five don't. I get all shy squeezing past the bus shelter by her. A truck goes by and the girls whistle and cheer. I look up puzzled. The SF Mime Troupe truck. Going home after a show in the park?

Bike home the rest of the way--zooming past my friend Li's house, past a woman with wonderful auburn-purple hair, back past Mission High School, past a guy in suit and tie with cerebral palsy, back into the Mission's dangerous traffic and stinking streets. Abuelas, cripples, drunks. And laughter floating out a window. Not all bad.

A boy with his arm protectively (possessively) round a girl with long legs, short pelvis, tiny waist, delicate arms, big black dome of hair, shimmering. Bangs. Thinner than me yet looks gorgeous where that biker-girl in Lake Park looked disturbing--sunken? Asexual? It's not just weight. Energy.

Home, tired sore. Did too much. But a change from days of no exercise. Do yoga, and go to sleep.

THAT NIGHT

I'm riding a bike through Berkeley, holding a strange gray metal mesh bracelet or gorget. The metal isn't aluminum or steel or silver or platinum. What is it? An alien device, but what? I MUST find out what it does.

Who would know? I remember a dance teacher I had once a long time ago, a mile or two north. Saw a recent ad--still teaching. He would know. I just have to get there. I start out on my bike. Forgot to bring his ad. My memory will have to do. Hills rise to the east on my right, sending ridges out in front of me. I recall figuring out the best route in a long dream I had years ago. Follow the promptings of the old dream. They lead me up an alley... into someone's house where a party's going on! I bike through the crowd--"Excuse me"--to a back window onto an alley. Lift the bike down. The alley leads into another skirting a ridge. This all feels right. Now it narrows and becomes a hall leading to a theater lobby. I'm confused though my dream says "you've been here before, the path is here." But it turns into a stage! Live theatre. I back up, look for another way out. Now the lobby is a laboratory--the Lawrence Hall of Science? The zigzag wheelchair ramp sparks a memory. Leads outside to a balcony and... the fire escape! Yes, this looks familiar. Down... Leave the bike--I WAS on foot the other time, I think.

At least four flights down until I hang ten feet above a wire mesh cage in a playground, with a rubber mat below me. Drop to the ground and squat in the cage, catching my breath.

Up walks the man I was hoping to see, Chris DeWitt. My old dream led right to him!

"I have an alien artifact."

"Uh huh.." He's polite but skeptical. I reach to show him... and it's gone. I lost it! I had it in the lobby upstairs, so it has to be on the fire escape. I explain all this while he starts explaining it away very plausibly as a dream or vision expressing some emotional need...

My old dream pokes me again. Magnetism. What? Something about magnetism and the aliens. I tune Chris out and look around for a magnet. We're in his lab now, a big garage with a fridge--yes! Fridge magnets. I grab a couple. "Do you have a power tool I can borrow--no matter what, just something with spinning metal?" "Yes" he says, "but--" I grab a horseshoe magnet on a workbench and say "Never mind!" I wave and twirl the magnets around in front of me--and Chris DeWitt backs away wincing! He can't tolerate even a weakly fluctuating magnetic field.

He's an alien impersonating Chris! No wonder he tried to convince me I was crazy.

Whoops! Now everything's changed.

Do I still have the artifact? Yes, thank God!

But we're on a yacht now, sailing into a marina in Southern California--Venice Beach? And now I'm a young English woman named Arabella, the black sheep of my aristocratic family. Paid a modest stipend to keep my mouth shut about incest and sexual abuse--I was repeatedly molested by my mom's titled, Central European lover, who was a drunk. As long as I stay out of England and cause no scandal, I get my allowance... I'm still psychologically fragile--brittle charm, desperate smiles.

I do have a Handsome Boyfriend now, who really does like me, knows my history, has been a great help. He listens with a grin as I list all the terrible dangers around us, as we sail into harbor on a sunny day: hidden reefs, collisions with freighters, terrorist bombings... on and on, all the fears my past has taught me to guard against. En masse, they're paralyzing. But as I sarcastically list them all, making fun of their sheer numbers, the fears look silly and lose power over me... at least for the moment.

Hmm. I AM making progress.

And I HAVE successfully guarded the alien artifact. Did I mention it now looks like a degenerate Central European Count? Yep. That one. He wears a monocle and talks through his nose, but he's still the Artifact all right.

We tolerate him as a hanger-on, the sort that gravitates to heiresses... but we really have no use at all for the Alien Artifact.

NEXT MORNING
Acknowledgment makes sense. I spent all day trying to admit the desire I felt for all those girls on the road, in the park... and to admit it's not beauty alone that attracts me, but some kind of aura or energy. I'd rather have a dog with it than a woman without it.

My dad inside wants to deny it. But it's true. Face it. My sexual orientation isn't toward women, or men, or both, or neither, or pain or exhibitionism or kids or shoes or anything. Not any... thing.

My sexual orientation is toward some kind of energy I can't even name.

Maybe I'd better learn to.



LISTS AND LINKS: Only in San Francisco - landscapes - bikes - anorexia - aliens - I'm Just Not Myself Today - cross-gender dreams - healing from abuse - dream advice - psychic dreams

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