It’s been nine months since the fire.
Every day, I read things online about the sorry state of Oakland: the police scandals, the broken roads, the housing crisis, the fires, the gung ho gentrification that leaves poor communities in the dirt and also out of Oakland. Every day, I read things online about the sorry state of America: presidential gaffes, Russian ties, health care repeal. Every day, I’m online and I see my friends posting about their pain: the racism, the homelessness, the poverty, the transphobia, the misogyny, the fact that resistance fighting is now being labelled as terrorism.
Things have not gotten better. My hope is fading. There is something inside me that is whispering quietly, “Run away! Get out of here!” That voice is getting louder every day.
I am living in a world that is divided. We were not always like this. I remember being filled with hope at the Occupy Oakland rallies. I remember thinking things were going to get better when Black Lives Matter became active. I remember showing my support for antifa and anti-nazi protestors who held claim to their land. Now? Now all those organizations are defunct in some way due to government policing (or murder) and having been labelled terrorists.
I wonder where we go from here. Or, more importantly, where do I go? Where have my people gone? Why is everyone I know still here but things feel so … icy.
This city used to buzz with the electricity of everyone here doing so many things. Now it just weeps. This city is haunted by a demon with no name, a slippery demon that cannot be pinned down and throat slit.
We are being swarmed by interlopers. We haven fallen victim to our own dogmatism in the hopes of salvation. We attack online and then there are no results. We see so clearly now that politicians are determining our lives for us, in the name of saving us. We are not being saved. There is no salvation.
I would really like to leave. My endurance for misery is depleted. I don’t have any new ideas. I have run out of hope. I am seeking desperately for something or someone to save me. You could sell me a slice of hope for everything I own, and I would take it, because that’s all I want right now. It’s what I need in order to keep going: a sense that things can and will get better. That I have the power to fix something. That I can be less afraid for at least one moment in order to find the strength to look within myself and figure out what it is that we all need in order to get better.
For the first time in my life, I’m out of ideas. I have no clue what it’s going to take for this to get better. The only solution I see is that our generation in this moment fades to the background and someone new who has been less hurt suggests something that works. We can wait for the next election cycle. We can wait for the holes in our heart to scab over and heal. We can wait to grow old so that we can be less bothered by the blistering reality of the world out there.
I want to feel at home again. That, more than anything. Like I belong somewhere, or with someone. That I am making the right choices. That I am being brave. Bravery feels like foolishness for the sake of social media attention. That’s not what I want. I want the tired in the eyes of the people I see every day to be replaced with the joy and optimism that used to be there. I want to turn back time. I want to be anywhere but here. But I am here, so now what?
I have never felt this way in my life before, this communal depression that isn’t being acknowledged or treated. We don’t even talk about the fire anymore. We try to act like it never happened, but that isn’t helping. It is hard to try to treat myself, but as soon as I go out to be with other people, I see that they suffer from the same sadness that I just can’t kick. It has always been easy for me to find solutions. I do not know how to save an entire city. I can barely save myself.
People talk about the opioid epidemic that is devastating communities in rural parts of the country. I barely care about that. Their demon has a name and a solution. Our demon is a slow and creeping monster that gets fatter every month, but to everyone else our monster is called progress. I don’t want progress. I want a home.
The main reason I stayed in Oakland for so long was because of the people – they were always so scintillating and beautiful, in this wonderful weather, and unlike anyone else, anywhere else. But the people here have lost their sparkle, and they are leaving, and they are being replaced by people whom I do not care to get to know. If the people here are no longer wonderful, then what am I doing here?
It might be nicer to go to a new city. I’ll be honest: part of it is I know too many men who have sexually assaulted or abused the women in this city. Just: wow. We formed a community and started talking about how much we suffer, and, holy shit, so many of you are on that list. It’s hard to go out and see these men and know what they have done. To all of us. To me. To my friends. I watch them go out and succeed, and they do not suffer the way that we suffer.
There is so much suffering here.
I guess I can sit here and wait to be swept out to sea with the tides of irrelevance. I would like to not matter at all anymore. I would like to be compliant with the status quo. I would like anything other than this right now.