Snap Shot in Time: Cold and Alone


It was cold that night. Like most nights in San Francisco the cold fog rolls in just a few hours before dusk, the fog sticks as if attracted like a magnet to steel. As darkness dropped the night seemed colder then most, maybe it was or maybe it was the overwhelming despair of being 16 and not knowing what to do or where to go, regardless it was wet – it was cold.

The straps of my backpack stuffed with all I had in the world cut into my shoulders as I threaded down the empty gray sidewalks of the city in tattered department store sneakers that failed to warm my feet. As gray faded to black I walked passing homes whose windows illuminated with the warmth of light or danced with flickers of light from a television. I thought how nice it would be to sit in their warmth as the sound of my steps echoed in the corridor created by the houses each butted next to each other.

The walk was long but I hardly noticed; my brain was numb no longer wanting to think about why I was in the streets alone; I was just tired. Just ahead I could see the seawall and hear the crashing of the wave’s against the shore at Ocean Beach, home for at least tonight. At the base of the stairs, mostly covered now in sand from years of the oceans rise and retreat, I found a place against the wall facing the ocean and sat using my backpack as a barrier between my body and the cold concrete.

I was not alone, strange people wander the beach at night and eerie sound of the bays foghorn blowing in the distance didn’t help, I was scared to sleep for fear of what one of these people living in the shadows might try, but I tired with sort of one eye open. As the night went on the cold night air seemed to rip though my jacket and the layers of cloths I put on to try and stay warm. The shivering became uncontrollable so I abandoned my spot on the beach and wandered back out on the streets looking for shelter. As I walked I spotted a Laundromat, the kind that was coin operated and open all night. No one was there so I found a corner out of view of the windows and sat on the floor leaning sideways against my backpack; I was good to be warm. I woke to an angry Chinese guy kicking my leg telling me to get out. I was morning and like the day prior it simply started again.


I struggled tying to decide if I should post this snap shot in time from my life. But I decided I needed it out. I don’t even know what to say about it. I guess I should start another blog for these type of posts.

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7 Responses to Snap Shot in Time: Cold and Alone

  1. my26pointtwo says:

    All I can feel is empathy for the 16 year old you and the many others still in this position today. The fear and hopelessness they must experience being caught in an endless cycle of survival day to day is heart breaking. I am sure the reasons many end up in this position are varied and numerous. I hope you can one day share how you manage to break free from this extremely tough period of your life and reach the point where you are now as a wonderful father, husband, friend and runner. But is is your story and only you should choose when the time is right and how you choose to share it.

    • usabaker says:

      This is one of those memories that unexpectedly came rushing back in to my life; I’d forgotten this week in my life or perhaps I’d just suppressed it. I think it was dredged up my the loss of my uncle that I was just recently reunited with; I wrote about it on my love and regret post.

      I was lucky this time as my grandfather found and pulled me from the streets. But it would in the end turn out to be but a short reprieve; the worse was yet to come not much further in time.

      The reasons are not varied, rather its quite simple, my mother – was not one at all. She makes no qualms about her hatred of men, for which I became the vessel into which to express it because I was a he not a she. I’m older now and understand that she had/has mental problems and the reasons she took regular visits to the physiologist.

      In a funny way I’m thankful I was expelled the second time to the street because I formed who I am today.

      I know the natural question people have is why I didn’t go live with my father, grand parents or other family. This has much to do with what she said to me when she kicked me out the door, the fact I’ve been fiercely independent since a young age – I never had much of a childhood, I didn’t want to burden others and I couldn’t go to my fathers house because of my step-mother. I found out sometime latter my dad, grandfather and other aunties tried to find me but I had become a ghost, I didn’t want to be found.

      Besides the second time on the streets though still hard was more tolerable because I worked at a petrol station and had a car to live in; that is until I got pneumonia.

      • my26pointtwo says:

        Must be tough to share. One of the main things I take from this is that everything that happened to you then, helped in some way for you to arrive at where you are now.
        My belief is that remembering and understanding is important as past events and behaviours are part of the overall fabric of who we are. But they are not who we are at this point in time and only control us if we let them. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Gareth says:

    Sounds like youve come a long way. Thanks for posting

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