I fantasize about leaving.
I picture storybook villages in the English countryside, trying to push away my own memories of small-town drama, boredom, and depression from when I lived in the mountains of Colorado that threaten to choke the very life out of my ideas.
I imagine idyllic train rides from Munich to the Alps, miles of green parks in the Netherlands, open invitations to wander, to be lost, to be not sure. Drinking beer on the streets. Owning dogs. Being able to get by on working very little and writing all the time. Free college education, cheap healthcare. I imagine a sunny studio apartment, trying to ignore the paranoia and agoraphobia that sets in when I live alone, the curtains that will remain closed no matter how romantic the view. Trying to pretend I am different from how I really am, that I can handle it, that I would be alright if only the scenery were.
I think about taking buses and trains that come when they are supposed to, like clockwork to appease my neurotic inability to handle being late, about passengers that mind their own business and about walking down streets where I am invisible, free to observe and stare and lurk and absorb as much as I want. I think about becoming a sponge, being as vulnerable as I feel but being safe.
In my fantasy there will be no syringes on the sidewalk, no piles of garbage that the city doesn’t care about, no psychotic screams in the middle of the night, no shootings, no picking up a newspaper from a doorway to learn too late that it is there to cover a pile of human shit. Nobody gets stabbed with blunt scissors outside the back gate of my place of work, no clusters of men hover drunk and high on the sidewalk, humming like a beehive and berating me for not smiling at them while I know what weapons they carry because I have seen them use them on each other. They call out my every move. “Touching your hair, eh?” “Ignoring us, are you?” I am painfully visible.
I have a shamefully stereotypical and immature European fantasy in which I live out my days in parks and cafes, where there is room to be stuck in my mind all the time, where there are plenty of others doing the same thing and we are safe. I know the reality, and I know that I can’t escape from it anywhere. Europe is not a perfect continent, it is as traumatized as we are here. So it becomes easier to think the problem is the Bay Area, and that while America is completely fucked up, I may not be as far from something less stressful as I like to think.
I dream about moving to Germany because the diorama I have built in my mind fits into the rigid molds of my neuroses and negates the realities and unpredictabilities of urban life. It is the Christmas village that I helped my mom set out every holiday season, unboxing each individual building, the grocer, the baker, the smithy, the train station. Always a way in, always a way out, and everything has its place. Still, though, I know there are places that would be better for me than the Bay Area right now, easier, less expensive, safer, less intense. We are on the precipice of collapse, geologically, economically and socially, and I feel it every minute.
I walk around with anger and irritation the only things propelling me forward, forcing my one foot in front of the other. I am not constructed to exist here. I wish I could handle it, but I can’t, and yet I do. I walk down the street imagining a mountain lion on my right and a tiger on my left, both baring their teeth and sometimes growling threats when they sense an invasion of my personal space or energy about to occur. So far it works, but it means I am constructing large imaginary cats to get through the day.