Five mornings a week I drive to the West Oakland train station, park my car in a nearby lot and walk two blocks to the station. I wait on the platform to crowd through the doors, standing pressed against swaying bodies as the train rocks through the dark tunnel beneath the bay. Thirteen minutes later I crowd out, entering the stream of people racing up the escalator to the surface, as if we cannot start the day fast enough.
I walk to work along the piss-soaked sidewalks of Van Ness, passing maimed pigeons, homeless men with outstretched hands, and others like me, cradling their deadened hearts in their hands. My building is the color of war. The windows are sealed. I take the elevator up to the fourth floor, turn left in the hallway, and then I enter my office and sit down.
In the afternoons I listen for the wild parrots that sometimes fly by my window to alight on the roof. I can hear them calling to each other and I wonder what brings them here to the ugliest building in San Francisco, but I think I know the answer: they come to the war-colored building for the sheer joy of flying away from it.
In the early evenings I walk back to the train station, my jacket zipped against the chill of the fog curling over the city. When I come to the grassy plaza in front of City Hall, I pause in my rush toward the escalator to look and see if a child is flying a kite, if a man is playing with a dog, or if a shaft of late sunlight is glancing off the golden-edged dome in just such a way as to look beautiful.