Epidemic, Virus, Quarantine by Miriam Sagan

It isn’t the first time in my life I’ve grappled with these words and their implications. Recently I’ve been working on a memoir about San Francisco, and how I left the city at the start of AIDS. Surprisingly, before writing I was unconscious of the connection–a plague, the break-up of San Francisco Zen Center, my arrival in Santa Fe. I’m sharing a section here.

***
Someone Left a Cake Out in the Rain

Sometimes an old disco song comes on the car radio—I’m So Excited, Saturday Night Fever, MacArthur Park, and I’ll start crying so hard I’ll have to pull over. Parked in a quiet side street—in snow, or under the green leaves of an apricot tree, I’ll put my head down on the steering wheel and sob.
I’m weeping for dead men I knew, or half knew, or had glimpsed through a bar window or on the street. I rarely talk about this and I never write about it. I don’t feel equipped. I’m like a very small child who can understand words but cannot yet speak.
I’m much closer to my own death now than I am to the young woman I once was in the city of San Francisco in the 1980’s. That was before I knew how to read a map, raise a child, or prune a fruit tree. I was born on the island of Manhattan where north was so firmly UP that I needed no other sense of direction. That changed on the west coast, where weather ran from my left hand side—if I was facing north—rather than from my right.
I had a pathological fear of earthquakes and an unlimited curiosity about sex. I knew enough Buddhism to get into trouble, and my heart had been broken so severely I walked with a slight limp. I was pretty enough.
I’m sobbing as if I saw a city go down in flames, and perhaps I did. I saw things I should not have seen, did things I perhaps should not have done, but I did not make this up—an entire city was doing the same thing.
There goes my baby.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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