I live in downtown Berkeley next door to a men’s shelter. Every morning after breakfast some of the men come outside, stand around on the sidewalk, and talk. I usually pass them twice, once on my way to or from the gym and again on my way to work. One of the men is named Kieran.
I work four blocks from my apartment and once my boss compared my neighborhood after dark to the Tenderloin is San Francisco. Yes, there are a lot of encampments but it’s not the Loin. I am afraid to walk by myself alone at night in the Tenderloin. Actually, I’m terrified. I’ve never been afraid in Berkeley.
I feel like the homeless population has a lot better things to do than harm me. Also, there are not many mentally ill homeless people in Berkeley that I’ve encountered. The worst thing anyone has ever yelled at me on the street is, “Anorexic bitch!” I kind of liked it.
Kieran talks to all the women who pass by him. Sometimes he walks beside or behind me. Sometimes his buddies tell him to shut up and sometimes they join in. He doesn’t whisper as I pass. He recites the same script with vigor every day.
Kieran: Keep smiling sweetheart. You are very pretty. I like what you have on. I’m telling you that if he doesn’t marry you he’s a fool and it’s a damn shame.
Sometimes Kieran talks about his twin sister Keira. Sometimes he asks me my name or if I forgot something (when I pass by him more than once). I once heard him ask about the daughter of a woman who works in a government building. It was the girl’s birthday. Kieran is predictable but today he changed the script.
Kieran’s script change freaked me out a little bit. He said, “I probably won’t kidnap you but I’d like it if you’d spend some time with me.” I don’t feel particularly comfortable being sized up multiple times a day by Kieran. Mentioning kidnapping as I was turning the lock on my apartment building wasn’t cool. I guess I should move to Walnut Creek. No fucking way! He did say that he wasn’t going to do it. Probably.