09/28/2021

Kim Magowan ~ The Windiest Neighborhood in San Francisco

The day after my hus­band moves out, I tell my daugh­ters, busy doing home­work, I plan to go for a long walk. Instead, I take a short walk, to the beer and sausage place in the Mission. I order my favorite dou­ble IPA and read a chap­ter of a nov­el. But it’s extreme­ly windy: the rick­ety wood­en struc­ture, built to accom­mo­date out­door din­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, sways and rat­tles; the Christmas lights strung on the makeshift ceil­ing to give it a fes­tive air chat­ter like teeth. I wor­ry that the roof will col­lapse on top of me, and though it seems too flim­sy to do seri­ous harm, I reluc­tant­ly begin walk­ing home.

On the way back, though, I make an impul­sive detour. I decide to vis­it the beau­ti­ful Victorian farm­house on the cor­ner of Mirabel Street that, eigh­teen years ago, when I was divorc­ing my first hus­band and had not yet met my cur­rent, just depart­ed hus­band, I tried to buy. My real estate agent attempt­ed to talk me out of it. It would go for way over ask­ing price, she warned me, and besides, it was a mon­ey pit. It need­ed a new foun­da­tion, a new roof, at least a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand in long-delayed main­te­nance. Still, I per­sist­ed. My bid (just above ask­ing) was the low­est of eleven bids. “A learn­ing expe­ri­ence,” Joan, my real estate agent, called it.

I stand for a while admir­ing the Victorian farm­house. It’s more beau­ti­ful than ever. When I tried to buy it, it was extreme­ly dilap­i­dat­ed; it looked like a haunt­ed house. Now, it’s fresh­ly paint­ed white. Whoever lives there, unlike me, clear­ly can afford it.

I look at the frothy lace cur­tains in the liv­ing room win­dows. I remem­ber how my hus­band, who just left me, and I once walked here, because I want­ed to show Ethan my lost house, and he said, “Sure, it’s beau­ti­ful. But the house you bought instead, our house, is much more prac­ti­cal.” That moment, I felt like some­one who made smart choices.

But it’s too windy to stand there any longer, so I walk home, which means, from that loca­tion, walk­ing up a rocky, exposed hill. A pinecone flies at me as if some­one has tak­en aim; the ele­ments seem to pos­sess mali­cious intent.

I walk more quick­ly. My neigh­bor­hood is noto­ri­ous for being the windi­est in San Francisco, and June is the windi­est month of the year. I remem­ber that when I first bought my house and moved in, alone, the wind blew so fierce­ly that I was afraid my new house would blow down. In the mid­dle of the night, I called the hus­band I was then divorc­ing, and told him that I felt like one of the three lit­tle pigs in a house made of straw. He assured me that I was safe, not one of the pigs. “It will be okay,” he said.

Shortly after that night, I met the man who has just left me. As I walk the last steps home, I think that my prac­ti­cal house is, after all, made of straw.

I insert the key in our sticky lock, which my hus­band, before he left, kept promis­ing and then for­get­ting to oil. My old­er daugh­ter opens it. “Mother!” Louisa says. It’s a new affec­ta­tion, to call me “Mother,” instead of “Mom.” “Your hair is all twirled! You look like a soft ice cream cone!” I wor­ry that this girl will grow up to be, like me, an imprac­ti­cal, artis­tic sort.

It’s very windy out,” I explain to Louisa, whom I’ve been con­cerned about, how she will cope now that her father has moved out.

She smiles and says, “Oh Mom–I love the wind!”

~

Kim Magowan is the author of the short sto­ry col­lec­tion How Far I’ve Come, forth­com­ing in 2022 from Gold Wake Press; the nov­el The Light Source (2019), pub­lished by 7.13 Books; and the short sto­ry col­lec­tion Undoing (2018), which won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her fic­tion has been pub­lished in Booth, Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many oth­er jour­nals. Her sto­ries have been select­ed for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapelwww.kimmagowan.com