Robin Williams

One night when I was living in San Francisco, either late '87 or early '88, I was out for a walk in the streets in and around my neighborhood, which at that time was the Lower Haight. Going into why I was feeling alone at that time is a long and largely irrelevant story. When you're a kid starting stark raving over in one of America's most metropolitan cities, I guess one might feel overwhelmed and affected by solitude. I didn't know whether it was voluntary or not, but it wasn't the last time I'd feel that way.

I was walking west on Market Street. I think I was sporting a trench coat at that time. Many life revisions later I can't remember exactly what was going through my mind. It could have been one of a few things, some of which sorted themselves out eventually, some of which still haven't processed all the way out.

Zuni Cafe is situated on Market Street. It's a quaint little place whose exact type of cuisine I can't recall at the moment. It's small enough so that all tables are visible from the street windows. Zuni was on my route walking from downtown to my apartment.

That night, which was like a lot of my San Francisco nights, as I walked past Zuni and lifted my head to see what everyone who could afford stuff was eating, I caught the eye of Robin Williams, by then the established but unofficial comic laureate of the Bay Area. Robin looked up briefly from his dish to meet my eyes through the window. I instantly recognized him and remember giving him a very little smile of recognition. Then I kept walking.

I never told this story to anyone because, well, it's a pretty insignificant anecdote. Nothing technically happens in it. When I heard about Robin Williams' passing this afternoon, and the alleged situations surrounding it, it came back into focus. I associate that time in my life with a solitude that's come and gone ever since, and the struggle to blast through that depression that's consumed many of my friends, and has affected almost all of them in some way or another.

For that reason, and the knowledge that Robin made a whole lot of people who were feeling like he was at least momentarily very, very happy, I'm having trouble processing this news. It's a cold night on Market Street.

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