We are walking into a big hotel in downtown San Francisco. The lobby is huge and classy. It's the sort of place you'd stay if you were staying on your employer's dime. Lindsey's leading me through the place. "Just act like we're staying here," she says. Lindsey doesn't exactly look the part with her Misfits t-shirt. Then again, I shouldn't talk; my wrinkled hoodie and dirty jeans aren't any better.
I'm still not entirely sure why we're here. I ask once, but Lindsey tells me to just wait. I mentally note that she hasn't gotten me raped or murdered while showing me around, so I remain trusting.
And then I feel bad for the thought. See, during our tour, Lindsey talked about an issue in her neighborhood – the Mission, which is home to a vibrant (but occasionally clashing) community of Latinos and hipsters. Over the past few weeks, there've been a string of sexual assaults. Police believe that one man is behind all of the attacks, a man Lindsey that they've profiled as being non-white, about six feet tall, and wearing a hooded jacket. "Which really narrows things down," she says.
It's created kind of a culture of fear in the Mission. But, thankfully, it's created a strange support network. People warn each other to stay safe after leaving parties, encouraging one another to avoid traveling alone late at night. Some leave their couches or beds open – no, not like that – if they feel really uncomfortable heading out.
It's kind of nice, seeing people come together, but that still doesn't do anything for the real sense of danger.
Lindsey told me a story about riding her bike home around 3 AM. As she'd turned a corner to head to her apartment, she saw something ahead of her. A man – wearing a hood, no less. Just standing in the middle of the street. Lindsey was nervous, but she felt bad for feeling nervous, like she was being paranoid. Regardless of her doubts, she biked like hell down the street. She worried that she saw the guy get in a car and trailing behind her. She called the police not long after that.
But back to the hotel.
We wander down hallways, stopping only occasionally to look at mall-style maps of the hotel. To complete the mall vibe, there are actual stores speckled throughout the hotel's halls: a jewelry store, some place selling fancy handbags, a Victoria's Secret. With all the shopping around – not to mention an honest to goodness mall just a block or two away – it seems a little redundant. But I guess the stores do well enough to stay open.
Lindsey stops for a moment after checking one of the maps. "We're looking for an elevator that goes all the way to the top floor," she'd said. But before we go looking for it, her phone buzzes. "Give me a sec." She pulls it out and flips through her Twitter feed.
"Oh my God," she says.
"What is it?"
Apparently the police have apprehended a subject in connection to the sexual assault cases. He matched the description well. That being said, there are a lot of tallish men that wear hoodies. But the damning evidence was the location where they picked him up: Cesar Chavez and Treat, not far from where the attacks had been taking place. Nor was it far from the route Lindsey took that night she rode her bike, the night she saw that guy.
Lindsey goes quiet for a while. She's blinking a lot, like her brain just crashed and it's trying to restart. I'm not entirely sure what she's thinking. Is this relief? Is she doubting whether or not they caught the guy? Is she thinking about what could've happened if she hadn't biked like hell out of there?
I'm not sure what to say.
"Do you want to sit down?" I say.
"Woah," she says. Blinking. "No. I'm okay."
There's a moment's pause. Lindsey's silent as she continues to process this. I'm silent too.
But she seems to shake it off.
"Okay." She smiles. "To the elevator?"
We make our way to the elevator. She presses one of the buttons near the top – actually, the very top. Number 33, I think it was.
"A lot of people do this. I'm surprised they don't charge to get up here."
The doors open. A woman informs us that this is a private event. She's talking, but it's like she barely acknowledges us. But that's okay, because we barely acknowledge her.
The doors close. And Lindsey presses 32. The floor below.
We turn around. The wall is completely made of glass, providing a beautiful view of the city. You can see the lights from cars streaming down the road. People ice-skating in a plaza right underneath us. And beyond a certain point, darkness. In daylight, we'd see water, but right now, it just looks like the end of the world, like whoever made everything decided they didn't want to build beyond that point.
She points out at something. "That's not far from where I live," she says. I have no idea what exactly she's pointing to, but I nod anyway.
The city's beautiful. But I'm reminded that it's a city, too. That, despite what the tourist books and episodes of Full House and this amazing view may tell me, that this city – any city – is not without danger. I get a little sad. I begin to wonder if this is true of all beautiful things.