They spoke in airless voices by now, as though kicked in the gut.
"The god of springing grass and loving hearts is with us."
The man was a private therapist, homosexual, Jewish. He had known the supervisor who was murdered at City Hall. The woman was an occasional writer, heterosexual, Presbyterian. She had known the photographer who was murdered in Guyana. The writer held the prayer book and the therapist looked on.
"We are grains of sand warmed by You on the wide shore of the world."
They stood because the folding chairs were all ocupied. There was so little room in this makeshift synagogue that 200 people waited outside, chanting the service on the streets, celebrating the eve of the Sabbath, entwining arms round one another, saying the kaddish for the dead.
"May God's countenance be lifted up upon you and give you peace."
The congregation is called Sha'ar Zahav, its members generally are homosexuals and this plain Friday night prayer and memorial -- the last of four memorials for slain supervisor Harvey Milk, who was Jewish and homosexual -- became a public expression, in its way, of both the affable adaptability of this city and the huge pain of so much having gone so wrong.
Sha'ar Zahav meets in the middle of the city's Latin neighborhood, in a small community hall it rents from the Sons of Norway. The congregation met before that in a Buddhist monastery. It started out in a Methodist church with a black minister on a street where hookers wait for work.
In the community hall, with the men in yarmulkes before a small wooden stage and goldflecked walls and the blue Shabbat candles, 700 mourners celebrated Harvey Milk, who strode to his inauguration with his lover on his arm, and who was funny, energetic, proselytizing, immensely well-liked by his constituents and convinced that someone would try to kill him. "It only takes one nut," he had said.
A young Chinese-American man described his feelings Friday night, long after the service had ended, by touching his chest and then pulling his first away to show something being torn from inside.
San Francisco is not a very big city -- the last census showed a population of 665,000 for the city proper -- and it is so chopped into pieces, both by hilly geographic and ethnic grouping, that there are times when it feels considerably smaller than it is.
This is one of those times.
There is scarcely a corner of this city that has not been jarred by the terrible news of the last two weeks -- and jarred violently and personally. Catholics, blacks, Italians, gays, reporters, constituents, Jews and others had ties, many of them close ones, to someone who died.
A visitor to City Hall on Monday morning would have seen the reaction of an already shell-shocked local press corps when Acting Mayor Dianne Feinstein stepped shakily into the corridor, her face drained, and told the reporters that Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Milk had been shot to death. There were screams. A television reporter wept on camera.
"No place feels safe," one woman said that evening, and she was not speaking just about crime or locked doors that might be forced open. Jim Jones and the People Temple had semed an appalling aberration, despite all the chronicling of other cults in history, despite all the recitations of earlier weird violence emerging from Northern California.
But this was different.
This came not from some strange-eyed person easily written off to bad drugs or twisted religion or a will somehow dragged into madness. The man accused of murdering Moscone and Milk is a native son of the San Francisco working class: fireman's boy, Vietnam veteran, football team captain, political conservative, new father, policeman and fireman and rescuer of babies from burning buildings.
The newspapers on Friday were carrying reports that the murderer of Moscone and Milk first wounded each victim, then placed the gun to the back of each man's head and fired twice.
Dan White, the murder suspect, resigned his seat last month as a politically conservative supervisor in a working-class district of southern San Francisco, saying that since he was forced after the last election to give up his fireman's job, he could not afford to live on a supervisor's $9,600 annual salary.
Shortly after, he recanted and began trying to get back his seat. Moscone had decided not to reappoint him, based on the response of constituents and the advice of other supervisors, including Milk; it is known that White was extremely angry about the decision.
On Monday morning he arrived at City Hall armed with a loaded.38-cal. snub-nosed pistol. He reportedly eluded the metal detectors by climbing in through a basement window. He spent a brief period of time alone with Moscone and then Milk. A half hour after the men had been found dead, White turned himself and the gun in.
He is still being held in isolation at the county jail, with arraignment scheduled for Wednesday. Reporters and photographers who were given a look at his cell Friday morning (while White was temporarily removed) saw three oranges, a stack of letters and magazines and a copy of "The Sleep of Reason."
Political jockeying over the mayor's seat, which will be filled by a vote of the supervisors if they can reach a majority decision, has begun in earnest: Supervisor Robert Gonzales, a close ally of Moscone, has declared himself a candidate, although many had assumed that Feinstein, the former board president who has been acting mayor since Monday, would receive unanimous support for the job.
And the city is slowly shaking itself out of mourning. After Moscone's funeral, while mourners waited outside the cathedral, lovely, operatic singing was heard from a high-rise apartment across the street. A woman was standing at a window -- singing her heart out.