“Everywhere she looks: water. She has a wild feeling—part terror, part elation—in her chest.”—Carrie Brown, The Stargazer’s Sister
The sun’s tangerine glow poured in from the west, saturating the hills. It sparkled on the gentle, rolling fog; biting cold ocean spray, and on millions of San Francisco windows. Fog, water, and windows exalted in the sun’s electric performance, reflecting its intense rays. The Bay Area, in its entirety, shone with an ethereal, orange glimmer. The titanic towers of the Golden Gate Bridge threw marvelous sprawling shadows over the golden water’s dancing waves. The vibrant crescent of humanity that is the Bay Area was dusted in gold.
From my perch on the Bridge, I could see the hundreds of square miles that housed my childhood. I panned from left to right, from Marin to Oakland to San Francisco, from memories of
I examined this side of the Golden Gate Bridge and then examined the gold-dusted Pacific on the other side. With my back to everything I knew, and my eyes cast upon the vast, unknown horizon, I felt finality, as if I were sniffing the bouquet that was the wine glass of death. Before death, I imagine I will look out to a gaping, glowing, vacuous expanse with peaceful acceptance of the fact that life lies behind me. The conflation of the sun’s sublime glow and this stark contrast between a world I knew and a world I didn’t, tinged my heart with restless and heavenly melancholy. I was with my father, the man I love most in this world. I was encircled by my beloved home, and yet at the onset of my father’s and my walk across the Bridge, I felt a lump in my throat. These treasures, my father’s love and my colorful and complex upbringing, felt crushingly fragile and fleeting compared to the antiquity and
My grandfather came from Sweden on a boat, and moved to Hawaii, where he raised my father. Sailing around the Hawaiian Islands countless times, my father learned discipline, selflessness, and my grandfather’s love in the salty air, among unstable decks and boundless, sprawling horizons. He used to work for Hapag-Lloyd, a German shipping line that carried containerized cargo across oceans. He is an expert on types of ships, guessing what kind of cargo they’re carrying, and guessing where they are going. My father’s love is an ocean. It is inconceivably vast, enduring as only something that enormous
As we began to traverse the Bridge that day, my father noticed an ocean liner coming from the San Francisco Bay heading out toward the Pacific.
“Tia, check out that ocean liner,” he said. “Look at how enormous that thing is! Let’s see if we can get to the middle of the bridge to watch it go under.”
In that transcendent moment, suspended over the Bay, blanketed in a heavenly glow, my father’s unassuming love became accentuated by my melancholy feeling of finality. I wanted desperately to reach the middle of the bridge where the boat was heading. My heart decided I wanted my father to see the boat from above. I began to run.
“Come on, Dad!” The sound of my voice was absorbed by the cacophony of cars and wind on the Golden Gate.
“Come on, Dad!” I screamed, now twenty feet in front of him. My scream was barely audible, even to me. The lump in my throat began to feel like a sparking volcano about to erupt. My father began running, too.
The gargantuan ocean liner merely seemed to inch languidly across the water toward the mouth of the bay. From far away, the water looked still as glass, though I knew it was actually choppy and alive. The cars seven feet from us, traveled at forty-five miles per
I was running from death, or something as impending. The sun was setting and the ocean liner was departing; I felt an
“Dad!” I yelled, significantly ahead of him on the path now. I didn’t care that he couldn’t hear me; it was more of a frantic cry than
Sometimes love feels a lot like sadness. When I was young, I worried I would never experience love. Tiny, neurotic, and pensive, I tried many ways to calculate my love or affirm it was real, affirm it was what everyone was talking about. Car rides to ballet, walks to school, moments before bed—these were the times I’d drill myself: Would I die for my mother? What would I do if my younger sister Kari died? I presented myself with these questions and only confused myself more. I couldn’t fathom a dead family member to the point of an understanding of love, and this bothered me.
By now, I have contrived my own definition of love. The way I understand it, love is the only emotion capable of being remembered in a feeling that is unique and intrinsically part of a certain moment. Sadness always feels the same to me. Anger always feels the same to me. Happiness always feels the same to me. True love is the antitheses of these emotions in that it bends and beats and melts and sparks and dances. In that moment on the bridge, love felt sad and anxious. I remember love-filled moments in my life, even if as simple as a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, because I remember the gloriously and intensely unique love I felt in that moment. The love I felt for my father that day, that frantic, fierce love was unique to that shimmering, orange, mid-air experience. My love for my father colored the moment heavenly. Love saturated every nook of that felt experience with its dazzling power; it was as much sensory as the orange light or the biting cold.