Fort Point, San Francisco, the historic
guardian of the Golden Gate and keeper of
catacomb secrets amid rusted iron, mortar and old red brick.
Scrambling amongst the old cannon casements, grandchildren make up games
to play. “Save the bay” the kids call it, heroically sinking sneaky pirate ships as they attempt
to slip their way into the mouth of the golden bay. Suddenly, Grandmama stands frozen like a
galleon’s masthead. Her eyes tighten slightly as if to keenly see or sense something that no one else does. She tunes out the chitter-chatter from her day’s charges as long dormant ghosts waft from the dark corners of the catacombs from a buried past. She notices the fog bank has retreated out to sea where it hovers in a fit of gray anxiety begrudging the sunshine that has displaced it and waits to return. The hum drumming traffic sound from the massive orange bridge overhead has not changed through the decades. Droning engines and rolling tires slap slapping on slick steel expansion joints from the iconic structure of deco styled iron plates and trusses all bound together with hundreds of thousands of swaged rivets.
The bridge’s long skinny shadow marks a distinct dark demarcation line across the swirling frigid waters to the distant north shore. The muffled surf still crashes on immune slick rocks below. A stiff salty sea breeze stirs long latent lies and memories from an untold risky life, a secret second life once as colossal as that giant bridge. Sea gulls porpoise up and down in the wind and laugh. Laughing just as they did way back when during those long extended lunch hour “errands” down from the lofty Heights. Cloaked hard wet kisses amongst the faceless tourists. Arched backs over cold brass cannon. Wrinkled soiled garments and the lingering tingly taste of trysty lips long after a tardy return... “Oh, that city traffic was such bitch”... just another puffy lipped alibi to hide the lie.
The grandchildren boom boom cannon blasts followed by cheers shooting ship after ship as pirates attempt to slip through the Golden Gate. As the kids sink every ship just as each ship reaches that dark shadow line of fate, Grandmama steals a pensive gaze at her old covert meeting spot. She imagines his image still standing there at the big black cannon next to the pyramids of cannon shot. Her virile co-minded conspirator, always on time with strong smooth ready hands. She remembers how selfish her life was then. Reckless indiscretions without any plan. A one ring hang-up phone call and in an hour there he would appear... trim, virile, muscular and tall. The consequences of those murky muddied waters unthinkable to her now.
Still she wonders how long did he twist in the waning wind as he waited for her to arrive that very last time when she changed her ways and she changed her mind. She wonders whatever happened to him in the end. Did he ever understand? Is he still alive? A sudden chill racks her spine when she reflects on those wild and crazy times. Fort Point makes her think of just how lucky she is now and how she once carelessly danced on the razor’s edge of a secret romance.
“Come on kids let’s go, It’s getting cold. Mr. Fog is returning... time to get you home”. “We’ll come back to play another day”. She quickly gathers her grandchildren to go. She looks back to where the big black cannon used to be with its pyramids of black cannon shot. Uncontrollably, she scans the faces near the old rendezvous spot and then wonders, “Does he come to visit the dancing ghosts amongst the old catacombs? Does he come here to remember me?”
The fog quickly swallows the wafting ghosts and smothers them deep back in their dark catacombs. The humming iconic bridge spanning overhead becomes a giant Monet of muddled gray as it is engulphed by the thick conquering fog reclaiming its territory. The bridge’s distinct black shadow line reaching the north shore melts quickly into the eternal sea. The sea gulls porpoise up and down in the stiffening breeze... and laugh just as they always have and Fort Point still guards Grandmama’s secrets for a another visit on another day.
© Edward Ferri, Jr.
Bio: Edward Ferri, Jr. grew up on a "non profit" farm on the dry side of the Santa Cruz Mountains where "Bailing wire, gumption, and spit" were the "apps" of the day. He is a graduate of SJSU and has been published in Eskimo Pie, Lucidity, Muddy River Poetry Review, Still Crazy and Agave Literary Magazines. Also forthcoming in Main Street Rag. He first realized the beauty of Denali in the rear view mirror of a gutless gutted Volvo 544. He was leaving to meet Carol and never returned.