This morning I biked to the Golden Gate Bridge
for a nice morning exercise. It wasn't the most beautiful day ever, some days you can't look at the bridge without your jaw dropping. On a day with a bright blue sky everything about the ocean is bright, Angel Island
are beautiful islands in it and two huge red towers hold up the cables for a suspension bridge carrying hundreds of thousands of people a day. Today was, nice, but it wasn't one of those days. It was too cloudy to be one of those days.
I locked up my bike at the south end of the bridge, near the gift shop and decided to try to run across the bridge. I've been thinking a lot about doing a triathalon so I wanted to mix up my exercise regimen. I started jogging and made it about one third of the way across the bridge before I felt too fatigued to keep going. I stopped at the South tower because when you walk by one of the towers you can't hear all the traffic that you're only yards away from. It was a nice moment of peace.
I looked out over the water and saw all the birds sitting in it, doing their bird things, flying around, hopefully enjoying themselves. As I waited to catch my breath I spat up all the excess mucus that had collected in my sinuses as I ran and I watched it fall down to the water. I was amazed at how far it went. There is something about spitting off of tall structures that is infinitely appealing to me.
Simultaneous with my last spit wad hitting the water I heard a very loud noise come from an unlikely direction. It sounded like it came from below me and to my right, out in the water. I didn't think much of it, life is weird. If I fretted over every unexplainable noise I heard I'd probably be insane by now.
It only took a few seconds for me to see a black shape in the water and immediately I knew it was a person. A lot of stuff goes through your head in a moment like that. Even though I knew it was a person, and that it could be nothing else, I wasn't convinced until I had stared at it for about thirty seconds. I wondered what I should do. I figured I should call someone, though I had no idea who to call, I turned around to ask a woman walking by if she had a cell phone, but she had just walked past me and was wearing headphones. She didn't hear me. It struck me as very odd that the world just goes on and that someone could blithely walk by without any awareness of what was going on.
When I turned back around smoke was coming from some device floating in the water. I looked over at the bridge above where the smoke signal had been dropped and realized that no one needed to be called, police were already there.
For about three minutes I just stared at this person floating face down in the San Francisco Bay. One of his shoes was floating a few feet away from him (or such is the gender I assumed this person possessed, I hardly got a close look). His shoes looked like Airwalks, I thought. I remembered a line from the movie Stand By Me: "The train had knocked Ray Brower right out of his Keds". Both the body and the shoe just floated going in no particular direction and hundreds of cars drove by behind me.
It took a few minutes for two Coast Guard boats to arrive at the smoke signal. Aboard the first, smaller boat someone kept an arm extended pointing like a bloodhound at the smoke signal, then adjusted his aim to the body as he directed the pilot to their target. The second coast guard boat was bigger and way behind the other one. I watched as the crew of the first boat tried to pick the body up from the water. Until then I had been very detatched from the fact that that was a person, but their awkward struggle to get him out of the water hit me really hard. His body moved exactly the way you'd expect a water-logged human body to move. He must have been very heavy with all that water soaking him, even though he looked like a pretty skinny guy to me. There was a certain brutality about the actions the crew took to try to get him up and out of the water. They grabbed him by his pants, his shirt, they even tried to hook him with some sort of pole, all the while with myself and some tourists a few dozen yards away from me staring at them. I wonder if they knew or cared that they had an audience.
The smoke signal kept spewing smoke.
I thought about his shoe. I figured it would just float there for days. I was actually pretty curious about where it would end up.
No matter what they tried, the first crew couldn't get him out of the water. Soon, the second boat came over and obscured my view of the body, but I knew they were taking him out of the water somehow.
At this point I realized what the loud sound I had heard earlier was.
Here is the sick thing. I felt pretty together the whole time. I didn't even get emotional until I started thinking too much. I thought about his family, I thought about the Taliban, the general feeling in this country, I thought about how so many people kill themselves in December, I thought about what a clumsy job the Coast Guard was doing. I thought about my spit flying so far down, but when I really almost broke down in tears was when I thought about E2. I thought "Wow, this might make a great node. Nodes about death and nodes about female orgasms can't go wrong." At times like that I can't believe the things I think. I can't believe where my mind jumps and I feel like less of a person for it. I started to tear up when I realized how much I hate myself for being able to take a selfish attitude with everything.
The first boat changed course and picked up his shoe. I didn't even think they would see it.
I just stayed there for a few minutes as both boats went back to the North side of the bay from which they came. I started walking back to my side of the bridge that I came from and contemplated a lot of things. I felt warmer and noticed some clouds burning off. I turned around to look at everything out over the bay again and I couldn't believe what I saw.
When you stand on the Golden Gate Bridge on any average day it can seem beautiful beyond words. I go back there so often just because I can't even trust my memory with its beauty, it just needs to be experienced. It's impossible to understand without being there, but today...today was amazing. As the clouds burned off, the sun came out and the water lit up brighter than I can remember. The smoke from the smoke signal had this beautiful blue color in it, creating an amazing streak above the green water and the different colors of the deeper pockets of water. The birds flew around making their bird noises and adding an amazing kinetic energy to the scene. Cars roared by on the bridge back in their oblivious little world. I can't believe how beautiful it all was.