A Mother’s Dreams

Fisherman’s Wharf at night

The first Saturday of every month, we used to go down to Fisherman’s Wharf, perhaps looking for something you could no longer find, that element of wonder you had lost by succumbing to us. It just so happened that this time, we were part of the night, in which we could see shapes with the guidance of only the sad, dead, blue lights in the sky. Lights were blue and gold down here, perhaps because of that plaguing hope they were alive that no one could quite forget. Yet I could see you slowly forgetting. When we were on the harbor, I could see that light in your eyes that would inevitably lose its muse, the dead stars thousands of miles away taking refuge within them. But you’d march on because, of course, I needed you. She needed you.

Boats would pull up to the harbor where we motionlessly stood while another took off toward the lights far away, until there was nothing between but cold, hard water. I was just about to jump over the railings into the water reminiscent of my dark eyes before a woman screamed and you pulled me back, your face turning red first out of fear, then in response to the alarmed, faceless people around us. Jumping in seemed like the natural course of action at the time; searching for meaning in retrospect, the darkness must have been inviting, welcome as compared to the stifling light that encompassed the harbor.

Quivering, you looked at me, your nervous face contorting with words. But I couldn’t hear anything you said because The Star of Monterey, the last boat with those enviably pure blue lights, was leaving. And it couldn’t leave my imagination, because then those lights would die just like the others. And it would all be true; we’d have nothing real left, only dreams. I held onto the railings as you pulled me as close as you possibly could, but all I could do was whisper “The Star of Monterey,” over and over until your dark eyes clouded with recognition and you watched the blue lights disappear, surrounded by only dull, gold lights that were too timid to fully shine, that could only share their muted glows with the restless shadows directly beneath them.

Then, with an undignified little sigh, you turned back to face your demons, your dreams, with me directly behind you, my fingers wrapping around your calloused pinkie. From then on, you held on to me as tightly as you could, refusing to let me grow out of my innocence.

But when you realized what I had become — so stifling, so controlling, so incredibly nervous — it was much too late.

We settled on a bench under one of those loveless, gold lamplights that buzzed in a smug effort to remind my winter world: “To have lived is not enough. We have to talk about it.” Talk has only taken us so far, yet far enough that you and I often look back for a time softer, sweeter.

But these loud whispers and brief, regular turns to the past have only ever brought destruction.

As we sat on the bench, you became more and more agitated, your eyes twisting down, water threatening to flow out. Everyone was standing so close, so incredibly close, you could no longer handle the pens to paper in public diaries — you just had to get away. You stood up in a daze and walked away from the wooden harbor, waves crashing into the cracks separating your feet and threatening to pull you down with them like tears. I watched your feet move slowly, your back slightly tilted forward in reflection of your novel, or perhaps old yet newly discovered, need to be away. So incredibly used to being lost, I never felt the need to follow you.

But as you receded in my memory, blending in more and more with the crowd, you realized that you were falling deeper within the trap. So, defeated, you turned around and smiled and I couldn’t help but feel found, secure. You walked back to me, a slight, carefully crafted smirk carving your face as you shyly said, “I wanted to see what you would do.”

Nothing. I would have done nothing. You could see this in my eyes and you turned away quickly before I could see your face fall. Yet the slight drop in your tired shoulders told me everything that I needed to know.

As we returned to the front of Pier 39 where your silver car was parked, I couldn’t help but notice the moon. The dead stars, the lamplights, the carefully twined lights adorning the railings — they would all recede as we moved forward. But not the moon. The moon had always been the only light we could truly deem hopeful, fearlessly combatting the darkness with living light radiating from within. And for a second the moon allowed me to be hopeful.

But I quickly remembered the new moon, tearing down that weak burgeoning hope, imposing upon me the truth that the brightest, strongest of lights can be destroyed. The only constant in our ever-changing lives is disappointment, destroying the brief flashes of hope that we struggle to construct.

The moon is but a shining gray recklessly concealing a dull blue.

As I opened the car door, the deafening roar of passing, slowly forgetting cars that all blended into one endless moving yet stagnant cycle stopped me in my disappearing tracks. Flashes of light in the corner of my eyes, so quick that they’re real. Cobwebs adorning the lamplight right above me. A fire warming the poor violinist cautiously dreaming of change.

I waited for some sign, any sign, finally ready to scream before you tenderly lifted me.

You found your light in me.

And I’m starting to realize that I’ve always seen it within you.

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