And I sat down on the pier, the lights from the city I had only just met shining on the water like false sunlight. Sea lions slept in drying piles on swaying docks. A few of them wailed, a chortle or a war cry that echoed on air. Two in the back, visible only from their outlines and the silver streaks of shine on their wet coats, opened their mouths and moved toward each other. And I thought of you. They wiggled and they taunted and in the midst of their spat or their dance, they flopped into the water, dropping into black disappearance. After only a moment, one slipped through the surface and climbed back on the dock, drifting but chained. The other stayed below or surfaced elsewhere in the shadows unseen. And I watched the lone sea lion that reappeared squirm on its back, trying to right itself; trying to meet belly with wood and sleep. And I thought of you. The night was only slightly cold, the chill I always crave with darkness. I sat, the smell of fish now familiar, and I watched. The sea lion turned, the sigh after struggle, and it relaxed into the rocking wood. And I thought of you. I left when my can was empty, my feet sore from running toward the sound of singing sea lions, and I knew how far away you were and that I could not run to you. That once I had not wanted to. I walked back toward the tram, a sudden content exhaustion settling into the wind that whipped me, and I thought: if I could slip through the water, if I could emerge, if I could run to you, would I?
Sunset Combs is a recent Earlham College graduate who is heading to Colorado State University in the fall to earn her Master’s in Creative Nonfiction.