Monday, December 5, 2011

Plenty of Fish

(Galveston, 2004)

Shark eyes.
A battled wind.
A topple down.
To and in.
The deepest of pits.
(to himself)

A solid wall, a solid ground, a thud on dirt, a slap of flesh, a crack of bone, an ouch! without a sound, just the feeling, God, this is pain. I look around, and give a good-grief to myself. It can only be, yes, only be this place again. This place, like an old familiar, that person you can't quite shake from your past, nor from your present, like a sibling at the distance of a cousin, coming in and out of your life without warning, without you ever liking it. This place is exactly that, I've been here so many times and over so many years I can see my progress from early caveman drawings to life-like renditions by hand. How I get here is completely different every time, this cave has a million entrances, just one exit.
I forgot what I was looking at, some ad that was covering the window, I just looked at it without ever reading it, I don't think I could have read it anyways, my mind was somewhere else. The train kept screeching away on the tracks like it shouldn't have been moving that way in the first place, and that ad, there in front of me, telling me I was far from home, and home wasn't any better. Similar to having the wind knocked out of you, it felt like that to my soul, a soul punch, something interior, a mental broke rib, a black eye, a fall in front of too many strangers, but at least then they offer you help, what do you do when your heart just feels messed up and your face and body looks completely normal, just regular sunny day in Florida, on my face. I was far from anything sunny, sonny.
I remember my father and I used to go fishing, we owned a Bayline, we used to take it up to Navajo Lake, and my mother with my older sister would go diving beneath. Underneath our rocking vessel was a flooded town, my mother and sister would go diving from house to house, shining their hand torches through the murkywaters of a house, through the window into the living room. It was as if they were looking into post-apocalyptic scene, the only thing missing was skeletons, gathering around the kitchen table, still in the same positions just before the world ended. Now fish would swim in and out of their lives, or rather, what used to be their lives, and the settlement would slowly bury their homes into the seafloor. While they were down there they'd spot out where all the fish were hanging out, they'd surface and tell us to move the boat this many feet or yards in that direction, and we'd throw our lines down. Never have I caught that many fish in my life, so many, so much, that I still look to that day when I end up with no fish on my line like I caught all the fish I would ever catch when I was twelve, on that particularly sunny day in Navajo Lake. Every two minutes I'd be pulling my line back up, oh here's another fish. It even got to the point where if I simply pulled my line up fast enough a fish would get hooked by the gills. That many fish.
My father was never anything like the Hollywood stereotypical father, not by any means, but fishing with his son was probably as close as he ever got to it. When I go home, my father can't help but want to go fishing with me, and for some reason I can't help but not want to go, it just wasn't the same. I remember late nights in Galveston, TX, at the pier, fishing. Galveston at night was beautiful, I used to bring my Nikkormat with me, and take a few snapshots, my father taught me how to keep the shutter open by jamming the camera strap between the winder when the shutter is cocked. I never minded the smell of the live bait, sitting around and watching nothing happen, seeing the waves crash into the pillars, the smell of the ocean, the Mexicans smoking in the beds of their truck, telling jokes to each other, in Spanish, and I'd only know it was a joke by the smiles on their faces and the laughter in their mouths. Something in moments like those hold on to me, have become me, even.

I remember the most beautiful moment of my life. My father was there. We were waiting to catch the ferry out of South Padre Island. The sun was setting when we hit the long line, and it looked endless, with no hope of ever moving. My Mother and older sister stayed at the resort, and for some reason the boys just had to leave early, we had business on the other side, and I wanted to keep my father company. Night fell, and we still hadn't moved. Hours went by and we started our slow approach to the dock, someone next to us said they were finally loading the ferry again. Hours dipped by like the slowest dip coffee ever: one dip at time, with eons in-between. The landscape slowly changed, from the gates at the entrance to a winding road through forest lit by charcoal lamps. With engine turning on every half an hour, you'd see the slowest chain reaction of brake lights stretch on ahead until it got to us, it was our turn, and then it would pass through us and carry on to those even more unfortunate souls behind us. Sometimes I think that there are people still waiting in line, that they must have gotten there right when we got on the ferry. I wish I could've met them, I would've sent them letters, photos and stories from the world outside that line, but I didn't, I was too busy listening to The Strokes' This Is It and Beck's Sea Change on my portable CD player at the time.
Eventually we reached that ferry, but I don't remember that moment quite well. What I do remember is that it was three o'clock in the morning, that I had never waited in line that long in my life (and still haven't waited nearly that long even to this day). Once on the ferry, when all the cars were settled, and their headlights were turned off, and we were surrounded by almost complete darkness, looking out to that ocean, under a full moon, with all those stars twinkling above, all I know is it was the most beautiful thing I ever witnessed. If I was a painter I'd paint a canvas black, with small clusters of tiny white dots, a giant yellowish white sphere hanging somewhere in there, with illuminated clouds, and the faint detail of ripples before a surge at the boats edge. I'd look at that painting and see a moment without a continuum, without a twelve hour wait at the ferry dock, without the sand in my hair, without the four hour car ride ahead, with my father yelling at himself every ten minutes to wake himself up. No, all I would see is an imperfectly black canvas, with white dots and white smears, and a memory that can never be captured.
And so, there may be plenty of fish out there, but some, some can be hooked to a line, and put up a fight, only to rip away, taking a piece of your line, your hook, and of course, your bait. You can either head back to the truck and head home and sleep, or you can fix your line, rebait your new hook, and cast away. And though it doesn't seem like much of a process, and though there doesn't seem like that much time in-between, there has been change, something is different about this occasion, or at least you keep telling yourself that, as the hours dip-dip-dip by, something just may come by, and you just may catch it. But you never know. And isn't that beauty of fishing, the uncertainty, in both the not knowing if you are going to catch anything, and what you are going to catch in those murky dark waters below.

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