Nine Inch Whales

On an unfinished wood deck, sitting on a couch, I stared downward at the unyielding ocean as it looped into itself infinitely. Surrounding me were people who I had never met. They were speaking of gossip and scenarios, things about which I knew nothing, so I remained silent, breathing in salty air and absorbing oceanic humidity that breezed by my body. From where I was lounging, I could not actually see the waves hit the shore; only a square field of ocean was visible to me, thus creating the illusion that there was no land beneath us, only water.

My body stiffened as I took my eyes away from the ocean. I realized I was here with these unfamiliar people and I had nothing to say to them, so out of nervous tension, I rubbed my hand over the raspberry-blackberry colored bruise that graced a few inches of the underside of my forearm.

One of the group noticed what I was doing and he asked me about the bruise, did it hurt, where did I get it, etc. Feeling minutely more at ease than before, I began talking to him about how easily I bruise and how clumsily I move. Many other bruises were darkly coloring my shins but I did not want to show them because my legs were hairy and spotted with discoloration. I silently prayed that he would not ask to see them.

At this point, I noticed something. This tall, thin - yet slightly muscular - man in his early thirties was very familiar to me. Black thick hair down to just above the shoulders; an irregular nose and bow-curved lips; brown eyes that looked black and clear, fair skin: these were his features and I then realized: this guy was Trent Reznor AKA Nine Inch Nails AKA my dream husband when I was fifteen years old.

Remarkably, I was calm. I was actually very interested in our conversation which revolved around the makeup of major American metropolitan cities and how they have, and keep, evolving. We were talking about the architecture of San Francisco: the Victorian style homes that tower on main city streets, the brick and mortar churches, the dome of city hall and its courtyards of marble and fountains. As we talked about Berkeley, the deck and ocean transformed into a street that ran parallel to th UC. A grungy student rode by on a squeaky, rusted bike and waved at Trent, wishing him a good day. Trent held out his hand and the guy high-fived him before he sped off into the bike path. Then, the deck, ocean and conversation were back.

Sadness swelled in me as I started to brood on how each style of these buildings represented an era, and gave a history, of the city. For example, the arrival of Irish-Catholics in the early 20th century corresponded to the cathedrals and Catholic churches built in that era. I was saddened because this current generation would not leave anything that I feel is worthy of San Francisco, and yet, all of the mega-stores and cineplexes and shopping malls are what represent this period in American, metropolitan history.

Silence fell over us and we just sat, entranced by the skyline and the sea.

In my peripheral vision, I could see a massive form emerge from the water and propel itself up into the air. I was taken aback, somewhat frightened as the mass jetted at least one hundred feet into the air. Everyone on the deck stood and stuck their heads out past the railing to see a fifty-foot Sperm whale peak and dive back into the quaking sea. I was awestruck and simultaneously fearful that the creature would attack the deck which was minuscule to its eyes. Before I could fully comprehend this, a school of about ten smaller whales began to flop around in the water, right below our eyes. Every single one of us was too excited, scared or humble to move, so we just crouched, staring at them all congregating in the square of the ocean which seemed only visible to us.

As I observed the whales playing and creating splashes that soaked us and the deck, I realized how small we all were, how all of these structures that humans build are only specks in the dirt. Wide-eyed and giddy, I glanced at Trent Reznor, looked at the whales moving away and wondered: how in the fuck am I ever going to explain this to anybody?

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