I wrote the basis for this story at age 21, while in my cups in a bar in San Francisco. I had to write something for my English class at San Francisco City College. I lost the original draft but the story stayed with me and I finally reconstructed it after many decades.
“I can’t help but still feel guilty, you know,” she said.
“It’s all right,” he said.
“He seemed okay, you know, like he was reconciled to the situation.”
“Yes,” he said, “here comes the wine.”
He nodded his acceptance to the waiter. They looked at the waiter’s hands, saying nothing, as he poured the Pouilly-Fuissé. He left, and they looked tentatively at each other before raising their glasses.
“To us,” he said.
“Yes, to us,” she said, but didn’t offer to touch his glass with hers.
The Golden Gate Strait has a span of one mile. With six feet of tide height at a velocity of around 5 miles per hour, up to 2.5 billion cubic meters of water races through the Golden Gate every six hours.
“You’ve changed, you know,” she said.
He smiled, waiting.
“You’re thinner, you seem taller, more distinguished.”
“It’s the gray hair at my temples, obligatory plumage for a full professor.”
“I suppose I’ve changed too?”
“You’ve never looked more alluring.”
“I guess you must really love me to say that after all these months. Please say it.”
“I love you,” he said.
She looked down, fiddled with her fork while as he looked intently at her. Finally she said, “you were so kind to let me sort myself out, so patient.”
“There was nothing else to do.”
She brought her eyes back to his. “Remember the last time we were here? It was wonderful and exciting, but so dangerous for me and Dan. For us to be seen together in public, I mean.”
“Dan was out of town and we three are, were, friends. It seemed innocent enough at the time.”
“I sure didn’t feel innocent, and everything changed. I felt you really saw me, knew me. Dan lived on a higher plane.”
Fishermen from San Francisco often lay pots for the Dungeness Crab near the Farallon Islands, which are within the City’s political jurisdiction. The Farallons sit 18 miles west of the Golden Gate Strait. They are home to a variety marine life, nourished by many converging influences including especially the outflow from San Francisco Bay. The Dungeness crab eats a wide variety of marine forms, preferring clams, other crustaceans, and small fish, but is also an effective scavenger.
“You remembered my favorite wine,” she said after her first sip.
“Of course,” he said.
“You know, I didn’t used to go to many of those social events, the hospital auxiliary I mean. Dan and I really didn’t like them, but we had to, really, to support the Cardiology Department. But I guess I really did have friends there and I began to miss them.”
“You were ready to come out of your shell.”
“Yes, but I didn’t know if I would be welcome without Dan. Margaret finally convinced me. Margaret Peterson, you know, the wife of the new department chief, Harry Peterson.”
“I’m glad you listened to her, or I wouldn’t have seen your picture in the paper. I knew then that you were ready to hear from me.”
“Yes,” she said, “and I was so happy you called me. My heart made a little flip when I heard your voice.”
Since it was opened to traffic in 1937, more people have died by suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge than at any other site in the world. The deck is about 245 feet above the water. After a fall of four seconds, jumpers hit the water at around 75 mph. Most jumpers die from impact trauma. The few who survive the initial impact generally drown or die of hypothermia in the cold water. Currents beneath the bridge are strong and some jumpers have been washed out to sea. By 2005 the suicide count exceeded 1,200 and, since then, new suicides have been occurring about once every two weeks on average.
“Did you see anyone the time I was, you know, out of sight”?
“Of course not, you know that.”
“I know it now.” She relaxed in her chair and smiled at him.
“You finally smiled,” he said.
“You’ve been smiling like a leprechaun the whole time we’ve sat here. It must be catching.”
“Leprechauns are mischievous creatures. I don’t intend any mischief.”
“Too bad.” She batted her eyelashes dramatically.
“It seems like old times again,” he said.
“Yes,” she said. “But I can’t help remembering Dan and the way he went. Because of us.”
She paused, a tear forming at the corner of one eye. He continued watching her, and waited. She bent her head to discretely remove the tear with a finger, then looked up at him again, her voice wobbling.
“He was such a good man, a saint. Everyone thought him a saint. I felt I could never live up to where he stood. Not that you aren’t wonderful, but one needs to feel connected to one’s mate. You know all this, anyway.”
“We’ll find a way to accept his absence, and our loss, in a way that honors him. He was my best friend.”
“Yes,” she said. “I should try to remember it’s been hard for you too.”
She took a few deep breaths.
“We’ll support each other.” he said. “We can allow him to be with us for as long as we need to. While we get on with our lives. Together?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, and raised her glass again, this time to touch his raised glass. “Together. Again.”
“Here’s dinner now,” he said, “your favorite, and it’s the height of the season.”
She brought her hands together. “Crab Cakes! Let’s have the last of the wine and order another. We’ll have to drink to Dan. He made this evening possible.”
“Yes, to us, and to Dan. May he now rest in peace.”
Dr. Harold S. Peterson, Chief of Cardiology at St. Rose Hospital in San Francisco presided over a gala dinner to commemorate the opening of the hospital’s new cardiology wing, named the “Daniel M. D’Amato Pavilion.” Dr. D’Amato was the driving force in getting approval and funding for the new pavilion but died, tragically, before he was able to see his efforts bear fruit. His widow, Edith D’Amato, was present to represent him.