on mayo’s bridge

about 1 a.m.

a panorama

My father was a fisherman in his spare time.

I have memories of him getting his gear out of the trunk before we stood on a pier somewhere along Hampton Roads or the James River.

I was a squeamish kid. I can’t recall ever holding a fish unless it had taken a pit stop in a grill, oven or fryer.

I recall him trying to teach me to fish regardless. Typically, he would hand me a pair of binoculars when I tagged along.

I remember the ships going by, the waves lapping the shore, the seabirds wheeling.

I remember the smell of the salt air, dewatered fish, the beers that were secreted in his pockets sometimes and the grape sodas for me.

I don’t remember him catching much of anything.

I don’t think it mattered to him.

I walked across Mayo’s Bridge last night, the city’s unofficial fishing pier. As 14th Street and Saturday night in Shockoe Bottom rushed by, several men, some of them not much older than me stood over the James, waiting for that tug on the line and not caring if it happened.

I thought of how those souls were asked what they were doing Saturday night, they said they were fishing and they meant it.

I thought of the speeding vehicles, the sirens, the boisterousness, the distant bands, the glow of the city, the people like me shuttling between bars and bed.

Then there was a break in the traffic. There was the lapping of the James, the faint smell of salt there at the end of the estuary, the fish, the night birds, the faint odor of booze, the small boat below.

I wish my father kept trying to teach me to fish.


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