The sun was beginning its ascent into the sky, though it had yet to peek over the horizon. An occasional harbor seal poked its round head through the surface of the dark water in the marina. The twinkling stars overhead were starting to fade.
Dozens of sea lions were piled on top of the rocky pier. The males, some weighing close to 700 pounds, barked and snarled at each other. A loud splash occasionally cut through the din when, during a quarrel, one of them fell into the water.
My friend and I walked along the platform. The wood planks creaked under our weight as we followed the path back to the shore. We spied a sea otter, curled up and snoozing, at one end of the dock.
My friend stopped walking.
“What?” I asked.
He pointed. My gaze followed his finger through the purple darkness.
Not six feet away from us on the pier was a heap of eight or nine sea lions. The smaller ones were farther away from the main walkway. A blubbery male, teeth showing and head raised, was seated on the platform. He was looking at us.
“What if he attacks us?” my friend whispered.
Some of the other sea lions turned their heads and cast a wary eye upon us. The corpulent male guarding his tribe barked. My friend leaned back into me.
“He won’t attack us. They eat fish,” I reasoned.
“That thing weighs like 700 pounds,” he said. “He could crush us.”
The distance between the fleshy sea lion and the other edge of the platform was about three feet. There was no other way back to the shore.
“Just don’t make eye contact and keep walking,” I said.
He didn’t move. Shrugging, I slipped around my friend, kept my eyes down, and walked past the bulky creatures. My fingers could have patted their heads; their flippers could have smacked me into the water.
When I was about eight feet past the sea lions, I heard hasty footfalls behind me. My friend, unscathed by the animals, appeared by my side.
“That was scary,” he murmured.
“They could have eaten us!” he exclaimed once we were on shore. “They weigh a lot! Did you know that sea lions can run on land faster than humans can? Can you imagine a 700-pound sea lion tackling you? Into the water?”
“But they don’t eat humans. And we weren’t going to fight him for that dock or his clan.”
After a few moments of silence, he said, “You’re brave. You walked by them as if they weren’t there.”
I wondered about this later. My friend is not timid, nor is he nervous. Why did the sea lions rattle him so much?
The construction workers across the street shouted at me.
“Hey baby! Wanna gimme some sugar tonight?”
He was sitting on the stoop when I walked by.
“Konichiwa. An nyoung. Ni hao,” he called. “You speak one of those, right, honey? How do you say ‘I love you’?”
While I was waiting to cross the street, he came up to me and said, “You’re pretty. You’re pretty. You’re really pretty. Asian woman, you’re pretty.”
He waved at me from across the room. “Hey, doc! Do you do sex therapy? I want to learn more about that… from you.”
Of course. I am a woman, he is a man. What have I done in the past when I got attention I didn’t want, when I wanted to disappear?
“Just don’t make eye contact and keep walking.”