A stout woman with a deep, booming voice yelled, “Bikes!” and to my left, at least 60 cyclists whizzed past, one after another, as if the woman in neon were our general and we, her fleet. “Motorcycles!” was the second command, and with that, twenty of us started up our bikes, a loud, synchronized roar resounded weakly before the three-story ferry that towered before us, as if we were a pack of wolves doing our best to look tough in front of a wooly mammoth, and this ferry was an enormous, prehistoric metal creature. A parking lot’s worth of cars, motorcyclists, and cyclists were able to board the ferry with ease.
I made my way to the middle deck, to the bow of the ship, my arms giddy to spread like Rose from the Titanic. It was a spectacular view: the Olympic mountains to my right, enormous, cheddar-orange, brachiosaurus shipping cranes to my left, and the magnificent Mt. Rainier looming majestically in the background, slightly faded by the distance, all the colors of the horizon shades of orange, purple, and blue pastel. As the ferry began to take off, you could feel its enormous bones creak themselves into motion, and slowly but surely, we began to move towards Brisbane Island across the Puget Sound.
To my immediate left, there was a woman with a white sweater, off-white pants, and white hair. She must have been 80 years old. Her eyes were closed and her mouth gently curved into a smile, an almost private smile that betrayed a humble happiness and a certain contentedness that said, “I could die right now and it would be okay. In fact, if I were to have control over how I were to leave this world, I would want it to be like this: crossing the Puget Sound with mountains to my right and left, Seattle behind me, and Brisbane before me, the ocean below me, and the sky above me.”
The drumming of the ocean waves hitting the bottom of the ferry was a rhythmic hum-roar, somewhere in-between the two noises, and depending on which way you anchored your head, the wind would catch in your ears to whisper or scream. Either way, the symphony could have been labeled, “Storm.” As I closed my eyes, a gathering of wild men beating empty trash cans with dinosaur bones around an audible flame amidst the storm was taunting mother nature, provoking her into a colossal storm fit to break even the most determined of ships.
I opened my eyes and the scene changed. I retreated to the base of the cabinet in which passengers could sit comfortably inside on all three levels, and as I sat there with my back against the wall, I watched the couple who had asked me earlier to take so many pictures of them, holding and planting kisses on each other as if they could heal the bite marks of the cold Puget breeze. Despite the impossible nature of such an act, somehow it always seems to work.
Her smile, unlike the woman in white, was of a completely different nature. We all recognize it when we see it because it is one of the most desired smiles yet hardest to evoke naturally. Her smile said, I am in-love; I am loved and I am loving. Touching your hand is better than the smell of freshly brewed french-pressed coffee on a groggy morning for a coffee addict, better than the feeling of sleeping in your own bed after two weeks of scrappy motel springs sewn between bits of cloth, better than anything you could ever taste, smell, hear, or see. To complete the picture for you, there was also a single sunflower resting on top of her purse. No wonder he wanted so many pictures of their time together. I would too.
That was the ferry ride across the Puget Sound.