With graffiti everywhere complemented by splotches of white bird feces the Berkeley Pier is not a beautiful pier. There are crevices in the concrete slabs under my feet through which I can catch glimpses of the ocean below. The only thing between me and falling in the ocean is this concrete's refusal to crumble just yet.
Alone I walk along the pier through patches of suspended water vapor. Occasionally others emerge from the gray: a mother with her baby wrapped tightly in a blanket of purple fleece, a pack of teenage boys climbing on a row of quiescent graffiti-ed concrete sinks, a shoal of young fisherman chattering in a foreign tongue. As people fade in and out around me I continue forward, determined to reach the invisible end.
Boats chug past blurred in my eyes. Chill air fills my lungs. Seagulls cry in my ears. Saltiness tickles my nose.
Slowly the end of the pier materializes. A hooded figure docilely stabs trash floating in the breeze. Vertical wooden beams shoot skyward like rotting gap teeth. At the edge of the pier I glance between two of the protective beams. Across the dull blue-gray water I can see an old segment of the pier being gradually consumed by the ocean.
A seagull takes flight.
I retrace my steps along the pier, comforted by the reemergence of the woman and her baby, the pack of teenage boys, and the shoal of young fishermen.
I climb back into the car and shut the door, yet the salt smell still lingers.