The Salesforce Tower is the tallest building in San Francisco. It wasn’t there when I moved away in 2015, but when I returned three years later, my city had gotten a mohawk. It’s visible from the beach, the park, the grocery store.
Like a new loud family member, at first it was embarrassing, but over time, I’ve gotten used to it. It’s just who we are now.
A month ago, I was downtown, ordering an iced coffee from a place with too many milk choices. Leaving the café, I looked up at the office buildings. I couldn’t see the Salesforce Tower. I walked a few blocks and kept searching for it. It had vanished. Then it occurred to me. The tower is not visible when you’re right next to it.
I had forgotten about that until yesterday. My daughter and I took a long walk down a path surrounded by weeds and wildflowers. We talked a little, about boyfriends and pancakes, but were generally quiet. “Can we walk a little slower?” she said at one point. “It’s so pretty.”
Our footsteps on the gravel sounded like popcorn crunching. We stopped to watch a brown bunny chew on a leaf. And then my daughter said, “Mom. Look. A fish.” At first, I thought the shimmering skin on the ground was the flesh of a bird but I was wrong. There were dead fish strewn on the path. Some whole with eyeballs intact, others in pieces. “My friend told me about this,” she said. “Anchovies fell from the sky.” She said this with the nonchalance of a teen who has lived through a global pandemic.
“How the hell did anchovies fall from the sky?”
She shrugged and said there was an article about it. I told her we should watch Magnolia later that night. We continued to walk in silence. Crunch, crunch.
We were over a mile from the ocean. How did anchovies fall from the sky? I concocted various scenarios in my head, but was too ashamed to share them with my analytical child.
Later, at home, my daughter looked it up. “Overpopulation of anchovies,” she announced, sprawled out on the couch with her phone. “Sea birds tried to get them all to their young but carried too many, so they fell on the ground.” She took a sip of her banana smoothie.
There was no mysterious fish tsunami. The explanation was perfectly logical. Birds were responsible for the fish on the ground. This had not occurred to me. I was ready to believe in fish clouds. Then I remembered the Salesforce Tower, the thing you can’t see when it’s right in front of you. And then I started thinking about what else I’m not seeing. The thing that later, when it reveals itself, will make me say, “Of course. How obvious.”