Memories: where the sun sank below the waves

When I was younger, I asked my mom where the sun went when it sank. She told me that on the other side of the country there was a massive ocean.

Even bigger than a pool? I had asked her.

So much bigger, she told me. And blue, with waves as tall as trees. And each night, when I saw the sun get lower, it would actually be falling into the ocean. The sun would extinguish itself with a massive cloud of steam, where it rolled up the hills to a town called ‘San Francisco.’

 And each morning the sun would rise up on the other side of the world, catching fire as it rose out of the water.

A year later we took a trip down to Florida. We went out into the Gulf, sailing on a ship that looked like it was hundreds of years old; three masts, cotton sails and wooden decks. In the middle of the ship, there was a glass plate that looked down to a glass plate in the hull, which looked down into the ocean. We were supposed to be able to see down into the water, following fish as they hunted for food. But it was too late for that—the sun was already setting.

I had a soda in one hand (such a rare treat) and my other hand on the railing, terrified of falling in and ending up as dinner for what I assumed was sharks. My mom stood next to me as we watched the Sun drop into the ocean.

There it goes! I told her. It’s going into the ocean. Do you think it’ll light up the water when it goes it? I asked her. And will it come back in the morning?

Of course it will.

How are you sure?

I’m not. But I’m hopeful. She told me.

Well, could we go there? Sail to where the Sun is going down? And how big is it? Is it only as big as a basketball?

I think you should finish your soda; you’re spilling it when you talk.

Years later, my mom admitted she had been lying. The Sun was actually a star in the middle of a solar system. Of course, I already knew this from school. It was a horrible place where my fantastical ideas were crushed into little bits of gravel and dust, then laid down and smashed into my ‘Road to Success.’

For two decades I forgot all about the trip on the boat, about the soda, and about the sun going beneath the waves. Until, one day, I found myself in Venice, sitting in a café along a canal on one of Venice’s many side streets. In one hand I had a Campari and soda, and I sat watching the sun set in between the buildings, when a memory started to tickle at the back of my mind. Something I hadn’t thought about in years. I had a memory of a little boy, drinking soda, watching the sun set in Florida

I sat in the chair, patiently waiting for the memory to return as the sun sunk lower and lower. As it was nearly gone, swallowed by the ocean, the evening around me lit up. The canal itself glowed from below, bright and green, bathing the side street in a watery light.

I looked around. A few of the other patrons at the café were staring at the canal, wondering aloud what it could be.

It was the sun. I told them. The sun dips beneath the ocean, and just for a second, the water lights up.

I don’t think they believe me. But they might start to have doubts. Could that be real? Could that really happen? Could the sunlight enter the water in a way that lights up the city? Is the sun really going beneath the water?

I turned back to the water, watching as the light slowly faded. Finally, there was nothing. The night was dark, a deep purple of dusk.

Waiter. I said. I’ll take a soda.

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