The Bay Area summer was ending. The mid-October sun, cast upon The Embarcadero in between the Towers. A prelude of twilight; a grainy, tactile air.
Sunday evening. Cooks begin preparing food in the blue portico of the Ferry Building. Another fundraiser. Partitions go up to the property line. I look on through the open double door. Diners enter and ask me for directions. Couples saunter along the skylit hall and speak in private volumes. No sales to be had this hour.
A family walks down the corridor from the terminals. Pushing a stroller with children in tow, helmed by a large woman in a black Giants t-shirt. “SF,” the orange letters emblazoned across the front.
“Stop” she says, stopping suddenly. Extending her arms, palms facing backward. “Is that a fire?” she says, her voice now rising. “I smell fire” chest heaving, arms extending. The instinct to flee to water.
“It’s a wood-fire oven” I call loudly, observing.
Alert, her eyes snap toward me, black eyes, deep in the dimming sun. “Are you sure?” she says. “You sure?” she demands.
“They’re having a dinner outside” I point.
“Oh my God” she says, raising her hand to her heart, her chest. The subsidence of panic. “We just came from Santa Rosa. We lost everything.”