Golden Gate Redux

john ater
6 min readJan 11, 2022

Sitting alone looking out across the Golden Gate, the boy caught my attention.

I sensed a sadness and loneliness coming from him. Without thinking, I walked down and asked if I might sit with him. He said yes. His young face reflected a soul sadness, a sadness I’ve witnessed too many times my life. I knew whomever he lost left a void he could not comprehend. He could not imagine life without the person.

We sat silent, watching the fog roll in. His tears spilled over and began rolling down his cheeks. He sobbed, the deep the quiet, guttural sobs of a boy lost in his grief. I sat silent and my tears slip out of my eyes and slid down my cheeks, remembering my soul sadnesses of all those vanished from my life.

Finally, I spoke.

“Both my abuelas died many years ago and I could not imagine my life without them.”

“How did you know it was my abuela?” he asked, a look of surprise crossing his face.

“I don’t know. I just felt it.”

“How old are you?” I asked, knowing he was probably between 13 and 15.

“14,” he said. “How old are you?”

I laughed. “A LOT older than that. I’m 68.”

“This was her favoritist place,” he said, a small smile creeping onto his tear stained face. “She taught me how to fish here. She LOVED to fish. I didn’t really like it that much but I loved being here with her.”

Copyright 2021 — John Ater photographer

“You know, she is here right now,” I said. “Sit really still and watch the fog come in. You will feel her sitting with you.”

The expression on his face softened and the pain began to leach away. His whole body began to relax.

“She’s here! I feel her!”

“I have to tell you this story,” he said, excitement gripping him. “When I was five or six and “helping” make tamales I was in charge of steaming them. She was perplexed because she would put 25 in the steaming pan and she always came up one or two short. Then she realized I was sneak eating them and started chasing me around the kitchen popping me with a white linen kitchen towel. When she finally stopped, out of breath, she began to laugh and I began to laugh and we were in tears over the “tamale thief.”

john ater

author / street photographer / writer / editor / iconoclast / anarchist