Sea Lions.

The sun was begin­ning its ascent into the sky, though it had yet to peek over the hori­zon. An occa­sional har­bor seal poked its round head through the sur­face of the dark water in the marina. The twin­kling stars over­head were start­ing to fade.

Dozens of sea lions were piled on top of the rocky pier. The males, some weigh­ing close to 700 pounds, barked and snarled at each other. A loud splash occa­sion­ally cut through the din when, dur­ing a quar­rel, one of them fell into the water.

My friend and I walked along the plat­form. The wood planks creaked under our weight as we fol­lowed the path back to the shore. We spied a sea otter, curled up and snooz­ing, at one end of the dock.

My friend stopped walking.

What?” I asked.

He pointed. My gaze fol­lowed his fin­ger through the pur­ple darkness.

Not six feet away from us on the pier was a heap of eight or nine sea lions. The smaller ones were far­ther away from the main walk­way. A blub­bery male, teeth show­ing and head raised, was seated on the plat­form. He was look­ing at us.

What if he attacks us?” my friend whispered.

Some of the other sea lions turned their heads and cast a wary eye upon us. The cor­pu­lent male guard­ing his tribe barked. My friend leaned back into me.

He won’t attack us. They eat fish,” I reasoned.

That thing weighs like 700 pounds,” he said. “He could crush us.”

The dis­tance between the fleshy sea lion and the other edge of the plat­form was about three feet. There was no other way back to the shore.

Just don’t make eye con­tact and keep walk­ing,” I said.

He didn’t move. Shrug­ging, I slipped around my friend, kept my eyes down, and walked past the bulky crea­tures. My fin­gers could have pat­ted their heads; their flip­pers could have smacked me into the water.

When I was about eight feet past the sea lions, I heard hasty foot­falls behind me. My friend, unscathed by the ani­mals, appeared by my side.

That was scary,” he murmured.

They could have eaten us!” he exclaimed once we were on shore. “They weigh a lot! Did you know that sea lions can run on land faster than humans can? Can you imag­ine a 700-pound sea lion tack­ling you? Into the water?”

But they don’t eat humans. And we weren’t going to fight him for that dock or his clan.”

After a few moments of silence, he said, “You’re brave. You walked by them as if they weren’t there.”

I won­dered about this later. My friend is not timid, nor is he ner­vous. Why did the sea lions rat­tle him so much?

The con­struc­tion work­ers across the street shouted at me.

Hey baby! Wanna gimme some sugar tonight?”

He was sit­ting on the stoop when I walked by.

Konichiwa. An nyoung. Ni hao,” he called. “You speak one of those, right, honey? How do you say ‘I love you’?”

While I was wait­ing to cross the street, he came up to me and said, “You’re pretty. You’re pretty. You’re really pretty. Asian woman, you’re pretty.”

He waved at me from across the room. “Hey, doc! Do you do sex ther­apy? I want to learn more about that… from you.”

Of course. I am a woman, he is a man. What have I done in the past when I got atten­tion I didn’t want, when I wanted to disappear?

Just don’t make eye con­tact and keep walking.”