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Shanthi Sekaran

Imperfect Eulogy for Elmer Morrissey

Elmer Morrissey, at the top of an 80-meter waterfall in San Gil, Colombia, in 2009 (photo by Rebecca Daunt)

April 14, 2012. On the 100th annivesary of the Titanic’s collision with an iceberg , the eight crew members of the Low Speed Chase set off on a day-long yacht race. When the 38-foot boat took a turn near the southern edge of the Farralon Islands, erratic and powerful waves threw the crew from their vessel, into the ocean beyond the San Francisco Bay. Three sailors made it onto the island, where the small yacht crashed, and were rescued. One was found dead in the water. Four are still missing.

I’ve been waking up in the earliest hours of the morning, before sunrise. From my window I can see the distant bay and the bridges that cut across it. It’s almost too dark to see the ocean, but I know it’s out there. And I know that somewhere in it is Elmer Morrissey.

I ask myself if the sea is less beautiful for having taken away my friend. I wonder if I have the energy to be angry at the Pacific Ocean. I try to think of what Elmer might say. I decide that Elmer would see the ocean for what it is: a roiling stage of life and death, a setting, not a being. I decide that Elmer would forgive.

I was a little bit in love with him, in the way you can be with someone you’re not romantically attracted to. Is that just love? It feels more like something in between love and in-love. I might have told Elmer this when he was alive. I might have said, “I’m a little bit in love with you, Elmer, in a platonic way that straddles the boundaries of love and in-love.” A simple “I love you” would also have sufficed. But how often do we really say this to our friends? I never throw out a casual “Love you!” at the end of a phone call. I might have said it to Elmer, though, and meant it fully. But I never did, because I’m too damn awkward with that sort of thing, and so I’m left saying it to my computer in a silent and rambling essay.

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