In the back corner I sat and ate two cheeseburgers at the saddest fast food joint in the universe. It occupies the ground floor of a building off Lincoln Road, through the gauntlet of shops and street performers and open air restaurants filled with people drawn in from every habited continent. A current of energy flows by, funneling from Collins and Washington and A1A, but it doesn’t swirl into the windowless interior where the broken silver haired man sits staring at an empty cup of coffee.
The Venetian is the back way off the island, safeguarded by a series of toll booths and draw bridges that bring transit to a halt. At the foot of one bridge women on skateboards wait for the gates to reopen.
On the incoming tide the bay fills up with bright blue water that flows in past the cruise ships in the Cut. But it was at night here where I saw my first tarpon, fooled by a jigged shrimp drifting in the dark water. I followed the crashes until my eyes caught it leaping, silver scales illuminated by the ambient light of the city.
Years later the water runs blue under the Venetian and through the piers of the marina on the mainland side, where 40 to 50 million dollars worth of boats float in the water waiting for the affluent to open their checkbooks. Underneath the shaded docks the moving stream is occasionally interrupted by splashes that sound like tail flicks and then the unmistakeable sound of tarpon gulping air. They float in formation facing into the tide and when I lay down on the dock and stick my head underneath they do not flinch.
These fish are not to be touched. But even if you could they’d retreat to the concrete and your line would go slack before you even had a say in it.