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The Water Under the Golden Gate

Chapter Text

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Eduardo’s father dies. Twelve days later, Eduardo jumps from the Golden Gate bridge.

 

Neither of these things are the beginning or the end of this story.

 

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Some of the things Eduardo says during the depositions are not entirely accurate. He has never expressly lied, of course, never said anything that could be construed as perjury. He’s not stupid. He also knows that every word of his side of the story will be weighed against Mark’s, and as such, he treads carefully. He and Mark may have perceived things differently, but the framework of their experiences is the same, and Eduardo doesn’t need to invent things anyway. He knows that the narrative will show that he deserves a piece of Facebook in the end. He won’t get all of it, like he promised, and neither he nor Mark will go home happy after the settlement, but such is life.

 

No, Eduardo has never lied, but he has embellished the story in little ways. He drops lines that he knows will paint a sympathetic portrait of himself as the wronged best friend and Mark as the one with blood on his hands, ruthlessly guarding his thirty pieces of silver. He says things like, I was your only friend and My father won’t even look at me. He knows that Mark sees these things for what they are, and maybe the lawyers can tell a little bit too, but of course they weren’t there, and whatever they pick up second-hand and spin is just inference and speculation.

 

Eduardo, of course, has never been Mark’s only friend. Dustin and Chris joke about being reluctant to admit that they are on cordial terms with Mark, but they stuck with him after the lawsuit and Eduardo knows that either of them would go to bat for Mark any day of the week.

 

As for Eduardo’s father... well, that part is not entirely untrue, even if Eduardo says it so that it has an emotional impact, so that Mark will understand how deep this wound goes. Ricardo Saverin had called his son the day after the lawsuit was filed and exploded at him. Eduardo had been sitting in Boston, in his cramped single dorm room, and he had literally put the phone down on the bed and leaned over it, rocking slightly, eyes closed, as his father’s furious, staccato Portuguese had washed over him.

 

Eduardo always thinks, Portuguese is my heart language. It is the language his mother speaks, and his cousins, and it reminds him of home – not even Miami, but Brazil.

 

But Portuguese is also his prison, because his father traps him in layers of it, pinning Eduardo down with outbursts and even silences. No one has ever humiliated him, made him miserable, in English (not until Mark, but by then Eduardo’s perception of the world is already fleshed out and nothing Mark does can change the fundamental truth that painful memories and Portuguese go hand in hand).

 

So when his father calls him to tell him that he was a stupid, stupid boy for letting Facebook slip through his fingers, Eduardo hates the sound of the words, the very shape of them, as they come rolling over the phone line.

 

It is less than two weeks later when he desperately wants to hear it again. But by then there is total radio silence from his parents’ house; even his mãe doesn’t call, although Eduardo knows that it’s not of her own volition. He flies home one weekend and his father lets him into the house, but the old man ignores him for the duration of his stay. It makes Eduardo ache at the same time as it infuriates him, because everything he’s ever done has been for his father’s benefit.

 

And the two people in his life whose opinions he has always valued most (because positive opinions are hard to come by, with them) are both coldly furious with him; Mark, from across a board room table, and Ricardo Saverin, from 1,500 miles away.

 

Eduardo doesn’t actually know what to do with this, but he does something with it anyway, because he has to.

 

When the depositions finally end, Eduardo finds himself at loose ends. Degree in hand, he starts investing in tech start-ups, but he feels restless, like something is missing.

 

It occurs to him that maybe something will always be missing, but he tries not to let that thought settle in and take root. If it does, it will infect him, like a poison.

 

Every so often, he receives a call from home. Picking up the phone is like Russian roulette, because Eduardo doesn’t know which parent it will be. When it is his mother, they talk about how much she misses him and whether he’s happy and if he thinks he might be home for Chanukah. They are conversations that leave him painfully missing her, so the end result is not much better than that from a call from his father. Those are admittedly few and far between, since his father doesn’t seem to have much to say to him these days. When they do speak, it is vicious and brief; Eduardo mostly listens while his father talks.

 

One day, after one such phone call, Eduardo wrenches off the family ring his father gave him at thirteen and leaves it on the kitchen counter for three days. Before this, he never took it off, not even to shower. He knows what it would mean to lose it.

 

On the third day, Eduardo puts the ring in an envelope and mails it to Florida, where he assumes that his father picks it up at the post office. He doesn’t know. He checks to see if someone has signed for it at the other end, and someone has, but Eduardo never hears anything about it.

 

Eduardo does wonder if his action bore some kind of symbolism for their relationship, though, because his father doesn’t call again after that.

 

Eduardo doesn’t notice at first, because he still gets calls from his mother and often expects it to be his father, but he begins to realize that it never is anymore.

 

Then, one day, shortly after he has moved to Singapore (because he doesn’t care where he gets a new beginning, and Singapore is one of the best places in the world to do business) Eduardo gets a phone call and it is like the world has ended.

 

His father is dead.

 

He was fifty-nine; it was a stroke, and as it is with such things, no one had seen it coming.

 

Eduardo sits on the floor in his living room and dimly listens to his sister recount how it happened, how their mother came home from the grocery store to find her husband collapsed in the front hallway. He was gone even before she called the paramedics. He was fifty-nine.

 

Eduardo is in disbelief. He and his father haven’t spoken in months, and when they were on speaking terms, they were not close. Eduardo can’t remember his father taking him to the park or congratulating him for a soccer game well-played. But it doesn’t matter, because Ricardo Saverin was his father, and Eduardo had always just sort of wanted one thing from him.

 

It is too late for that now, though. Now is the time to pick out a black suit – one among many; Eduardo looks good in black – and a tie and fly south for the funeral. Eduardo has never asked, but he is reasonably certain that he has been cut out of the will.

 

Eduardo is asked to speak at the funeral. His sister rises first, because she is a year and a half older, and says something flowery but mostly vague about the kind of man their father was. When she sits down, she grips Eduardo’s hand tightly. He is fairly certain that it is a warning.

 

Eduardo doesn’t know what she thinks he will say. He makes comments like, My father was a hard man and We weren’t always close, comments that allow him to express his grief that things weren’t different without publicly tearing down his father’s memory. At the end, his mother gives a tiny nod of approval, although his sister still looks like she isn’t sure that it is enough.

 

It will have to be, because Eduardo literally does not have a single thing more in his soul to give. He had already been exhausted, worn right to the bone from his long battle with Mark. Now he is simply going through the motions; laying a rose on the coffin before it is lowered into the ground; speaking the little Hebrew he knows when it’s expected of him; straightening his tie as they start back across the cemetery.

 

Eduardo wants to sleep for about a hundred years. When he gets home, he puts on his pajamas and crawls under the covers, watching reality shows until his eyes drift shut of their own volition. Still, his sleep is interrupted by nightmares, and he suffers for a few days, unwilling and unable to get out of bed. His grief is heavier than he had anticipated it would be, too heavy to lift on his own, and it is self-evident that there is no one there to help him with it.  

 

He manages to wrangle himself a prescription for sleeping pills, powerful ones, and he starts taking them in twos and threes. It feels like he has spent months like this, dream-like, since his father’s death, but in reality it has been just over a week at this point. Eduardo stops taking calls from his mother and sister and tells himself, it’s your life, you don’t have to work, you do what you want with your time, and he knows he can get away with it because of the ludicrous amount of zeroes after the total in his bank account.

 

The money makes him feel exactly 0.1% better. The 0.1% is because it enables him to do just this without worrying about whether he’s financially solvent. Otherwise, he could not care less. The money was not what he wanted when he went after Mark, went after Facebook. It was an objective, yes, but it was not the objective, and as time went on, Eduardo had realized that it wasn’t even a particularly important objective.

 

He had wondered at first if that was what he wanted; a forum to get back at Mark, and he thinks that that was part of it too. But something, deep down, knows that Eduardo wanted to be part of Facebook because he wanted to be an irrevocable part of Mark’s life. And now Eduardo can’t imagine why he even ever thought that that would be a good idea, since Mark doesn’t give a shit about the things in his life beyond Facebook, and besides, you can’t change someone just by loving or hating them enough.

 

On the tenth day after his father’s death, Eduardo starts to wonder what would happen if he just never left his condo again.

 

Would anyone notice, he wonders? The phone no longer rings; his mother and sister have apparently bought his lies about how everything is okay, really, he’s just busy. They’re giving him his space, like he asked. And he doesn’t have any close friends, none who have kept in really close touch while he travels mostly aimlessly, this way and that across the country and the globe.

 

He hasn’t had a girlfriend – or boyfriend – to get on his case in awhile now.

 

Even his landlord wouldn’t come looking; Eduardo has his rent automatically deducted every month. It’s the same for his phone, electricity, and hydro bills. He could probably order takeout every night and sit in front of the television until he can come up with a reason to do anything else.

 

He doesn’t really want to examine too closely why this is burying him so much. He and his father had had a complex relationship, and Eduardo has never had a moment where he’s thought, with any kind of clarity, I really love my dad. It’s simply not the way they were.

 

For some reason, though, he is grieving, really grieving this time, and a part of him wonders if this is partly Mark’s fault; that if he hadn’t lost both of them in the same year, his best friend and his father, he might have been okay.

 

Not that this wholly makes sense. Really, he lost Mark years ago, when he smashed the laptop and everything else crashed down, too. But the lawsuit being settled had a note of finality to it; a departure, and an ending.

 

On the eleventh day after his father’s death, in a haze of sleeping pills and alcohol, Eduardo gets the notification on his phone, reminding him:

 

Facebook shareholder’s meeting, tomorrow, 11 am.

 

And for whatever reason, it is the motivation Eduardo needs to drag himself out of bed and into the shower. He leans his forehead against the wall as the too-hot spray rolls over him, penetrating the matted tangles in his hair and five days’ worth of accumulated sweat and grime. He still feels shaky and awful when he gets out, but there’s something about a shower that makes the world a marginally easier place to face.

 

Dressing methodically, he chooses a tailored grey suit this time, and a white shirt with a pink pocket square and black Hugo Boss shoes. It’s meaningless, he knows, they’re just clothes, but for some ridiculous reason it comforts him to know that he can still coordinate an outfit; that he can haul himself out of bed after five miserable days and still look stylish and fit for human consumption.

 

He chooses his clothes with care for San Francisco. He doesn’t bring any black suits, because he’s not officially in mourning (and what even is that anyway, it’s so medieval, and he and his father weren’t even close). He brings matching belts and shoes, chooses a long, dark jacket for the windy San Francisco weather, and folds everything neatly into a single suitcase. Then he tidies up a little around his apartment, changes the sheets, and puts his laundry away. When he leaves, he finds himself looking back, like he might not see it again. It looks like a stranger’s apartment. Eduardo wonders if the bad memories from the last week will always live there.

 

He touches down at SFO late in the evening the next day – it’s a long flight from Singapore – and checks immediately into a hotel. He lies in bed for a long time with the kick-in of a hangover buzz starting around his temples. Taking three extra-strength Advil (which is, quite frankly, two more than he needs), Eduardo waits for the edge to dull on his headache. When it finally does, he falls asleep with the light on. He has two alarms set, and when the sun rises the first of them goes off. Eduardo wakes up immediately, but he lies in bed and watches the minutes tick past until the second one goes off.

 

He has a slow, vague realization: There is literally nothing to get up for.

 

Yesterday, going to the shareholder’s meeting had seemed like some kind of necessary contact with the outside world. He would see – Mark, yes, but also Chris and Dustin, and he would be reminded that at some point, people had liked him, even valued his opinion, and things had been better. Now, Eduardo knows that this is false. He is not going to get the kind of validation he needs from seeing friends who aren’t really friends anymore, and the one person who started him on the downward spiral that is the last couple of years of his life.

 

Eduardo eventually gets up anyway, and he puts on his suit and his Hugo Boss shoes and his pocket square, and he goes through his fifteen-step hair process because this is what he does. He is unchangeable, and maybe that’s why all of his relationships are hard; he chooses other people that are unchangeable too, and then sets them up so that they throw themselves at him with the speed of a freight train and he throws back, and the collision is always fatal. He never could meet his father halfway, or Mark, for that matter.

 

Eduardo is, by the way, well aware that the blame for some of what happened with Mark lies at his door. The problem is that he’d rather be angry than guilty, and Mark is his receptacle for not just all of the things he hates about Mark, but all of the things he’s never liked about himself.

 

When Eduardo leaves the hotel, he’s not initially sure where he’s going, but his rental takes him across the city and at some point he just parks it in an empty lot and gets out to study the skyline. The Golden Gate Bridge looms closer than he’d thought, a massive man-made skeleton, its rusty bones razor-thin and forbidding against a grey sky.

 

Without any well-formed idea of what he means to do, Eduardo starts off toward the bridge. It is windy, and he has forgotten his jacket at the hotel, but he just tucks his hands into the pockets of his suit and grinds on. The Bridge is even larger close up, and Eduardo dimly remembers reading something a long time ago – 700 feet? 750 feet above the water? Whatever the exact number, the thing is a monstrosity, a colossal scar on a wild passage with strange currents.

 

Eduardo makes his way to the pedestrian sidewalk, on the side of the bridge facing the bay. There is a sign on the way in – There is hope, make the call; The consequences of jumping from this bridge are fatal and tragic – that makes him smile for some reason, just a bitter half-twist of his mouth. He has heard these kinds of things in the news, that the city of San Francisco has hired security teams to patrol the pedestrian bridge, and that it is closed to foot traffic at night, all in the hope of preventing more suicides at the most popular suicide destination in the world.

 

Eduardo doesn’t think that most of it works. The bridge is an alluring figure, if only because taking too many pills or slitting your wrists seems like an exercise in passivity; you lived your life quietly, and now you’re going to go out with a whimper, too. Some people want to leave a bigger impression than that. Eduardo can imagine having the image of the bridge etched indelibly on your mind, that seeing it once, it becomes the place where you must end it. It becomes the only appropriate place to let the world know that you are not handling things.

 

Eduardo grips the railing with both hands and looks down into the heady grey-blue waters of the Golden Gate, the channel between the San Francisco bay and the Pacific Ocean. When the sun comes out periodically and lights up the sky, the water turns blue, too. It is an eerie, unreadable thing to Eduardo when it’s grey, but when it’s blue, he feels okay with it again. It feels familiar.

 

Eduardo looks back down the walkway. Two cyclists pass him, ignoring him. A woman and her friend are power-walking, and they give Eduardo a curious look as they pass – I’m wearing a pocket square, he thinks, crazily - but they don’t ask him if he’s doing all right. I don’t look unwell, he thinks, raking his fingers back through his hair, resting his palms against his temples. They don’t know me, and I look like someone who has his shit together.

 

Except he doesn’t have his shit together, he really doesn’t, and as he reaches for the railing again and leans over, far over, to look down into the water, Eduardo realizes with a rush how easy this is. Some decisions require a lot of time and care, a lot of caution and homework and weighing the alternatives. Some decisions are easy. Eduardo thinks that’s probably because they’re not really quote-unquote decisions at all.

 

And he has done what he has to do, left nothing of consequence behind him so that his journey can go on from here without too much of a mess for everyone to clean up. There’s not a lot to go home to at this point, and he won’t waste his time. It’s almost startling that this never occurred to him before. Then he remembers his almost unconscious journey across the city and acquires a grim understanding that it did occur to him, but he was just slow to acknowledge it.

 

Eduardo doesn’t jump so much as he falls.

 

And the water under the Golden Gate is freezing cold.