The air is warm and fragrant with herbs and fresh bread and, around us, men and women are laughing and sipping their wine, enjoying Napa’s pleasant summer evening. Matt sits at my side, staring blankly straight ahead, oblivious to the sights and sounds around him. I, on the other hand, am hyper-attuned to the environment, my heart envying the happy families as I watch sweet round baby faces smile up at their mothers. I had just completely blind-sided Matt. Our night had started out normal enough. We took showers and got dressed to go out for dinner. We had been joking and talking about our day and then, as usual, the conversation turned to the boat.
“You know, I’m not ok with going on the boat without you.” He said. “If I go, I want you to come with me.”
“Have you talked to the guys about this? Are they ok with me going on the trip? This isn’t exactly what they signed up for…”
“I know, but they’re ok with it. They realize that you’re part of the package now. It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I’m not going without you.”
It wasn’t the first time we had talked about this, so I wasn’t completely surprised by his declaration. “So, ok, so, it would be what, two years?” He nodded.
My mind started spinning. Two years. Tears began welling up in my eyes as I fought to calm my screaming biological clock. I couldn’t help myself from blurting out my thoughts – “But, I’m 28 now, by the time that we left, I would almost be 31, then if we were gone for two years, I would be 33 and then we wouldn’t have any money when we got back and so we wouldn’t have kids right away so maybe I would be 34 or 35 when we could have kids and they say that your fertility starts to drop after 35 and what if I can’t get pregnant right away and so then maybe I would be 36 or 37 and then we want to have two or maybe three kids and so then I would have to hurry up and get pregnant again but then I would be an old woman when our kids were in grade school and…” the blubbering continued, then dissolved into a quiet hiccupping sob.
Matt put his hand on mine and looked at me, then looked away, stunned. “Huh.” He managed. “I never thought about it that way before.”
“Wow. So this is it?!?!” I gaze upwards, admiring the sleek smooth lines and the sheer size of the thing. “Yep.” Matt says, leaning his hand against the hull, “This is Syzygy.” The boat is on the hard at the Berkeley Marina, fresh off the truck, and now propped up on cushioned stands. I walk towards the bow, and about twenty feet farther, then turn around so I can get a better look at her. I yell to Matt, “Her hips are HUGE!!” For, indeed, I would describe the boat as having an “apple” shape. A nice shapely, narrow bow, then an enormous girth at the center, and a slight tapering towards the stern. She is one well-endowed lady. I walk back towards Matt and he invites me up the ladder that’s leaning against the boat. Climbing up the rungs I feel, well, totally unsafe, and it’s strange to realize how tall the boat is when you take the keel into consideration. I scramble up over the toerail and am standing in the cockpit, trying to remember that the boat is not simply balanced on its thin keel, but is supported by the stands. Still, it’s a bit disconcerting and I struggle to push all thoughts of earthquakes out of my mind. Matt drops down into the cabin and I follow him.
Oh my God. It’s. so. small. I hope Matt took my breathlessness for awe and not horror… All I can think is, “Me and Matt and two other guys. Here. Nowhere to get away. Oh my God, it’s. so. small.” I smile and say, “Wow! This is great!” thinking, “Lord, what have I got myself into??”
It’s been a long day. I’m standing in line at the BART station, uncomfortably warm amongst all the other jostling bodies, and, like them, waiting impatiently for the next East Bay bound train to come in. Tucking my ticket in my back pocket, I take out my latest book, “Excellent Women” by Barbara Pym. Not my usual kind of reading material, but I’ve read just about everything else in our building’s laundry room library and I was starting to get desperate. The book was ok, so far, certainly not worthy of a book report, but it kept me entertained. I’d barely read a page when the train pulled up. I jockeyed for position and managed to secure a seat. Settling in, I returned to my book. (I had learned that reading was key to keeping me from thinking about earthquakes as we raced through the tunnel under the bay, and terrorist attacks that could blow everyone up.) We were approaching the 19th Street Oakland stop when I read the quote that would forever change my perspective on my future:
“They that go down to the sea in ships, and occupy their business in great waters, these men see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.”
In that moment, I realized: Matt may want this trip, but maybe I need it.
I couldn’t believe I hadn’t understood this before. My life, oh, for the past seven years, has turned me upside down and over so many times, I hardly know who I’ve become… mostly because I’ve never stopped long enough to think about it. In 2002 I went through a severe depression and a somewhat emotionally and spiritually abusive relationship, where I lost faith in myself and my God; in the midst of this, my parents sold my childhood home to go RV’ing and found out four months later that my dad had pancreatic cancer. We watched my dad get better, then get worse, and sat by his bedside until he died on March 16, 2004. A month later, I decided that William & Mary Law in Williamsburg, Va was the right law school for me and I prepared to leave my still-grieving family and west coast life behind. That fall, I started law school, only to have another life-altering event occur that November. Law school was one stressor after another, but the steady stream of work meant I never had time to focus on the past or how I carried it with me. Immediately after graduation, I moved back to California and began studying for the bar. After an insanely stressful summer, I learned in October, that I had failed the exam. Another round of studying, and this time, thank God, I passed. Then I quit my crappy job, only to be frustratingly unemployed for five months, watching the start date for my loan payments get closer and closer. Finally, I found a job – two jobs – and came to the realization that we had to start saving money for our pending boat trip. Throw in planning a wedding, and suddenly, seven years have gone by without any introspection or soul-searching, and I look in the mirror and am not quite sure who I’ve become or whether I like me.
When I read that quote, I thought about long night watches with just me, the sea and God; I thought how this trip may be my opportunity to reconnect with my spiritual self, to have time to reflect on my losses, the pain, my fears that I’ve kept hidden for so long; I thought, maybe, this is my chance to look deep inside myself, examine who I am, and determine if that’s who I want to be; I thought, hopefully, this trip will afford me moments where I really can just listen and be still; and I thought, maybe, this trip will provide the healing my heart desperately needs.
And, for the first time, instead of feeling a begrudged acceptance of the boat, I am thankful, so thankful, for the opportunity it presents, and I have a renewed sense of excitement for the trip and the changes it could mean for my life.
Matt walks in the door, looking exhausted, but smiling. I’m on the couch, wrapped up in a towel, still damp from my shower, talking to my mom on the phone. I know that Matt has just come from the boat, from talking to Jonny about the trip. I search Matt’s face for some clue as to what their conversation entailed. He looks happy, which is good, but that could mean several things. I mouth to him, “So… what happened???” He raises his eyebrows, and mouths back, “You and Me,” pointing at me and then at himself. He repeats this action several times, his smile growing wider and wider. My eyes bulge, my mouth drops – I can barely contain my surprise, or my excitement. Matt has just told me that the boat trip is now going to be me and him, him and me, just US. I relay the message to my mom, then quickly hang-up and Matt sits down next to me and gives me the details. My eyes are tearing up and I can feel myself beginning to shake as the words become real. This is not the way it was planned, this isn’t the way we necessarily ever wanted it to be, but, my God, this is incredible… just US.
Later, we’re lying in bed, Matt already twitching his way to dreamland. I’m still thinking about the news, trying to fully digest what it means…
Then it hits me – Shit. Now I really have to learn how to sail.