The creaking cacophony of his sore neck was the sound of a sailor’s cabin. He stood as a sailor would, but he was on land not sea. The room swooned, he buckled once, then he made his way to the head.
This wasn’t his ship, I mean house, so he took an extra moment between utilizing his unfamiliar environment. Finding the light switch was as tediously executed as the sailor’s drunken attempt to light the lanterns below deck.
With his eyes closed, he was almost on the ship listening to the rain rapping a tattoo against the deck. But he had to open them to find the flusher and he found it was not the boat and sea that swayed, but his hangover.
Back to land, returned to himself, he flinched at the rising sun and the vast amount of windows. He missed the darkness of the Rien, his ship. There, hangovers were nursed away from the clattering of a crowded world.
Ah, but then there was the work.
The toiling and seething. The heaving and bracing. A hangover was always quickly sweated out in perfect preparation for the drunkenness of the next night. Always the next night.
When the all the water in the world is too salty to drink, there’s always the rum and brandy.
Maybe it was the salt in the water that built up around his heart.
Is he denying his emotions, or are they just slippery? He feels as the ocean might: deeper than the waves on its surface, no matter how rough they seem. This man, who doesn’t swallow his laugh nor shame himself out of tears, was empty.
It wasn’t loneliness, I don’t think. Was it envy, then, to how others might be? No… Perhaps it was an inexpressible. Ineffable, unobtainable. Is this why he felt closer to the ocean than to fellow people? The ocean didn’t have to negotiate who she was for him, nor he for her.
Sometimes he craved approval. This man and his ocean. Or was it the ocean and her man? He wished for somebody to catch his eye when he came ashore and he truly desired a smile. Not to give a smile, he was quick to give smiles, but to get one back.
Now, he was in a house that wasn’t his, in a world that wasn’t the sea, surrounded not by isolation but by half-asleep people. He twitched his mustache and sipped his coffee. He sang along to any song that he recognized (it was almost a game of hierarchical initiation, to know the song).
But he wasn’t unhappy.
These people around him, they were not unhappy. They were set up by themselves to avoid upset, but never would they let him know. He had to look past the jokes and the silly, almost irrelevant, conversation and see into the meaning behind those eyes.
Some of these people were suffering. Some of them couldn’t take themselves away from themselves and fell too deeply in love with their feelings. Happiness, to them, was something to grasp like one consoles a crying baby. Stay happy! Stay interesting! Stay normal!
He, of the ocean and of the ship named the Rien, didn’t quite buy all that. Happiness felt good, yes, but it was like trying to live in consistent orgasm to expect every day to be a happy one.
No, instead he remained empty, but he would rather call it “centered”. Like he was wrestling his emotions, he would always find the balance between grapples. When he woke up, he felt as if on a boardwalk: a good day to the right, a bad one to the left. And he would just sit there on the edge of his boardwalk, observing instead how the ocean laps against the stilts.
This was he.