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At Sea

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When you're faced with blue sky and sea the world starts to blur about the twenty-first hour.


It’s nay but salt, the air and the fluid are all one and you forget to care when all you can feel is the sick slosh against steel-toed boots, the constant sway that loses your balance while on solid land, the sh*t-packed memories of the terra firma that start to fade under the gloss of the eighth bottle shared among crew. You don’t think on the geography, the novelty having faded about two decades back, and you only get a reminder when the stony splash smacks against a grainy cheek, seeps into your mouth and salt-dries your lips, burns your nostrils, and you’re reminded that you crossed the rubicon already and now you gone from freshwater to saltwater to brack and brine that leaves eyes burnt blind in under a week’s time. Ships don't discriminate: lobster claws driving you back to the shelf, barnacled underbelly crashing and grinding against sharp rockbed, you head to the net of catches and stick your hand in; calloused pointers stuck between pincers. You barely feel it.


You barely feel anything.


So you get to the next catch - your carp, your tuna by the ton, grab tween the blacknet's rugged thread just to say you can but you're so far gone that you don't feel no need to wipe it off on coveralls when you gouge an eye out with a filthy fingernail. You done it cause you can’t see nothing when the clouds descend into that thick fog, fog like smog, pea soup fog, and it takes years to get used to breathing in something you can’t feel when the sky and the sea meet halfway no matter how noxious the fumes might be. It's done just to feel something.


You think the booze helps. You think the booze gonna do the job, replace the memories 'til the present’s all, numb the pain the same way it numbs the nerves fore an off-cuff amputation, be it fingertip fore the infection, fore the venom moves, toxin up blue veins bulging, cut it off at the source before it reaches the heart.


It doesn’t.


It don’t, even in the deep, but you forget what it don’t do until you’re prone on the air mattress and all you can hear between the pit void and hail knocking at the window and the fierce gale overhead hitting-clanking-rattling tin and metal flaps, you forget until the empty bottles clacking and crashing in the bow play their acerbic tune, thousand bottles for a skeleton crew. You try to sleep though but you remember home, arched feet on flat land, muscles searing and no one to greet you on the dock. It all comes back. Years lost, vows abridged, and you only find your voice on the off lull of thrashing waves when you’re leaning on a rusty rail you just welded fixed.


“Alright, Quinlan?”
“Oh. Yeah. Swell’s gonna make it hard to trawl the waters today.”
“Ah, not a bother. You sure you’re alright? Coffee?”


You get yourself a coffee anyway but the percolator’s shot, go for the French press that ain’t so French anymore; someone or another thought it’d be set good use to separate the shellfish from the broth for evening’s meal so you got fish coffee and get your first chuckle in the three weeks you been out there.


Formica table, a look out the window - rounded and cracked, running your finger along the rift, captain knows and you knows one strong thrash and you’re in for it - you see mist and hear water, water from under and water from above as thunder rumbles some baseline bass, the floor creaks, the crew piles in soaked throwing soaked parts off soaked-croaked limbs.


It’s sunset above it all, above us, because down here it’s Neptune’s runoff shot up with the energy of a disgruntled disgusted god looking up stead'a down. Sitting there and the crew passes but the head-echoes don’t, thoughts running roughshod, too little heed to pay to a brewing storm undoing a day’s work, raw scales gone flying. Thoughts of land; green grove home turned house turned nothing but land to lay in, lay forever as greenery grows wild and overwrought, til three quarters of the year are at sea and the gravestones hide under vine. Boy’s abroad. All there is to say or think as someone runs out to bar the hatches, a last reminder to stay at sea.




Night falls. Cold soup, cold stock in cold bowl, paper-towel leveled table wobbles with the swell, someone punches the radiator nearside and you cringe at the sound. Heavy-headed billows of rain smacking the roof, the door still cracked open lets the humidity waft in and set down and suffocate and kill any hopes of a breeze when the gusts start holding their breath too.


But there’s a freedom in it, past the men retiring to corrugated rooms to lie on crinkled mattresses - the outside. Thunderclaps and lightning bolts turn the sea electric, current you could almost feel on sight, surges the nerves, the heart, the head. You’re a few bottles deep, enough to add to the pile, and that’s the kinda polluted thought that makes you do it. Makes you rub together calloused hands, sneak through creaking doors, stand on the stern, hard droplets pitter-pattering calm-like on the metal and the flesh, and you pull the overalls from up-down, toss the steel-toes aside--


And you’re you again.


You jump into water only fresh and know you can hold. Hold the breath, hold the thought. You dive, nose to the ocean floor, make sure you’re deep enough and far enough that all that’s left is to look up. And the thunder is nay but bass, some thunderous applause a world away, and the lightning surges. Hits the water in streaks, lights it up.




Lights it up again.


Lights you up again.

Edited by Cebra
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