The elevator we used was in the far aft of the ship and I was far forward so I had to walk down what seemed like an endless hallway to get to my room but I was totally distracted by the kiss. What did it mean? Did she like me in the way that I hoped that she would. Was she trying to send me a message? Weren’t her lips wonderfully soft. I was so distracted by her kiss that I overshot my stateroom and embarrassingly had to double back.
After hanging up my clothes and brushing my teeth I climbed into bed turned out the lights and opened my iPad. Normally when my brain is hyperdrive like it was after Elaines kiss, reading soothes and distracts me enough that I can slip quietly to sleep. But reading was not helping . I kept reading the same paragraph over and over again without any comprehension or recollection. My mind refused to slow down, refused to stop asking questions. What did the kiss mean…it was just a dry lipped kiss nothing more. Then why did it feel different that just a kis? Why couldn’t I get this girl out of my head? Why was I continuing to think about the brief second our lips had touched? Why am I am behaving like such a girl? Did she do this to me on purpose? Did she know how she was effecting me?
Eventually, I gave up and turned the light back on. Had I been at home I would have turned on the television and watched some show about picking, storage lockers or pawn shops until my brain was so deadened that I would fall back to sleep. But the most exciting channel on board ship, the only one where I could understand what was going on, was the one that showed the ships position and various cams on board ship. Boring program yes, but not one that held that magic combination of holding ones attention just long enough to distract while at the same time being so mindless that you could drift away. It was time for my old friend Jose Cuervo.
I had picked up a bottle going through duty free and figured that a few good pulls on the bottle would put me out as quickly as a baby who has just been given formula. I took two large pulls from the bottle and went out to my balcony to smoke a cigar.
It was warm and the sea was calm. The only sound was of the ship slicing in its way through the South Atlantic. On the horizon, a full moon was just pulling itself out of the black sea, back lightening clouds making them look ethereal. The dark night revealed the Milky Way, The Southern Cross,and the rest of the constellations of the southern seas. A song from the distant past became an ear bug. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I pulled out my phone and searched through the songs until I came to the song I could barely remember and put it on speaker. Southern Cross by Crosby Stills Nash and their impeccable harmonies with the words that had been eluding me.
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’
What heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten
I have been around the world looking for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure
And you know it will
And you know it will
When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from
When the music ended, I listened to the sound of the waves against the hull and let the movement of the ship and let the view of the galaxy envelope me. How many worlds was I looking at? How many souls staring at the night sky thinking of the endless permutations of the universe. Did love exist everywhere in the universe or was it just a human perversion?
I thought of Elaine. I know what I thought I felt. But it got complicated from there. That unique space where a solution creates a problem. It was confounding. I remembered what a teacher had taught me long ago. The best way to solve a problem was to break it down into parts. Then solve the parts you can and hope that will resolve the riddles of the parts you did not understand.
I started with the obvious, Elaine was beautiful. She looked as if she belonged in a Paul Gaugin painting. She had long thick black hair and brown skin. She had curves where a woman should have curves. I thought about her smile which she seemed eager to share and was luminous. I thought about the form fitting dress that she was wearing that night and the swell of her breast…how round and firm they looked and how they seemed to fit her body perfectly. I wondered, not for the first time what it would be like to see them and hold them. I thought of her ass…what had my cousin in Sao Paolo called it…. a bunda. It was shapely and round and was accentuated by her wasp waist. I pondered what it would be like to hold her close our bodies melded ….
Clearly, I was attracted to her. And I knew she was to me. Not because of anything that she said but 1000 little things like a soft touch to the hand or arm. A glance. Conversations punctuated by the excitement of sharing personal stories and intimacies.
But was this just the overexcited imaginations of a lonely middle age man on vacations? Did I see what I wanted to see, a beautiful intelligent woman falling in love with me. Or was it a mirage that would disappear the minute I left the ship.
It became an endless thought loop. Swirling, whilrling and reversing itself. Conclusions always just an inch away but never closer.
To break the cycle I tried reading again. While I could comprehend full sentences, the words held no interest to me.
I tried another shot of tequila. All it did was remind me of something a Customs and Border Patrol Officer had once told my father when he brought a bottle of tequila back from Mexico. “Son, that stuff will make you see double and feel single.”
I sampled the extra large Toblerone bar I had stashed. I hoped the sugar high and the attendant insulin infusion would send me headlong into the land of nod.
But sleep remained elusive. For a long time I just lay there in the dark rock , impervious to the rocking of the ship and gave in to the invetible thoughts about Elaine. Just before dawn as the sky was turning from black to gray I fell asleep.
We were already docked in Maceio when I awoke the next morning. Stupidly, I had forgotten to close the curtains completely to my room and the bright tropical sunlight had flooded the room. It was still early, just a little bit after 8am, and I tried to fall back asleep but it was as elusive as it was the night before. This was frustrating because I had nothing to do that day, save writing, as I had decided not to take any tour that day. Maceio from its description in the guide book had seemed like a resort town with beautiful beaches and little else. While I love the beach, I had not fully recovered from my sunburn as of yet and to pay money not to get any sun just didn’t make an awful lot of sense to me.
Elaine had invited me to go out and tour the city with her, Yarra and Christina but I had declined. I had told them that I had come on board the ship to relax and to write and here to for I had done too much relaxing and not enough writing. So I told them I was going to write today. What I didn’t say was that I wanted to spend the day with them, to be close to Elaine, but I didn’t want to impose on their good nature. I didn’t want to outlive my welcome.
It was a stupid move because I woke up wanting to spend time with Elaine.
Unable to sleep anymore I threw on a pair of shorts, a t shirt and a pair of flip flops and walked up the flight of stairs to deck 9 and the breakfast buffet. The place was going full throttle as my shipmates were try to throw down breakfast before they left on their various tours. I was lucky enough to get in line behind an elderly German couple who had decided the purpose of the buffet was to try as many of the offerings as possible. This required contemplation, dialog and conversation and very little regard for the line that was growing behind them. Finally, when they have paused for what seemed to be five minutes in front of the pork product area, I said “Geburstag” which means birthday in German as I couldn’t remember the word for excuse me and hoped that mentioning birthday would keep them from being too angry with me as I cut in front of them.
I found a place at a table that was along one of the two main aisles of the restaurant. I hoped that I might see Elaine and cajole her into having a cup of coffee with me. It wasn’t to be. I saw a lot of German Tourists, talking to loudly and wearing socks with their sandals but no Elaine. I saw the cordovan headed woman whose hairstyle was a crossbreed between a French braid and a mullet. She was still looking for husband number 6 so I quickly looked away. Still no Elaine. I saw a group of French tourists, dressed mostly in white with their sweaters perfectly draped on their shoulders but not Elaine.
Eventually I gave up and after stopping at the bar for a half dozen bottles of water I went back to my stateroom and began to write. I spent the morning at the keyboard. The words came easily for a while and it was a simple task to get lost in the story and the words. Which is why I was not that surprised when I looked at my watch and saw that it was already late morning but the minute I stopped typing the lack of sleep caught up with me. So even thought my work was going well the call from pillow was like the Siren’s call to ancient sailors. I didn’t care what the consequences I needed to reach that pillow.
Remarkably, though sleeping did not come easily. When I closed my eyes, I saw Elaine. I thought of her soft voice and sparkling eyes. I conjured conversations that we had the night before and was delighted to remember her irreverent sense of humor. I recalled our chaste kiss in the elevator and wondered whether she had been as struck by as I had been. And, I was struck by my stupidity. What an idiot I had been not to go along with them today. I rationalized it by saying I had to write. I did and I wanted to because that was one of things that I hope to accomplish on this trip but for some reason spending time with Elaine seemed more important than my writing just then.
I tried to convince myself that this was really the right way to get to know Elaine. That giving her space and time to miss me was a good thing. To give her different experiences that we could share at dinner would insure our conversations never lingered. But I knew that as true as some of those justifications might have been that the bigger truth was that I had made a mistake and should have gone with Elaine that day.
When sleep came, it was fitful.