Sailing

by dschapman

I spent several years out at sea as a sailor. I sailed in a sloop made for war without crew but with cannons, with liquor and tamarinds and billowing sails. I did not know why I was sailing away. I did not know why I was boarding a war sloop… except that I felt just like Ishmael. I was knocking the hats off of heads, getting restless. I had been safe and comfortable on land for too long… I was too familiar with the cities, the streets, the airfields and valleys. So I took the sea, to the end of the world, in the water… water! Oh, the questions water raised… I had no destination, no exploration, in mind. I knew it would be lonely, that I’d likely not ever return, that I’d drown or I’d starve or I’d live on shoe-leather, eating my shoes, and deadening. Sometimes there were waves so great that they rose up and blocked out the sky, true leviathans. They bore down on me and shattered me. Sometimes, though, there was nothing, but dead ancient stillness, sweet and unbearable, like barrels of syrup, motionless in time and place… there were doldrums, then, and they were unbearable. I thought they would never end… I was alone with my own machinations, my sweat and my deserts and misery. I talked to myself, singing and muttering, running platonic dialogues through my head between me and some nascent eternal, some me without limit or measure. I filled up journals and journals with strange cryptic words. Seas… under sunlight. The sweet taste of salt on my tongue, clogging my throat with hot saltiness, salt in my lungs so I hack and I wheeze… torn to pieces, my head in my hands, alone in my cabin without any shoes, without any leather to speak of, with old yellow clothing hung loose from my bones, the strings on my violin broken. Life was good, then, in the doldrums. I wanted apples, then… I wanted fresh fruit, and water. I was thirsty, then, and wanting to drink something… that was good, it was good to really die, to really remember the presence of life, the value and flavor and opulence…

I escaped from the doldrums and charted the stars towards land. I had had enough of the wholeness, the wilderness, the noumenal flats of the sea. The crisis was over.

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