He held out his hand and I took it, wondering if he could guess the strength of my grip was only a suggestion of the power of my soul. Our eyes met . . . and that was the last time they would that day.
I wasn't what he expected and I knew it. He'd seen photos. He'd heard stories. But he was obviously disappointed and it showed.
After the obigatory toast when we boarded the 70 ft sailboat, he directed all his monologues towards Gary and Traci. I use the term because he wasn't really engaging anyone in conversation. I wanted to stop him at some point and suggest that he could breathe, that I got the message, and that I had no intention of jumping him -- physically or verbally -- in the next three days we'd be together.
We soon learned that the ship had much in common with an aging drag queen -- somewhat spectacular from a distance but upon close inspection the cracks were not only showing but affecting performance. They had been hit by lightning a few days before and the rainy summer had not been a profitable one for charters so money was tight and repairs were still on the "to do" list. Batteries were the big loss so we couldn't flush after each use, the showers worked only after the motor had been running a while, and the speakers for the promised music were iffy as well.
As soon as I learned what we had boarded, I made a slight adjustment in my thinking and had a great time. Luxury charter? No. Camping out at sea with an incredible view no matter which way I turned? Absolutely!
The first mate made me laugh and that made up for the silent treatment I was getting from the captain who was almost twice the young man's age. He had a way of telling a joke that was almost as amusing as the punch line. He would grin, announce that he had a joke, pause, grin again, and after a few moments when I came to realize he was retelling it in his head first, laugh aloud before launching into the telling. I laughed every time.
Gary asked the 28 year old what he had done in high school (because he truly looked like that was only a few years before) and he replied, "Drugs." Traci asked what kind. He said, "Uh yeah."
Should give you some sense of the cadence of the guy's stories.
While I was obviously not the captain's choice in the looks department, I did seem to be his therapist of choice. Granted, I'm all about questions so after the dead silence of the early morning with him three feet away smoking the first of his pack of cigarettes for the day and me writing in my journal whenever he made noises that his personality was now fortified enough to emerge, I would start simply.
"Your neck still bothering you?" this came after I had offered up massages all around and he had noted that he carried his tennsion there.
And he would begin ... I learned his work background, his Navy career, how many times he's been to the doctor this year and previously, how much needed to be done on the boat, how little he had with which to do it, his plans for the future, his regrets from the past and much, much, much more.
Reminded me of the time I hit the jackpot on a penny slot machine and how the $800 payoff I won after only two tries made itself known with a droning tickety tick sound that just kept going and going and going. Only this "payout" wasn't going to buy me dinner or cover the cost of a show.
I finally told him that I understood why he liked to shoot craps for his gambling of choice. He did it every day he sailed.
I had inquired about working on the boat prior to seeing the captain or the ship. He said he had a full crew for the fall. At the time, I was slightly disappointed that my year of adventure wouldn't be launched as dramatically as I thought. Now, I'm quite content in knowing that my three days on board made for a beautiful vacation (you should have seen the full moon reflecting off the water as the breeze blew over the deck) and will leave chasing that dream to a captain whose eyes can't see what's right in front of him.