I awake at first light. Next to me is another human being. She breathes in and she breathes out. I watch. And watch some more. Her head is a tangled storm of dark Italian hair. There is a curve of ass, a swoop of narrow waist, a mound of gentle breast. I look at her 56 year-old face, and smile. I know every line, each scar, every blemish. It is funny. We both grow old. But we also grow more… intertwined. Every wrinkle makes her more beautiful.
We lean on each other—now more than ever. We have aged at different rates. And, thus, as our physical real estate deteriorates, we both—literally and mentally—lean on each other to ever greater degrees. Our flesh is weak but our commitment is strong. Whenever one falters, the other is there.
Thought of one way, this inevitable aging process could make a person sad—or even drive one into the arms of greedy plastic surgeon. But I prefer to think of it the other way: that as my steps falter and my physical abilities diminish, my appreciation of my life-partner grows.
I love life. Dying is a part of it. Aging is a prelude. I embrace it all.
Sure, we occasionally snarl. I am often a jerk. She is no more perfect. But we’re happy with our velvet chains of family. She gave me her youth. She only had one youth and will never have another other… and yet she shared hers with mine.
She still laughs at my jokes. Yesterday I told her, “As my memory dims, my conscience clears,” and was rewarded with one of her sexy growl-laughs.
Our daughter Roma Orion now lives in Amsterdam… and NOT because of the drugs! What could be nicer?
Thus I kiss my wife Carolyn as light as a butterfly’s wing on her sleeping forehead.
I am careful to not make a sound as I roll out of our tiny, toe-kissing vee berth.
Wild Card’s interior is not large nor plush. It is dim inside our cabin. The weak light favors our aging varnish, our tarnished bronze, our faded photographs.
I have found it is much faster to dust without my reading glasses.
If I woke her up right now and we both ran to opposite ends of the boat–we’d still be within 38 feet of each other. Most of the time—the vast majority of my life—I’ve spent within ten feet of her. There is nowhere in our little watery world where she can’t hear or smell me—and I her. Still, she is my Mystery Woman. She has secrets. Hidden places. Private scents. Sweet secretions.
I love the smell of her hair. The way she grunts. How her toes curl.
I really can’t tell where my wife and my life begin or end. Nor where the world and my vessel intersect. I live within a wonderful fairy-tale movie. It is an adventure movie. It is a movie of a love story. It is a travelogue. It is a porno flick, a family flick, a chick flick.
As I move aft in the cabin, I stop at the nav station. It is silent. Most of my instruments are as asleep as my wife. But a GPS winks in anchor-alarm mode. My depth meter reads 15 feet, over a soft mud bottom. My wind speed reports 12 knots. And my Danforth compass indicates the breeze is from the nor’east.
I check the Link 10. My batteries are down 37 amps, not bad. The solar cells will soon recharge them. If, for any reason, the sun hides—then I’ll turn on the wind gen.
I feel in balance.
I take but I give.
I gently lift the companionway screen and move aft into the cockpit. I can tell it is going to be another beautiful day.
Once I had a friend who knew he was going to die soon. I asked him what he wanted. He told me he wanted another perfect day. I asked him what a perfect day was. He told me a perfect day is… any day you’re alive.
We’re currently anchored off the lovely island of Langkawi in Malaysia. The harbor is huge. Giant fish hawks wheel overhead. Puffy white clouds. The sun sparkles on the water like liquid diamonds dancing.
I force myself to take small, quick breathes—I don’t want to hyperventilate with the beauty of it all.
I recently was asked by a questing friend how to find the Now. I told him, “Find the beauty.”
“Where is the beauty?” he asked.
I thought about telling him to look for God’s footprints or to find Mother Nature or to look at any tree or ocean wave…
…but instead I said, “It is all around you. If there is ever a time you can’t see beauty—it is because you are not looking hard enough… because awe-inspiring beauty is always there if you but look.”
Even in the midst of atrocity is beauty.
A muezzin starts up singing from one of the nearby shore-side Mosques. I listen. At first he sings all alone. But our harbor is crescent-shaped. We’re within hearing distance of five different Muslim houses of worship. Soon the other muezzins join in for what I call their ‘calliope of constipation.’
I find all religion ugly but God beautiful. However, I try to cut ‘em some slack. It took me awhile but now I find the singing muezzins inspiring.
I’ve cancelled the shipload of Ex Lax I ordered.
And I pat Buddha on the back (No, not on his sacred head for gosh’s sakes!) for saying, “Don’t believe in any of them, dude… me included!”
I find the world both enchanting and Enchanted. There are more miracles per second than I can count: snowflakes, clouds, waves and rainbows abound. I recently heard a lecture on string theory—and it made me giggle.
…could it be that art and science—and Las Vegas, even—is God playing peek-a-boo with himself?
My wife Carolyn and I recently spent a couple of weeks making a beautiful cockpit table. It gleams at me. It is still new-enough that I marvel at it. We made in out of local hardwood. We used mostly hand tools: planes, rasps, chisels and saws. We took turns on the long cuts. I’d saw for awhile, then she would. We’re close to the equator. Sweat dripped off her nose. Sawdust rivuleted between her breasts. One strand of hair kept falling down—and she’d blow it back away with exasperation.
I find it all erotic.
She came aboard to sew up some curtains at 15 years of age, and has been sewing happiness into my life ever since. People are amazed and distressed at America’s divorce rate. I am not. Why should couples stay together? She is her own person. People are individual units. She can stand alone. She has everything she needs. Yet still she wants me and I want her.
We’ve lived together aboard now for 39 years—and been lovers for longer than that. We’ve traveled the world together. We’ve mopped up each other’s vomit, feces and blood. And yet she still sparkles to me.
Recently we had little argument and she said in exasperation, “…I just want to grow old with you, Fatty!”
It is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
When I was a young child and growing up aboard the schooner Elizabeth we had a conch shell. It was THE conch, our family’s conch shell. Whenever lunch was ready, my mother would blow it—and I would come running from where ever I was in the harbor. Ditto, dinner. If there was an emergency, the person aboard would blow it—and the rest of our crew/family would immediately drop what they doing and come a’running.
I still have that conch shell. It is now aboard Wild Card, via Corina and Carlotta.
Some sons inherit the family farm, I, a true son-of-a-sailor, inherited a conch shell.
And I am honored to be so honored. It is precious to me. It is my history. It is a lifeline to my distant past. It links me to my dead.
Once, many years ago, I thought I’d lost Carolyn. I didn’t know what to do. I was in a panic. So I hoisted myself to the very top of my mast and then laboriously hauled up the deck bucket with the conch shell. And I blew that conch shell for as long and as loud as I could. Again. And again.
…as my fellow boaters anchored nearby stared up at me with a combination of sorrow and pity.
She heard it.
She came back.
My reverie fades. I hear her moving below—the sound of the head door, the clank of her tea kettle, the smell of our coffee.
“How is it?” she asks me. I don’t know if she’s talking about the weather or the boat or the harbor or life in general… or us. But it doesn’t matter. My answer is the same.
“Fine,” I say.
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.” For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com