The Life Aquatic


When I was sixteen I went on a two week sailing trip with Audrey. Audrey and I were best friends from basically the first day of meeting and back then, despite being top of the class in almost every subject studied, I frankly didn’t know jack shit about actually anything. I was genuinely clueless. I had no idea about class or race differences, about being rich or poor, about gender roles or societal expectations or about any issues of any kind at all, nothing about anything actually useful or real. I knew nothing about things like for example economics, industry, society, racism, sexism, or politics.

My girlfriend and I were loud excitable gleeful girls and we pretty much were as dumb as they come. This sailing trip taught me a lot. It was the first time I spent such consecutive time away from home with another family and specifically with my best friend. Before this trip we never fought once, we were tight as all fuck, the stupidest shit made us giggle like the schoolgirls we were, we were inseparable and her parents pretty much treated me as one of their own. Meaning they loved when I visited, were delighted to see me and then immediately grew aggravated and taxed by all the excitable giggling and chatter and mile a minute energy and banished me along with my girlfriend to her room to be loud and outcast in  there like we were real sisters who were punished for unbearable exuberance.

Before the sailing trip, I didn’t know that I wasn’t actually part of that family, in fact I barely had any concept that I was in any way strange or separate or different. I didn’t really know that I was even Asian til I was maybe 19. This honestly was how clueless and sheltered I was. Fun childhood but in certain ways a little bit fucked. Also I never gave it any thought that it was special for a family to have a yacht IE yachts were something that only rich people had. This isn’t meant to be an essay about class divisions and yachts or being rich though, I’m just here to tell a story and also to write my 1000 words/day that Stephen King advises to all writers.

Let’s talk about sailing, the trip and the boat. The boat was big and white and beautiful, the trip was special, memorable and awesome, I was lucky and excited to have been invited along. Shit was super cute and nice for the first few days. The weather was glorious and fine, we did a bunch of swimming, adventuring and diving, we sat up high on the bow of the boat like we were James Cameronesque young queens of the world with the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair while Audrey’s father showed off his presumably brilliant sailing skills. Audrey’s tiny mother flitted and hovered somewhere happily in the background. The sun rose and set, the days waxed and waned perfectly and prettily. Audrey and I read from a book to each other aloud, we were happy, excited and carefree.

After the first week passed however, many metaphorical edges began to fray. Before this trip I didn’t know anything at all about shit like metaphorical edges or fraying. I had no prior experience with spending an excessive amount of time with others, I didn’t know that you can soon want to murder the people closest to you if you spend too much exclusive time alone with them or that things you like and love become annoying and horrible simply from overexposure or an excess of contact. I didn’t before this trip know shit like this. Audrey and I stopped reading aloud from the book to each other. We grunted and muttered instead of conversing. Just seeing each other was mutually irritating but since we were stuck on a boat together there was nowhere to go. I’d retreat to the V-berth and do some sit ups which made Audrey roll her eyes. Audrey’d jump overboard to show off and tread water for hours in the meantime. Audrey used to be impressed by my dedication to daily exercise. I used to be impressed by Audrey’s ability to swim for days. Shit we used to admire in each other now got mutually on our nerves. We ate meals with eyes averted and in mostly silence and games we used to play together stopped being fun. Audrey’s father continued to show off his sailing prowess up high on deck with no one around to be impressed or to care. Audrey’s tiny mother flitted and hovered somewhere less happily in the background.

There was a card game that Audrey and I both loved and which Audrey usually won. We tried at one point to interact as warmly as we used to and played the game. I was on an unusual winning streak and I gloated and grinned with each round of victory. Audrey scowled and glowered and hunkered down with every loss. When I won the game in full, I grinned widely with all my teeth on display. I admittedly preened pretty hard. Audrey flung her cards full into my face. The universe went totally black. I was stunned by this flagrancy of immaturity and violence. “You are a SORE LOSER!” I roared after the most pregnant and death-filled pause. Audrey and I sprung at each other with all of our fists. Audrey’s tiny little mother appeared out of nowhere and flung herself between us. “Girls! Girls! What’s the matter! Stop!” she wailed. She managed both to wring her hands and hold us two away from throttling each other to fuck. “You girls are best friends!” Audrey’s mother said. It was more a plea than a statement. Audrey and I glared at each other full murderously and both of us were breathing hard. Our mutual hard breathing dukes up silence spelled between us the immortal word E-N-E-M-Y. I can’t remember how we finally calmed sufficiently down. Probably we lost the energy and fire to keep up so much seething.

Later that night while brushing my teeth in the little lower deck bathroom, I pondered shit and stared absently into the mirror at my face. My eyes strayed slightly to a tank of some kind wherein I spied a small silent ominous little blue flame. My entire body shivered with a thrill of real fear. A genuine sense of imminent death washed over me from the crown of my sixteen year old head down to my soles and toes. I ran in a blindness of terror and fear from the bathroom and streaked through the little kitchen towards the upper exit hatch. I displayed incredible levels of speed and purpose, I was pure velocity, drama and emotion. Audrey and her mother were instantly affected. All three of us charged the tiny exit hatch. We bottlenecked at once in the little hatch square exit hole, we were a jumbled useless mess of arms and legs and heads. Unexplained terror was the collective expression upon our frenzied faces. From up on the upper deck Audrey’s father came running over to us.

“What in God’s name are you women doing!” he shouted. His expression revealed a lifetime of subterranean exasperation and deeply felt disapproval with the ridiculous ways of women. Audrey, her mother and I were so bottlenecked in the exit hatch that we could barely maneuver or move. It was nonetheless clear that everyone was waiting for me to explain some things.

“I thought the boat was gonna blow,” I said dismissively. I was at my most nonchalant. I would have shrugged if my shoulders and limbs weren’t all tangled up with the others. Audrey’s father gazed intently at each of the three of us separately, seemed about to demand an elaboration, thought better of it and then he stalked away. This was a man who clearly had years to learn that demands for reasonable explanations from the women in your life got you nowhere. I would years later enjoy on many occasions with Dylan the same grim chagrin. I felt sheepishness and relief. My body was stiff and unmovable from still being all tangled up in the hatch. Us women finally disengaged. We probably later snickered a bit about everything.

Funny how when you think you’re gonna actually die you can’t not behave melodramatically. Embarrassing that us ladies in the face of potential death behaved such that none of us would have escaped or survived as we all with frantic immediacy scrambled to exclusively save ourselves. Eye-opening. Like I said, this trip taught me much.


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