The stars are bright, and the clouds are gone. The night cloaks us all in a thick layer of ebony and purple, wrapping me up safe in my bunk as I close the curtain. I stare at the pictures I drew of my crew mates on my locker doors. I stare at my pillow with the union jack on. I feel the patchwork blanket above my legs. I feel the sand on the sheet beneath my body that I should have shook out long ago but were too lazy to do so.
It’s a small bed, my bunk here as I peer out behind the red curtain with white elephants cascading down upon the pattern. I look up at the steps, the swaying cups and hear the clinking of cutlery and pans. I can smell the salt from the spray of waves. I can hear the creaking of lines, the winds hissing and whipping through the rigging. I lick my lips and taste the ocean, listening to the same song that I’ve listened to each night for the past two years.
But I’m not there anymore. I’m in my own cabin, on my own boat. And the same song plays out, filling the room until she rises up to the hatch and drifts out into the heavens. I try to keep it quiet, and shift my playing phone beneath my pillow so my crew mates are not disturbed. A curtain sways back and forth, blue and white and covered in crudely drawn suns. The stars drift above my head and I wonder if our anchor has become loose.
If it has, let me drift, I think. Let me drift and find a new place.
I roll over and shift in my cabin, my limbs stretching out to feel nothing and no one. I pull a pillow closer to myself to have something to hold. I miss the safety of that small cot.
When I hear this song, I remember what it felt like to be so safe in that little bed. To feel so secure and cuddled up like a caterpillar waiting to metamorphosis into something bigger- brighter- more spectacular.
There are so many places I want to go back to, to be that same person in.
I don’t know why I can’t jump over this cliff. All of the memories I have been left with are like ancient trunks and suitcases that the drowning try to carry after their ship has sunk.
I feel their ropes wrap around my throat, my arms, my waist, my legs and my heart.
I cannot swim, I think. I cannot swim with all of this weight…
I hear the song again and people tell me I should stop listening to it. Because it always takes me back to that bunk. To that cliff. To the bow, thinking and dreaming, of waiting.
But I cannot stop listening to that song. Because I have to bring new memories to it. I can’t listen to this song and think of your face. I can’t hear those words and remember the future that I had envisioned years ago. I can’t think of your voice. Your eyes. Your face. Your first words. I can’t think of your hands, your humour, your laugh, the way you stood, the way you listen, think, breathe, sigh.
I can’t think of it all.
I need to wrap new memories to that tune, to that melody. I need to think of St Lucia, the Pitons, the jumping into the water at night, the revelation, the celebration. I need to become new again.
It is like leaving Treasure Island. I found riches beyond what any mortal could hope to carry. And I can’t carry it. It pulls me down, further and further until the salt water pushes itself through my teeth and down my throat, choking the air from my lungs.
I can’t carry you anymore, my dear.
And yet, I am still floating, like Tom Hanks hopelessly swimming towards Winston in the ocean, choosing between life and death to keep something that gives him comfort.
Except I don’t get much comfort from it now.
All I get is a dull feeling in my heart, an inability to beat, to thump, to drum the blood around my veins. I look upwards, hoping to see those stars as they stare down at me. The Southern Cross always faint in my eyes.
Have you forsaken me now? She seems to ask.
But the stars were always mine. And I have to continue listening to this song. Because if I don’t, the fear will wrap around the music and all I will hear is your name again and again as the violin lifts and rises, the piano beating the rhythm of my breath.
It was so long ago, my mind says. It was so long ago.
And some nights when I am alone and the rum is warm in my grip, I don’t. I blame myself.
But then I wake. And I look at the masts shining in the sun. The loyalty of Papageno’s soul is connected to mine.
You didn’t give up on me, she seems to say.
And it’s the same look I see in Leela’s eyes.
You didn’t give up on me.
And when I look at my own expression in the mirror, I see the grey of the clouds in my irises that haunt my days, the difficulty, the battle, the struggle, the earnest need to make it succeed.
“Don’t give up on me,” I say to myself. “Don’t give up.”
Song: The Cinematic Orchestra: “To Build a Home.”