Flop and Gasp

The hook sets and the game begins. The turns and the twists, the pain and the pleasure lasts for as long as muscle and nerve hold out. Then, in a moment of release, the sea gives up its victim to the land. It flops in desperation toward the sea and gasps for the mothering wet from which it had been torn.

The same happens to every sailor who, fishlike, is separated from the sea. The snaring hook can be a dissatisfied mate or money or children or pride or ambition or any of those enmeshments from which escape was sought in the first place.

After the first shocks of land, after the first searing blast of superoxygenated input, after the claustrophobic pressure of too many bodies and too much clatter, there are sensual pleasures to be enjoyed on land, enchantments forgotten in the persistent discomfort of your small vessel. A hot shower, a stable kitchen floor on which to cook unthreatened, sweet smelling underwear and salt free and savory bodies with which to dally. These succulents, and others only half remembered in the stringencies of sailing, are now spread out before you in immoderate availability. It is as if you went to sea just to revitalize your hackneyed sense of the physical joys of land.

Deprived, as you have been for a month or a year or ten, of intellectual contiguity, every new mind is rosy at the first blush. Your friends are smarter than you remember and your lovers more perceptive. The wizardry of the tube uses up your evenings and the stimulation of the newspaper in the morning reminds you of how much of the actions and passions of your world have passed you by.

It is indeed a heady time...those first weeks ashore. You are virgin in all things again and the renewness is agreeable, as is any proximate first time pleasure. Twice a virgin is as good a reason as any other for your long and bereft season at sea.

Friends come and come again. Old loves are remembered and old disputes settled. The food is endless in variety and amount and everyone, simply everyone, speaks with a familiar accent and not the strangand awkward linguals of your passages abroad. The soft bed lulls you and the temperature is within a degree of perfect. Perhaps, most important of all, that mosquito, your own personal Night Visitor, has been magically banned.

What could be more congenial...more sublime?

It is all so great, all so nifty, all so comfortable.You float now in a different sea, a sea of yielding cushions designed to accommodate. It is no longer necessary to push against anything. The amnion is closed, netlike, containing. You are as safe as in your mother's womb.

Disquiet starts with a slight burp of indigestion from too rich food or from an unfamliar tightening of your waistband. A friend, newly and fascinatingly refound, says something twice...and then the same thing twice again. You awake in your soft bed and listen for the lull of absent creaking and you champ a bit at the perfect temperature that denies you the delight of slowly warming, shivery sheets. You shake off your ingratitude for the convenience with which you are blessed. You try to recall the bad moments at sea...the cold and the wet and the fear and the need always to do for yourself. You cast your mind back to the bad days which, at this distance, seem misted, somehow softened. You begin to yearn after the body stretching the sea required of you, the challenges which only you yourself must answer, unbuttressed by systems of support and restraint. The real world becomes, in slow and easy steps, more and more importunate and less and less real.

One day your roof springs a little leak. Childs play for you who held back a whole ocean. With ladders up, and remembering with pleasure in your muscles the countless moments of agreeable repairs to your lovely boat, you commence the simple cure for the leak.

A head pushes itself up over the eave and asks, "Whatchya doin' Buddy?"

"Fixing my roof", you tell him too surprised to be annoyed at the intrusion.

"Ya need a permit."

"For my own roof?"

"Yep, get on down and get a permit or I'll make out a summons."

This is a building inspector, one of legions of social referees about whom you had forgotten. So off you go to City Hall where, for a fee, you are issued a permit which must be approved, for a fee, by a registered architect.

"Don't forget, Buddy, this is a union town...better not get tangled up with the roofer's union".

Suddenly it all comes rushing back. Those cogent reasons why you first ran off come bubbling up out of the sea you left too early. The trap was twice sprung.

You glance about wildly, flopping and gasping, for a second escape. An escape again back to the mothering, demanding, fulfilling ever-changing, never-changing Sea.