“Free At Sea” #53

Posted on May 27, 2011


I like to set every course of adventure with an intention.  A purpose.  A trajectory of meaning.  Going on this cruise I intended to experience not only some desperately needed peace of mind, but clarity about ascending to a better place in life, and most importantly, developing a special bond with myself.

When we boarded the Norwegian Jewel, it didn’t take much time for my parents to descend upon the buffet and load up.   I wondered at which point I could separate from them and pretend I didn’t know them.  With my excellent vision (due, no doubt, to eating lots of carrots as a youngster), I planned on elusively disappearing if I’d see them coming from the other direction.  For 9 days I would wear my sunglasses, feigning a look of relaxed indifference, while beneath the shaded lenses I would be widely alert to their approaching uncouthness.  But for now, in this moment of embarkation, I would pretend to be part of their family and show my undying gratitude for this gift of generosity, as the oldest children from dysfunctional families are so adept at doing.  But, as soon as they would let us in our cabins, I would be gone.  MIA.  I would let them know I was okay.  But I would be alone, with my notebook, in the café or on the promenade deck, asking the universe for answers.

While sitting with the grazing cattle, I stared out at the crowd that would surround me for the next nine days.  My usual modus operandi would be to scan for single hot guys.  I had to catch myself and remind myself that I was on an inner mission this time.  Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t find a single guy on this cruise.  Look at everyone – pink-faced pigs at the trough.  Ingesting the buffet’s delights like it was owed to them.  Walkers.  Motorized wheelchairs.  Low class families from Queens with tattoos everywhere, talking with accents so foul you had to turn your head to keep your oxygen clean.

Later, after finally being allowed into my cabin, I sprawled myself out on this gorgeous queen size bed ALL TO MYSELF, about to fall asleep in peaceful gratitude for this quiet, with no sounds of my parents’ arguing, no smells of Vito farting in my face, no dust from my father’s hoarding…when my reverie was suddenly disrupted by a knock on the door.

My father led my mother in.  He wanted to see my cabin.

My father:  “You are NOT to take anything from the mini-bar, do you understand?  They charge an arm and a leg.”

My mother:  “Ivan, she knows.”

Father:  “Yeah, next thing you know she’ll be spending money she doesn’t have.  Do you hear me Myra – they make their money here by charging you for everything.  Don’t buy anything that isn’t free.  They really try to screw you with drinks.  Do you hear me?”

Me:  “Yeah I hear you.”

He shows me a piece of paper, a letter from Norwegian.  They were invited to an event with the captain, since they’ve cruised Norwegian before.  He says, “Meet us at the Spinnaker Lounge tomorrow at 1:30.  They’ll give you a free drink when you walk in.  Make sure you get two.”

“But, you don’t even drink,” I say.

“I don’t care, it’s free.  Did you hear me?  Get two.  It’s the only free drink you’re gonna have on this trip.  Try to keep the glass.  Bring it back here, and we’ll put it in your mother’s bag.”

“Ok, let’s leave her alone,” my mother says.

“Why, what does she have to do?” he replies, then looks at me.  “What, you have a date already?  They have a singles event tonight at six by the way.”

He shows me the daily itinerary, then continues.  “I suggest you go and meet some single guys.  Your mother and I need some alone time.  We don’t want you riding on our tab.  You are not to buy anything, do you hear me?”

Trying to get them out of my room, I say, “Okay thanks.  I’ll go.  Don’t you want to go play bingo or something?”

“Very nice.  Very nice way to treat your parents,” he replies.

“Thank you for the cruise.  I appreciate it.”

“Yeah…” is all he says.  God forbid he should say You’re welcome.

“Come on,” my mother says dragging him out.

As he leaves, “How come she has three beach towels and we only have one, did you see this Linda?”

“Let’s go!” she screams.

The first thing I did was go and buy a drink at the bar.  Like the rebellious punk that I am.  I needed to switch up the energy and do it fast.  I wanted to feel like I was on vacation and not trapped by parents.

I told the Filipino bartender not to be shy with the rum.

What was I doing on this boat full of people who were nothing like me?  Not to mention the presence of all the kissy couples who’s existence just seemed to reiterate the fact that I’m eternally single.  And on a further note, and just an anthropological one, not a racist one, EVERYONE was Filipino.  I just thought it was interesting that they called it Norwegian Cruise Lines and not Manila Cruise Lines.  I’m just saying.  In fact, after the nine days aboard, I started speaking with a Tagalog accent.

The next day, our first day at sea, while every Tom, Dick and Harry were staking their claim by the pool with their beach towels, the way people stake their parking spots during Christmas shopping, I showed up at the Captain’s cocktail hour to await my parents.  I felt self-conscious waiting outside the Spinnaker Lounge – as if words were emanating from my inner self-image outwards – projected onto the air like: single; unemployed; living at home; going crazy.

When they showed up, it was like they were on a mission…my mother, with frosted coral lipstick and her nautical, striped sailor’s top…my father with his schlubby t shirt and shorts.  I followed them in.  The procedure was, you’re supposed to shake the hands of the captain and all the officers… but my father ushered us quickly and obviously off to the side where he proclaimed loudly,  “There’s the waitress –go get her and tell her you want your drink.”  All of this within ear shot of the finely uniformed officers who were now staring at us.  And so my embarrassment began.

As many of you may know, after a drink or two, I get pretty “easy-going.”  So my shame at my parents’ behavior mildly subsided.  I went over to my Dad with the Norwegian cocktail glass.  “Here, I stole this for you.”

“Excellent.  Put it in your mother’s bag, quick.”

Feeling like I did my job, I walked out and perused the entire ship.  I purposely tried to not look anyone in the eye, so I could continue my “inner journey” motif.  There was practically a Filipino at every turn trying to sell you something.  A cocktail.  A spa treatment.   For only like a five thousand dollars.  A perfume.  A watch.  A shore excursion that was sure to be booked up if you didn’t act now.  To be honest, I didn’t mind.  I’m on vacation, I found myself repeatedly saying to myself.  I was wearing my flip-flops, and I could start to feel the little pins of tension slowly start to fall off my body.

I found myself on Deck 7, the Promenade Deck.  Past the sounds of seniors playing shuffleboard, past people reading in their chairs, I walked and found myself a silent spot by the railing, just underneath one of the many hanging tenders.   It was just me.  I stood and inhaled the ocean.  I closed my eyes.  When I opened them, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…nobody else was seeing it…

I was caught in the distant massive glimmer on the ocean…so divine it couldn’t really be described accurately…It was then that I faintly remembered to whom I really belonged.  Not my parents.  And not even to me.  But to beauty itself.  To a life so big it’ll slam you against the wall one minute and in the next, reflect a truth to you so gorgeous you’ll cry in incomprehension.

That’s how big life is.  And how loving it is, that it’ll keep giving itself to you until you see it.

I stayed there until this burned sufficiently into my memory.  And then I went to the buffet for an intermezzo of enchiladas and brownies.  Because I could.

This one’s for you, Invisible Mikey.

Posted in: Humor, Uncategorized