I slam my head into the boom with a loud resonating thunk and immediately begin to laugh.
“Oh…” says [GM] painfully, knowing the throbbing feeling exploding through my temples all too well. “Oh no.”
“Missed doing that.” I say through clenched teeth, gingerly rubbing my forehead. I surprise myself to find I’m telling the truth.
“Welcome to The Sheerwater.” I hear him say with a laugh but I’ve already ducked into the dog house and am making my way towards the fo'c'sl to find some scotch bright and a rag. I smile at the words, they seem to echo through me, filling a place in my heart with comfort and light that I thought just months ago was lost forever. Welcome, yes. Welcome back to this life I missed so dearly. Welcome back to a natural state of my existence I shudder to think I strayed so far from for so long. I feel alive, so alive, and whole, for the first time since… since when? I wonder to myself while I rummage through the clutter of maintenance tools that line the shelves in the foremost cabin. Since I drove away from the beautiful home of the [G] family in Indiana, blinking back the tears as I laid my hand on an empty passenger seat? Since I lost Sabina and Occupig and the goat and Charlie, my belongings and home and everything else in Braddock? Since Dylan sent me the photographs of my smashed childhood guitar and few precious belongings left behind in California? Since the last time I sailed my dear Sparrow with my father? Not then, I was certainly still broken then, even with the wind in my hair, and salt water on my sun kissed skin. But maybe that summer, before that unspeakable thing was done to me and, though I was angry and wild and hurt even then too, I was working in the yards and felt perhaps this same contentedness. Maybe a little before that too, when those sails I described once before were my only solace in the broken home hurricane I was bravely navigating through, a half starved teenager new to Queens finding comfort in the sea. I find the scotch bright and rags, and push those thoughts away.
“No, no.” I whisper to myself. “I don’t know that girl. I don’t her.” Then look up suddenly, my cheeks flushed, embarrassed and horrified I whispered allowed, and glance up through the hatch and then towards the bulkhead to make sure no one was close enough to hear. No one is near. This time I silently thank my lucky stars and climb up on the shelves, brace my back against the hatch then push myself upwards to the deck, sunlight spilling out across my face, washing me in comfort and wholeness and joy again. A seagull cries, halyards snap against the mast high above me, muffled shouts echo from our sister ship to port, the constant rattle of glass bottles in the recycling facility on shore carries through the wind like a melody, waves lap like rhythm and laughter. [GM] is busy with a vacuum amidships. Both my captains are busy aft, messing with the motor I think. [GM] sees me and calls out.
“Ready?” He asks. I grin and walk over, trying my best to keep my cool and not skip and twirl with glee like the urge bubbling up inside me begs. I kneel down next to him on the deck, holding up my secondhand jeans with one hand, and present my findings from the cabin. “Okay, now you go like this…” He says, and folds the rag against the mouth of a tin can, then flips it upside down. The smell of turpentine explodes into the air, billowing up around us with the wind. I breath in deep, soaking in the familiar smell, my favorite smell since I was a little girl, the smell that meant, I’m safe, I’m home, the only home I’ve ever known, and close my eyes for a second while he speaks, then take the rag and begin the long sweeping movements of wiping down the rail. My arms ache from all the work, my fingers burn with raw blisters, the sun beats down on the small of my back where my t-shirt won’t stop riding up, the wind is too cool to be comfortable, and my head still throbs from colliding with the boom. And god do I feel great.