By lex, Thursday, March 4, 2004
Short sea story.
Did I ever mention the difference between a sea story and a fairy tale? A fairy tale starts out, “Once upon a time,”
And a sea story starts out, “This is no shit”
There are very few feelings as sweet as coming home from a deployment. Maybe the one thing better is actually arriving home.
You have trained for 18 months. You have spent eight or nine months of that time actually at sea. Another two months at least were spent on temporary duty, away from home. You have worked harder, planned more intensely, than you would have thought was possible.
Because yours is a grim business and lives hang in the balance.
You have sailed away from home, regretfully, all that you know and love behind you, in front of you only the unknown. Because you can never step in the same river twice.
You have served your time on the line, lived and breathed and shared a microcosm with many people you would never have ordinarily have chosen to associate with, and a few that you would gladly die for.
But now it is over. You have been relieved. Now you are headed home.
The tension in your shoulders, the one that you never realized was there until it was gone, has lifted. You dare to think about home, to dream about love, about family again. The sun sets on your back, and since the carrier is not flying that day, you go up on to the flight deck, four and a half acres of sovereign US territory that had a few short days before been one of the most dangerous places on Earth, but that now sits idle in the golden peace and quiet. Just to watch the waves go by. Just to watch the sun go down. To see the indescribable azure of the open ocean, a color that no one who has not sailed the sea in ships will know, that no artist could paint, that no camera can capture.
And you walk up to the bow, because it’s that much closer to home than amidships is. The ship herself seems eager, she brushes aside the long ocean roll impatiently. She cannot be bothered. And the wind is in your face, as the sun sets at your back.
It’s a strong wind, because the ship is in a hurry, and you are fighting the trade winds.
Forty knots at least. It’s hard to walk against it.
So you go to the very point of the bow, with nothing between you and your maker but a brief, breathtaking drop and the deep blue sea. With the toes of your steel shod boots over the edge, you spread your arms and lean into the wind. Out, out over the edge. At an angle that would in any other reality plunge you to the deck, or over the side.
But you do not fall – the wind holds you up, and suddenly there is no ship, no flight deck – just you and the wind and the setting sun. You are flying sixty feet above the endless ocean, and you close your eyes and smile.
Because you are not falling. Because the ocean is not endless.
Because you are going home.