To 2015 - 2016
The Boat and the Sea

By Chris Peck

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    By Meredith McCain, 12
 
 “…when each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises” (Coelho, The Alchemist).
 
It was another hot day on the sea. The sun was beating on my fair skin. Despite having put on plenty of sunscreen prior to embarking, I still tried to cover myself.
 
My brother sat next to me, shirtless, with one arm dangling off the edge of the boat. He looked fearless as the sun illuminated his new frat-boy muscles as if nothing on God’s green earth could harm him. I, however, felt like a mother driving home with her new born child; I just wanted to protect him from harm.
 
My parents seemed less worried. My dad, wearing his Hawaiian t-shirt, sat half-dreaming with his head between his knees. Meanwhile, my mother glanced out upon the open waters. She turned to me, smiling as if her excitement were contagious. But I could read her expression that this was not what the travel guides promised.
 
The tour guides soon lost hold of their smiles and revealed their true lack of enthusiasm. Everyday down here was a sunny day for them; good weather blended into a daily routine. We were another group of wealthy travelers making a mess that they would need to clean up. Their faces were blank by the second hour. Neither the rhythmic chopping of the water on our boat nor the horrifying sounds from the vomitorium in the stern could lift them out of their haze.
 
The stark contrast between a hundred eager vacationers seeking escape from their mundane lives and the tour guides fighting off the monotony from another ocean voyage slowly blended together. Their enthusiasm had dissipated leaving only empty shells on an empty boat.
 
The man across from me exemplified this idea in how he sat struggling to maintain some resemblance of enjoyment. His ice cream dripped like tap water onto his new Cayman Islands shirt that, despite being a size XXL, could barely fit the beast. I felt a little sorry for the man, for he was squeezed up against an eight year old maniac who one could tell had severe ADHD. He rocked back and forth and back and forth like a ticking metronome.
 
The woman, who was to blame for the bathroom turned vomitorium, rose from her anguish and returned to her seat. She appeared as though she had tried for a solid three weeks to get beach-body-ready but abandoned the goal upon the sight of the 24-hour ice cream machines back on the cruise. She was one of those middle-aged ladies that would be better served with a one-piece, rather than the bright, yellow, polka-dotted bikini that she wore. As she marched back to her seat, she locked eyes with me.
 
“Stop staring at her,” my mom whispered in my ear. “That’s very rude.”
 
I quickly averted my eyes from the crowd and toward my mom.
 
“Sorry, I’m just super bored. How much longer?”
 
“As long as it takes; now stop your complaining. There is a whole ocean out there and you’re stuck on this boat.”
 
Looking back over the side of the boat, I did what my mom suggested. I tried to feel the water and imagine the underwater world teeming with life. But the sounds of people coughing, sneezing, or even breathing constantly interrupted my thoughts.
 
Finally, I closed my eyes and freed my imagination. I blocked out the sounds of the boat and filled my mind with the sounds of the ocean – the rhythmic back-and-forth hypnotizing me into the sea. The deeper my thoughts went, the darker they became. Suddenly my mind was blank. I felt life glide around me, calming me – little fish sliding their scales across my arms and legs.
 
As I swam, I began to feel at rest. There was nothing to be afraid of in the sea.
 
The peace in my mind was soon replaced with the water filling my lungs. Turning left, right, up, down, I fell into a panic. Where was up, where was the surface? I had forgotten, but how could I forget? My spirit had become lost in the heart of the sea. More and more fish began surrounding and touching me from all sides as if they were trying to secure me. I felt some laugh at me for my obvious inferiority. I struck out but I couldn’t hit them; they disappeared and then reappeared. Their laughing got louder and louder.
 
“Sir, you can start putting on your snorkeling gear,” said one of the guides with his hand on my shoulder. He looked concerned. My mom glared at me. I was back on the boat.
 
I stood up cautiously, keeping my hands on the railings, for I still felt a little dazed. After putting on my flippers, goggles, and life vest, I hobbled over to the edge of the boat. Looking down all I saw was the darkness, an impenetrable blue. This is where we’re supposed to swim? There is nothing here, only a black void.
 
My mom approached on my right side. “This is your chance to finally get off the boat,” she proclaimed. People from all sides jumped in: the beast, the child maniac, even the vomit queen. And after a few minutes, I was left alone. I couldn’t move. I felt safe in the boat, in my life, in my reality, and leaving it felt all too wrong. I had seen the darkness. I had seen it consume me. I was afraid.
 
But this was my chance to overcome whatever had plagued me until now, whether it was my job, my friends, or this boat. Maybe a change was what I needed, and maybe it was the reason the beast and the maniac came on this trip: to let go. Now was the time to overcome my fear of the unknown.
 
I took one step up to the edge, looked out upon the void, and jumped.
  
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