HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE SAIING
October 8, 2016
HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE SAIING
by Krista Komondor
For the first 30 years of my life, I had no knowledge of the joys of the water. Growing up in the landlocked state of West Virginia, I’d occasionally dip a toe into Cheat Lake, a muddy, man made, flooded valley whose bottom was still peppered with telephone poles, old gas stations and drown farm houses. If I were at the ocean, my mother would admonish me for getting too near the water, fearing I’d get whisked away by an unruly rip tide or gobbled up by some sort of Jaws impersonator. That was the way it went for all those years, until I met Dr. Rogers.
Ashley Rogers was a freelance astrophysicist with one testicle; that latter detail revealed to me even before the thought of becoming biblically acquainted with him entered my mind. I’d see him on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Atlas, a funky coffee shop two blocks from my apartment in Williamsburg Brooklyn, hipster capital of the world. I’d be at that cafe as soon as they unlocked the door, attempting to avoid the throngs of baby mommies and baby daddies with their oversized strollers containing squealing, screaming offspring, threatening to thwart me as I worked on my latest literary masterpiece.
It was 7:10 am, and sitting fifteen feet catty corner to me, he was impossible to overlook; a cross between Albert Einstein and Frank Zappa, Ashley sat there gazing at me with that hypnotic prison stare of his. I tried not to notice, peeking up a couple of times only to find his eyes fixed, motion and emotionless, like Bela Lugosi, casting a net, seeking new blood. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, I’m the victim in all this–yeah right. Let’s get honest here, the truth is, this guy was totally my type – a sarcastic intellectual outcast with long, dark curly hair, dark eyes tucked behind a professor’s glasses, a fuck it attitude, and that vagabond-inspired, homeless chic look that just makes me swoon.
Two weekends in my cafe, his deadpan prison stares flaked with occasional smiles, and he hadn’t even tried to approach me. Watching him sit there, perched in a little two-seater beneath a map of the world, I began to get impatient and a little angry. I couldn’t take it anymore, and scanned him up and down for an excuse to strike up a conversation. My eyes became transfixed by a length of rope he held in his hands, sitting there folding it into a myriad of knots. Taking a deep breath, I made my approach, passing by his table to casually put in an order for another decaf Americano.
“Hey, whatcha got there?” I asked.
Clearly enchanted, he told me he was working on learning a couple of new knots to repair the rigging on his boat, a sailboat he had docked in Stratford Connecticut.
“Stratford,” I thought deliciously to myself, glimmering at the Shakespearean simile.
He told me he was a research astrophysicist, and that he had a habit of trotting around the globe, peeping in all sorts of telescopes and reporting on the behaviors of photons and various high-energy particles.
I have to mention here that I go weak in the knees over geeks. He didn’t look like an academic, and thinking back on it now, he looked a little like a homeless person, holes in his shoes and a t-shirt that read, “I’m so vegan I bleed tree sap.” We sat there talking for a little while, and he showed me how to tie my first bowline. I was charmed. Suddenly, the bell over the entrance door rang, and a little stroller crossed the threshold. I said I was sorry, but had to go.
“Me too, gotta get to the boat,” he said.
We exited, and he walked me to my building.
“So, when are we going sailing?” he asked.
“Um, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know anything about–”
“No problem. I’m a good instructor,” he said.
So I gave him my number and we made a date to meet up for dinner and to plan our voyage.
As soon as I got into my apartment, I furiously googled him. I only had a few snippets of information to go on, but that was plenty–I was a professional. I didn’t believe anyone who looked like an out of work hippie could possibly have a PhD in anything, not least in a specialization of Physics I had no known comprehension for; yet here he was, fully exposed (biographically) on the Internet. I was intrigued by his candidness about his battles with testicular cancer, the documentary film he was producing, and his history of travelling everywhere to report on his observations of Cosmic Gamma Ray Sources. SOooooooo cool!
Our first time on the boat we never actually made it out of the slip. He said he’d intended to do some work below deck, and I was all set to sun myself and harness the steady wifi, rippling water and brisk air for inspiration. All those aspirations were thwarted when Ashley invited me into the cabin for a tour, stopping in the Captain’s Quarters, where, like two feverish hyenas, we ripped into one another.
Our spastic 5-hour shag session in the cabin of that 31 foot 1975 Islander on a ninety-five degree, 100 percent humidity August afternoon was absolute divinity. On a nearby deck, sat two retirees clad in red and blue Rangers caps, sipping tallboys of frosty buds nestled in personalized Styrofoam beer cozies emblazoned with expressions like ‘Get-R-Done’ or ‘I’d Rather be Fartin’ than Fishin’.’ Two good ol’ boys whose heavy cabooses planted in sea foam green and aquamarine webbed lawn chairs; two men who, on this day, the fifteenth of August, two thousand and ten, taking an afternoon’s respite from polishing and preening their oversized, overcomplicated power boy-toy boats, sat taking in the breeze, smoking fat stogies, tapping their feet to the golden oldies and keeping an eye on little Gingersnap as she rocked to and fro, bobbing and swaying and knoodling with her adjoining dock, pulling exuberantly on the flashy spring and stern lines tethered to her side. Two watchdog men doing some serious rubber necking on the triumphant Astral Hobo and his latest conquest.
It was well over one hundred degrees in that cabin, the temperature and humidity rising sharply as our hot yoga style shenanigans took over. Droplets of condensation dripped into my eyes as I attempted to make sense out of my current situation. “Not bad for a man with one testicle!” I exclaimed to myself. Recently off a five year hiatus from all and any sort of sexual, sensual contact with animal, vegetable or mineral, woman boy or man – in this moment and well afterwards, this man, armed with his spunky one eyed bronco, was a god to me, and I was now hormonally tethered to him, in the way a newly hatched bird follows everything closest. I was hooked.
My second time on the boat did prove to be nautically instructional. We plotted a course, a day’s jaunt around the Long Island Sound, dropping anchor in the middle of that glorious body of water to enjoy a delicious vegan lunch and a brief rendezvous that was interrupted by a power boater who’d snuck up on us, thinking our vessel abandoned. Coitus interruptis not withstanding, it was romantic, in an odd, uncertain sort of way, but really we were two very different individuals who barely knew one another, trying to connect in an awkward way, mostly sexually, and me telling myself excuses — working on the idea that there actually could be something more between us. He was, after all, a chronic slacker who lived in his living room and rented out the two bedrooms of his apartment, always at least 20 minutes late for our dates, and prone to frequent tirades on the state of the world and how every indigenous person seemed bent on doing him wrong. Sure, he wasn’t ideal, but at the time I needed him, exactly as he was.
May, 20xx, eight months since I’d had those tragically hot times with Ashley. Sitting in my conference room on Greenwich Street, overlooking the Hudson, brooding over the newly launched sailboats peeking out, appearing and then disappearing. I missed Ashley, replaying over and over again the rendezvous on his boat, bodies slick with sweat from the claustrophobic, windowless captains chamber, bobbing along without a care irrespective of the retirees on the dock with their tallboys. I remembered all the effervescent highlights with none of the ache of the in and out appearances and departures from nightly chat room sessions; our cat and mouse overtures. “I miss Ashley,” I would say to myself over and over again, a whiney mantra fueled by euphorically recalled memories and desires, when suddenly, a voice from deep within asked:
”Do you miss him, or do you miss the boat?”
“Yeah,” I said to myself, “I miss the boat!” Not his brooding or his tardiness or his snarky assessments. No, it’s not any of those things….
“I miss the BOAT! Hells yeah, that’s it! It’s the BOAT!” and that magical feeling of floating in utero.
Four years later, I’ve put in over four hundred and fifty hours on the water. Soon I’ll be a Captain in the club and qualified to take out crews of my own. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll find a couple of good prospects in one of my local cafes.