I lie on my stomach with my head in my hands desperate for the return of my patience and my sense of humor. I wish I had superpowers. Specifically, I wish for the power of apparition or the ability to make others spontaneously combust. It’s 815 on Tuesday morning, fifteen minutes after the alarm has gone off to wake us for a hike across Kachemak Bay. Beside me, Diesel squirms restlessly in his sleeping bag. Yesterday he was pushing for an overnight excursion and now he isn’t even interested in getting out of bed.
I’m just so tired. He sounds deathly ill.
If it weren’t for the bottle of alcohol he drained by the fire last night I’d be worried. I wonder if he’s only here because he feels like he has to be.
Please just get some fucking sleep.
I slither out of the tent and pull the hood that makes me look like an astronaut over my head.
Seaside Farm is beautiful this cool, cloudy morning as I follow a steep, well worn path to the shores of Kachemak Bay. The ocean is calm and the beach is expansive, stretching out in both directions. I sit on a log and listen to the soft sound of waves against the rock and a lone sea otter munching on shellfish. This place looks a lot like the landscape near Vancouver, BC where I live, but without the prominent human made structures. I’m trying to decide which half of that equation makes me love this place so much.
Back in the kitchen pavilion Maddie and Dan offer me a cup of coffee and I fill them in on the argument they missed out on the night before. Apparently it was loud enough that they could hear it from their tent halfway across the field, but not quite loud enough for them to make out what was being said. When John shows up the four of us laugh and reminisce like old friends. These are the moments that I love the most about traveling and I realize it’s been far too long since I’ve done it.
Then someone asks where Diesel is and what we are doing today.
Diesel is sleeping. I force a smile and laugh nervously. All I know is that we are not doing the Grace Trail hike today. He really needs sleep.
I want to have a shower and wash my hair. I want to be clean, other than that as long as we don’t go hiking again I don’t care. Maddie is a dark haired girl with very striking features. She was so at home last night by the campfire I’m almost surprised to see a side of her that seems to crave high heels and martini glasses.
You know what I did yesterday? John has the laid back drawl of a Florida native. I took Liam on a nature tour. It was just the two of us, plus a captain and his first mate. And this humpback whale came right up beside the boat and surprised us. I thought it was cool until I saw that the captain was a little freaked out. I guess it was a little too close for them.
I decide right then and there that I am going on a nature tour today. That sounds awesome! Who did you book with?
John shrugs and nods towards the main house. There’s a list of water taxi’s in the common room. I picked one and lucked out, I guess. I also booked the two of us on a glacial tour this weekend. Those two made it sound so awesome and I just thought it would be so cool for Liam to see a glacier up close. We don’t have those in Florida.
I am about to ask how much it costs when I see Diesel wrestle with the tent flaps and start making his way towards us. He’s a sight to behold; a thick, muscular man in a black t-shirt, grey mountaineering pants and flip flops walking across the green meadow as if he were a malfunctioning robot. I go to greet him and collect him in my arms as he literally stumbles towards me, blinking. His dark eyes are narrow slits and the hair on his jaw is a little longer than a five-o’clock shadow.
Hey! He waves at our new friends. I leave him to his good mornings while I go brush my teeth and change my clothes. When I return, he is with Maddie and Dan conversing around the remnants of last nights’ fire. I can hear Dan telling Diesel how impressed he was with his Spanish.
These guys have coffee, isn’t that awesome! Diesel raises a coffee mug towards my face. Hey, you want some? Oh, I’m sorry I just offered some of your coffee to her, is that ok?
I press my lips together and exhale. It’s awesome and I do know. I had some while you were sleeping, actually.
The four of us relive the highlights of last night. Every couple of minutes Dan adds how impressed he was with Diesel’s Spanish. In the end we all agree that the most part, Victor and Louise meant no harm and their trip to Alaska could only be a good experience.
Soon Maddie and Dan head off to do laundry and get cleaned up.
Diesel and I sit in silence for a few minutes before he hands me a folded piece of paper. John left this for you.
Oh. Thanks! It’s a list of water taxi’s, with a little arrow pointing next to Bay Excursions.
So…. I was thinking what we can do today… Diesel takes a sip of coffee.
I’m going on a nature tour. I interrupt mid sentence because I don’t care what he is thinking about doing today.
He leans back and brushes his chin with his forefinger. Yeah… I don’t know if we have time for that today.
They do half day nature tours.
He shakes his head. The thing I’d be worried about is if it’s a scam, you know. Like on the spit yesterday that was not cool.
No. I take a deep breath and place my hand on his knee. This is not a scam. John and Liam went yesterday with this company. I point to the little arrow and feel myself start to loose my composure. It sounds to me like it’s not something you want to do and that’s fine but if it’s not what you want to do then just say it’s not what you want to do.
Okay it’s not what I want to do. He sits up straight and puts his hand in front of him, palms facing me.
Okay. I reach for my phone. Well, it’s what I’m doing.
An hour later Diesel is pacing the dock while we wait for Bay Excursions water taxi to pick me up for my nature tour. I do not understand how someone so can be so sluggish first thing in the morning and so fidgety for the rest of the day. I get the sense he is equally, if not more anxious to have some time apart.
I stand on the dock, scanning the marina the in a zen-like state of fury that I’m trying to pass off as calm.
What is the name of the boat?
He said it was yellow and he’ll be here in five minutes.
Diesel continues pacing. I focus on not screaming maniacally.
Here. Take my camera. Diesel has a really cool camera; it’s very compact and has 18megapixels.
I don’t want to take your camera.
No just take it, it’s way better than the iPhone.
I want you to take it.
Fine. Jerk. Thank-you.
Finally, I spot a yellow vessel heading towards the dock we are standing on and as I watch it draw slowly closer I can feel myself start to relax. It won’t be long now.
We say good-bye to each other stiffly and arrange for Diesel to meet me here when the tour is over.
The first mate is a tall girl with the build of a viking and short blonde hair. She stands on the bow of the bright yellow Torega as it docks. The captain is Karl, who is also tall and narrower at the shoulders than at the he is at the waist. He has the type of demeanor you would expect from a man who splits his time between hosting barbecues and watching Star Wars.
So what kind of nature would you like to see today? Sometimes you can tell an Alaskan native just by the way they talk.
I dunno, I shrug. I was thinking I’d like to see gull island. But I wouldn’t say no to seeing anything really, especially whales.
We had a whale surface right next to the boat yesterday. Karl turns the wheel of the small vessel as we start to drift away from the dock. Scared the crap out of me to be honest with you. Passengers seemed to like it, though.
A father and his son – he’s the one that passed along your number!
Karl smiles. All three of us do.
We pull away from the dock and the first thing I do is shed a layer. The morning had been grey and cloudy, but now the sun is out reflecting off the water like shattered glass. It looks tropical. Karl navigates through a narrow waterway before we hit the open water and he pushes down on the throttle. I sit alone near the stern with my back against the cabin. I might as well be flying.
I’m not surprised at the face that comes to mind as we skip along the waves into the deceptively cold water of Kachemak Bay. For the first time on this journey I take a moment to acknowledge the one that hasn’t. The core of every odyssey since my summer in the apple orchard has been a fruitless search. Except for this one.
The landmarks of Homer Spit are becoming impossible to distinguish and I watch the steady stream of mini tidal waves gush behind us. It’s a remarkably unceremonious farewell to a nineteen year old affliction.
Maybe it’s not really a farewell but simply an acceptance that the past isn’t going to shape my future. I take stock of my present, which for the next five days will include Diesel. For the first time I acknowledge that I want my future to include someone to share moments like this with. Someone to go hiking with, clamming with, fishing with. I look over the starboard side of the vessel towards the bow and let the remnants of salty waves try and slap the smile from my face.
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