My Lovely Affair
June 9, 2015 § 19 Comments
My husband and I own a little tugboat, named Annabelle, and no, we didn’t name her, she came that way—which was both swell and uncomfortable at the same time, but there we were. Our idea is to someday live on her, or come the revolution, fly to another world aboard her, but for now she’s an intermission between work, crusades, and expectations—a vessel assist—a way to resuscitate what almost died (or did die) during the week.
Also, for me? She is more than this. Annabelle is my writing space. I am convinced my best writing emerges within her hold. Maybe it’s the rocking cradle of her, the perpetual smell of diesel, the oil lamps flickering gold. Maybe it’s floating in salt water, the dead internet, the cognac—I don’t know, but tucked into her, I achieve a fusing of mind and body, and words rush like blood from a deep cut.
Annabelle’s home moorage is adjacent to a boatyard. The shipwrights begin work roughly at dawn, arriving with coffees and lunchboxes and a camaraderie I envy. As they begin to labor, the reliable vibrations of pound cut drill grind sand pound drill cut grind sand, makes me want to build something too.
And so I write.
I want to mention now, this about the boatyard: a hundred yards away, shipwrights are overhauling the Western Flyer, Steinbeck’s science expedition boat. I’m not going to get into why the Western Flyer is here in this particular boatyard (Google “Port Townsend and Western Flyer”) but shipwrights are transforming her into an educational vessel. When I think about all the kids who will tromp aboard this seventy-six foot ship and disentangle their hypnotized eyes from cell phones, while they interact viscerally, and absorb the stories and ghosts within her timbers, I feel hopeful that at least one of them will disembark trembling with epiphany.
I slip away to Annabelle often, and write until there’s somewhere else I need to be. Sometimes I stay overnight on her, alone, covered in piles of flannel and quilts, watching the stars through the skylight, imagining I’m a long way out to sea, close to the answers, and far away from the fucked up civilization shit. I’ll allow sentimental thoughts and listen to sailboat wires twang against metal masts, each rigging another pulsating tone in the symphony. I’ll hear the man who lives on the boat next to us, as he tramps down the ramp each night—around midnight or so, and greets his cat—always in the same way, “Well Cap, time for a nice glass of gin wouldn’t you say?” Later, I’ll listen to the rattling of ice in his glass as he sits on his aft deck, the cat occasionally meowing.
And now, as I write in Annabelle’s salon, the wind at a stand-still, Annabelle soft-breathing, I look out the small windows to the hushed gray water and whisper all the lover things—thank you, forgive me, I can’t make any promises, I love you.
“Yes,” she whispers back. “I know.”