Sailing Through

Imagine yourself falling in love, whatever that means to you. Let’s say it happens the conventional way. You bump into her at a party, or in church perhaps. A week later, you two are an item. It becomes disruptive, your life turns upside down, priorities shift like political alliances. Mornings become a time for anticipation, will you wake up to a ‘good morning baby’ text from her? Gradually, your head space becomes invaded with constant thoughts of her. Scenes of the two of you together invade your imagination, holding it hostage. In those scenes you’re standing side by side, with your hands clasped together in a tight knot of love, your eyes fixed beyond the horizon where the sun is setting, your feet resting on beach sand.

Over time, your evenings become whiled away with your head resting on your pillow, your phone closely held to your ear, an intimate conversation ensuing.

But then every beautiful story has a tragic turn. Yours comes one day at one of those meet-ups for couples that happen often in your hood. You’re a drinker, she’s not, but that day, all your blood has turned into alcohol and you’re riding that high, blissed out and buzzed out. You glance at her and she’s sitting with her hands across her chest, radiating vulnerability and what you think is boredom. Guilt speaks to you, tells you it’s not fair that you’re having all the fun. So you pour a double shot of whiskey in a glass and hand it to her saying ‘C’mon, a little sip never hurt anyone.’ Guilt speaks to her too, telling her it’s not fair to turn down a drink, that it might be inconsiderate to do so. She takes the glass from your hand and gulps down the drink.

Someone once said that at first, you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you. I really don’t know what that means, but when the drink takes someone you love, you’ll know. It will begin by an occasional drink on weekends. Then that occasional drink will turn into a frequent drink, spilling over into the weekdays. Soon even mornings will become a time to nurse hangovers. Hangovers have a tendency of getting worse with time, so after a while her seat in the boardroom during the morning meetings will start being conspicuously empty. Then her seat in her office will be taken over by a more zealous employee keen on moving up the corporate ladder.

One day, you’ll figure that enough is enough. It’ll be on a Saturday, you’ll make her sit on the couch across you, and you’ll look into her eyes, their shine stolen by the addiction. You will tell her that you’re worried sick, that she needs to stop. She’ll tell you, voice shaky and hoarse, that she’s tried, but each time she tries, there’s a voice in her head that tells her that if she tries to stop she’ll fail, and why be a failure and an alcoholic at the same time?

You’ll tell her that when you’re in bed at night, reminiscing at the conversations you used to have at that hour, you hear a voice too. It tells you that it’s your fault, that if you hadn’t poured that drink that day at the party, none of this would happen. That in fact, if you hadn’t gone to the party, none of this would happen. The voice often takes you down the rabbit hole full of what if’s and what if nots. Both of you are in prisons of your own minds. Guilt is the prison warder. Fear, hopelessness and learned helplessness are the jury who put you away. You carry out your sentence every day when you wake up, atoning to a mistake that happened in the past. Cleaning up after her, making excuses for her. She’s serving her sentence under the tight grip of a disease.

There’s this one night, you’re curled up on the couch, wearied out, and sleep takes over you. You slip into a dream of sorts. In this dream, you’re inside a cruise ship and it’s strange because you can’t remember if you’ve ever been on a ship before. You’re in your cabin, exquisitely furnished, complete with leather couches. On one couch is an old man, his hair and beard is grey from years of wisdom. He’s engrossed in a big book, silent and calm, apparently oblivious of his surroundings. You on the other hand, are fidgeting restlessly with the parts of the ship, trying to figure out how everything works. You’re touching the ceiling, caressing the window sill, peeping through the window to look at the sea outside.

Suddenly, the ship hits something, and you’re thrown to the parquet floor. Before you know what’s happening, the ship tilts furiously to the other side, and you’re thrown again, hitting your head on the edge of the table. When the ship rocks again, you start screaming, desperately attempting to clutch at anything you might find. You’re screaming, ‘we’re dying, we’re dying!

You glance at the old man, and to your astonishment, you realise that his eyes are still fixed on a page of the book he’s reading, one hand holding that same book at the edge, the other holding a shiny metallic pole that seems to be anchored in the parquet floor of your cabin. You’re throwing your legs in the air, clutching at everything, strewing stuff on the floor, screaming some more.

‘What are you doing, we’re dying and you choose to read a book? Are you insane?’, you exclaim, amid gasps for breath.

‘Actually, you’re the one who seems to be insane’, replies the old man, with a voice like Morgan Freeman’s, ‘because if you weren’t, you’d know that it doesn’t matter how hard you scream, you can’t control the waves’.

‘What?!’ you ask.

‘Is it your first time on a cruise ship?’

‘Yes it is!’

Chuckling, the old man says, ‘when you’re on a journey, sometimes you encounter storms. It can be a terrifying experience or an amazing one, depending on you’. When you find something steady to hold on, the rocking of the ship can even put you to sleep, but when you have nothing to hold onto, the storm will sway you and threaten to throw you into the sea to be eaten by sharks.’

‘So you’re saying…’, you begin to ask, but then the ship hits something again and you wake up, drenched in sweat, clutching at a pillow case.

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  1. Good read

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