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The Same Boat

Tom Sturch

the-long-leg In Florida we embark on summer's long, liturgical Ordinary Time as a voyage on the strands and foils of a variegated sameness–sun-buoyed air that yields ninety by noon, storms by five and somber evening skies. Part clockwork, part kaleidoscope, we navigate the elements laced around the odd hurricane and accrete the heartbeat of a six/eight seaborne shanty. After twenty-five years its rhythms return like a friend who reminds you of your best self. You sail, you smell the salt, you chart by stars and passing islands. Even down below, out of the sun, you feel your feet. But in this story, Ordinary Time is still three days away.

“I want to go to a movie,”I said to my wife. “The Tom Cruise flick. Edge of something.” The residual emotion from an argument with my son had short-circuited my recall.

“Tomorrow,”she said.

“It opens tonight,”I said as I walked away, at once glad she either did not hear or restrained from engaging. The demand to see a movie was a self-prescribed distraction after the phone tilt about a car repair, a car that seems irreparable and the onset of guilt. An instance overblown into raging crisis by the expectations of a father for a son who is so much like him. We go and it helps. Cruise is infected with alien DNA that allows his days to recur postmortem. He dies a thousand deaths and with each new life remembers better where the beast is hidden. It saves the world. That was Friday. Saturday morning I reviewed a script for Sunday about Pentecost wind and fire and three thousand births and I went adrift on something that felt like Melville:

“…for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.1

Ordinary Time is winsome and resists particular answers. It blows out of the west and is the flash of the morning sun. It is the fump and skush of oars in a dead calm and the groan of rigging tacking into a gale. It is form, via negativa, by elements both unsubstantial and powerful. It is the strange exhale of letting high ceremony unfurl into open life. You need room to take it in. By Monday I texted an apology about love that is too often too loud. His answer returned like the wind in my sail. “I am grateful for every day,”he said.

1 Melville, Herman, Moby-Dick

(Painting by Edward Hopper)