The car nearly collides into the boat. My mind, caught in a trap by the beautiful rise of the sun, drifts from the road and I neglect the gas pedal, letting Darth Vader glide seamlessly off the road and into the marina. Thump, thump, thump. The wheels bounce off the deck, and I finally slam on the breaks, stopping inches away from a whaler named Big Bertha.
“Why didn’t you tell me to look where I was going?”
“Because,” my companion says. ” I was also too busy looking at the rising sun. I think I saw a bald eagle.”
I chuckle. ” It’s probably for the best. I don’t do well with unexpected screaming.”
There was an unexpected tap on the glass. I roll down the window and find myself staring into steel gray aviator sunglasses. The officer had a thick, round face with a stubble of a beard trying to take shape around his jaw.
“I’m going to need to see some registration,” his voice is scratchy and hoarse. We go through the routine and wait, and for a second I contemplate driving off, reversing Dark Vader and high tailing it out of there. From the corner of my eye I spot a ferry, conveniently across from me, preparing to leave the dock in five minutes.
Possessing a long since expired registration card, I make a decision. I floor the car in reverse, switch gears, and zoom off in the direction of the waiting ferry. We are safely on the boat and underway before the officer can do anything to stop us.
“That was lucky,” they say, bobbing up and down with the waves.
“That was privilege,” I say grimly. The decision I made could only have been made as someone in my position, and the guilt shames me. ” One day, you’ll need to look at the law with some fresh eyes. I only say this because not everything is as it seems, and if we keep looking at the same wall in the same way, we will fail to notice the mold creeping in. We cannot ignore the ugliness of life.”
“Then why did you avoid that police officer, who was not particularly good looking anyway?”
I open my mouth, their literal meaning of the situation slapping me squarely in the jaw. “You know what, never mind. And I’ll bet you all the money that I do not have except for food and gas that whatever I end up avoiding I’ll just come back to anyway. Just like the next adventure I am going to tell you.”
For many years, I wanted to escape my home state, believing it was holding me back, that it was stale and rank, the soil too dry for me to grow. The chance finally came for me to leave, and the prospect was both daunting and exciting. A new life in a new place. Perhaps I’d find where I was supposed to be, whatever that was, and find the right sort of clothes that fit me snugly.
That didn’t happen. I went out, only to come right back to a dingy city I had no interest in. At least this time I was able to move further south, to a nicer city I still had no interest in. What Annapolis had going for it was its historic appeal as well as the marina which opened up to the Chesapeake Bay- this marina, by the way, I nearly worked at for a job was offered to help with the boats that came in and part of me regrets not taking it. What stories would have unfolded? For Annapolis crawled with people, and each person brought with them their own sort of entertainment. Still, I needed security and I wasn’t interested being stuck among a throng of people whose style did not match mine, which was a preppy, tailored look as opposed to rugged and comfortable. I grin as I recollect our muddy, filthy rugby team crawling to all the bars without once taking a shower and shoving our way past people in fine pearls and dresses, suits tailored for a gala. One of my fondest memories was a scavenger hunt, and if you elected not to take five shots the option was a physical challenge. I will never forget the sight of racing a Navy midshipman around the docked boats.
” A place is only as good as the people in it,” I say, quoting something I either picked up from television or it was repeated to me through an ever traveling grapevine. ” The only reason I grew to like Annapolis was because of the people who surrounded me. I left the state of Maryland full of optimism and eager to escape the ropes that were binding me. I return dejected and without much hope. But I began to heal in the least unexpected of places.”
” So you’re saying you’ll never know what road you’re going to take?” A splash of water shoots up and smacks the windshield. ” What road should I take to end up where you are?”
Ah, I was afraid they would ask that question. I dodge them, a fox evading capture. ” Just write. While we are sitting here, you might as well be writing. You’ve already missed a bit.”
“Not anything important,” they grumble.
Sail away with me, darling The wind whispers my name Sweetly, gently A lover by my side Sail away with me, darling Oh please, come and Sail away And rest your tired toes In the sand far away Where no one knows Your name Sail away with me, darling The wind whispers Its lies For I know its sails Break And leave you in the middle Of an ocean Swarming with teeth that Prefer to bite Sail away with me, darling Oh please, come and Sail away Its whispers grow faint As I tell them no And continue to sail away In my own boat From the teeth that Prefer to bite Towards the fins that Prefer to splash And laugh beneath a sky So full of light.
The thing is, what you think is not important may later turn out to be most important. I’ve walked up and down the streets of Annapolis numerous times, past the quaint little ice cream shop where I tried coffee ice cream for the first time, the underground bar typically claimed a more polished clientele, the Irish bar and accompanying hotel where I watched numerous rugby games and attended boisterous banquets, and the tiny museum on the corner where I tried to develop the fledging that was the relationship between two disconnected people. These inconsequential little things build up, to a point where if I were to go back and stroll along the streets by myself I would no longer look at it through apathetic eyes.
“How could you ever learn to like a city?” they ask in astonishment. ” How could there ever be people that make it worth visiting?”
” You seem to think you are destined for solitude,” I reply. ” That is just one path. If you follow others, you might just find yourself at a forge, melding together memories associated with being in a place. But that doesn’t mean it has to tie you down. It just means there is something worth going back to, something that isn’t all valleys and mountains. It’s easy to go where you like to go, but it’s difficult to go where you don’t like to. If you ever refrain from going, however, you might miss out on what might start out as awful as being unexpectedly delightful.”
Still, there was a part of me determined to hold onto a bit of distain for the city. I had never been one for conformity, especially towards ideas or styles against my nature, and I was not about convert my being into the popped collars of polo shirts or bright, flowery dresses and pearl earrings that distinctly defined expected gender roles. No, each time I rolled through Annapolis I wanted to be as rugged, as filthy, as unfeminine as possible. I reveled rolling up after a game covered in mud meeting friends in a bar I didn’t particularly care for but has since become a staple house for some of my favorite events, many of them themed.
“One such theme was a Hawaiian- cat night, a beautiful combination I must say. I already hat a cat shirt so there was no need to be to go on an excursion to the nearest Walmart where we ransacked through the aisles, losing each other in the process and finding each other by shouting “Marco!” and responding “Polo!”, yet I went anyway. It was such a silly, simple thing, and maybe its the privilege talking, but nothing made me happier than to sit in the backseat of the car, windows down, while ‘One Headlight’ played and we all sung-poorly, I might add but that doesn’t matter,” I smile as it comes back to me, clearer that water pouring freshly from a spring. ” In that moment I was free from all the worries, all the sadness, all the anger, that came to me out of a world full of chaos. In that moment, I was happy, and for the longest time it was a feeling I didn’t know too well, a feeling that was a stranger at the bus stop: joining me briefly before moving on.”
We made it back to the bar, pausing in the parking lot to give the new shirts a proper style by cutting off the sleeves as well as lowering the neckline. Soon after I leave, unwittingly making plans to visit another party. At one point it would not have bothered me, yet this time it pained me to go, and the regret would sit in harder as I sat alone at the party, avoiding the cold air where everyone was sitting outside, smoking from a bowl I did not wish to smoke from. It was a stoner’s party and I was not a stoner. The joy and happiness drained quickly and I wish I could have gone back to the people who made saying goodbye so damn hard.
“Write this down,” The shoreline is still far away, and the boats chugs along at an abysmally slow pace. For a moment I worry the officer will be there on the other side, waiting to put me in handcuffs and to send my younger self back in time. ” Sometimes its good to leave to have balance among different people, different situations. Sometimes its good to leave to understand what you are missing.”
Happy That word lingers in the air A balloon lost from the hands Of a crying child Who chases it down the block Bounce, bounce, bounce Happy It snags on a branch Poking above a roof Where two voices clash And duel and spar Until the walls break And the child shakes Happy The word travels far In the hands of a man Looking for the child Who needs it the most And the child quickly Lets it go Believing the balloon Was not meant for him Happy The crying child wants it And climbs over the roof Where the two voices Clash and duel and spar And throw their whips At the wall At the child Climb, climb climb The balloon snags in a branch Waiting, waiting, waiting Until the child finally grabs it And is no longer crying Because he is finally Happy
Annapolis has its charms, and it is easy to forget as a squirm in my skin, uncomfortable at how neatly polished it was and how unpolished I was. But I have to remind myself there is more on the surface, otherwise I would not keep being pulled back. There is such thing as reverse snobbery, and it’s a line that needs to be toed carefully.
” Do not become the very same thing you hate,” I warn, ” Too often we see in history people turn around and do the same thing that was done to them. If you are willing to give people a chance, then you should give them a chance no matter where you are. The best thing to receive is a pleasant surprise.”
We cross under a bridge, and I’m reminded of a spot I was shown that I would not have found otherwise. It was a clear day and the water was still, with a soft whoosh as the cars drove by above. The stillness brought a peace that made me forget where I am. I couldn’t help but think afterwards, Here’s another spot I can come to sit and breath and let the running wires in my brain short themselves out and finally relax. The more of these spots there are, the better.
“Everyone needs a spot to go where for once they can feel good. If there is only one spot and one day its gone, then it makes it harder to find another one. How many spots do you have?”
They look at me, an understanding glinting between their eyes. ” I need to get out more.”
“What do you think I’ve been saying?” I shake my head, laughing.
The boat bobs along, and we sit and watch all the different colors bounce back and forth, rolling between the waves and flashing across the bright blue sky. We sit in our new spot, our new unexpected haven we didn’t intend to find but found it anyway.