Chapter 1 Finn's Story - Distant Thunder
Ten days ago, if you had told me I’d be on a cruise with a woman other than my wife of nearly ten years, I’d have driven you to the asylum myself. But here I was, sitting in the dark in one of the two chairs in the empty “smoking lounge”, staring at a tropical storm whirling and stabbing the night sky with light. The natural fury barely registered over the tempest in my own heart.
The chill wind splashed up from the sea, but I didn’t feel it at all. The dregs of a Long Island Iced Tea on the small table next to me. I didn’t even notice the gentle roll of the decks which up to this point of the journey had felt as solid as the ground on any city street. The drink was a gift from Eric the Nigerian bartender at the Admiral’s Nest when he kicked me out for a private party. “I’m sorry my friend, I know you like the view. Here, have one on the house.” His look made me feel like a kid caught peeping through the neighbors fence, but his smile told me he understood and was laughing along with me. Eric directed me to an empty lounge just outside of the bar. The non-descript door tucked behind a potted palm seemed to lead nowhere, so I’d never even noticed it before.
After being kicked out of my cabin so my roommate could have some time with her new “friend”, I’d headed for the bar without realizing it. When I glanced up from the busy patterned carpet I realized I was following five women who had dressed to impress. If they looked as good coming as they did going I was in for a treat.
Arguing with the voice of habit and doubt in my head, I just kept following. After all, I reasoned, I had nowhere else to be. And what was I feeling guilty about? I was just watching the sway of their hips and the curves of their legs, the snick of their heels, the swish of the fabric and their laughter and giggles. I was just looking. I wasn’t blind, I was appreciating beauty. And even if I was to stumble into some fantasy world where I would bed all of then, that wouldn’t even begin to make things fair. I could have followed them with my eyes closed, the sweet scents of sunshine, fruits and musk.
Bree was a sunny spirited brunette with fair skin and freckles on her shoulders, her yellow sundress was strappy and fluttered as she walked. She was a little awkward in the heels but her giggle would melt an ice cube from fifty paces. Celia’s honey skin with a form fitting jet black short skirt to match her curly hair, had to take extra steps to keep up, but somehow seemed to be leading the group. Everything about her was graceful and controlled. Everything from her pearl hair pin, to her diamond watch to the delicate anklet that sparkled just below her sculpted calf, spoke of precision and careful thought. Hannah and Siobhan looked as if they were ready for a prom. Hannah’s chestnut hair rolled down her back in long languid curls fanning from one shoulder to the other. Her hips rolling easily under the midnight blue velvet that flowed to the floor, drawing my eye and making me wonder at obvious bewitching difference between the female gait versus the male. Siobhan, with fiery red hair and swathed in dove grey dress that clung to her curves.
Finally Kris, with hair almost the color of Hannah but with a crown of sun bleached blonde on top. Her tanned arms and strapless dress with a plunging back that dipped almost to the butterfly showed the most skin. She was shy and less curvy than Siobhan and Hannah. Her limbs long and lightly muscled like a runner. Her face was long with deep set eyes, small pouty lips,and I know that because she glanced around behind at that exact moment. And, she actually smiled at me when she caught me staring at her, her eyes flashed with a laugh. I didn’t realize until she’d turned back around that I wore a dumb smile from enjoying the view.In that moment, I knew she was happy and excited about the evening ahead. I also knew she liked the fact that I was looking at her at least when she had caught me. She stood up a little straighter and her hips seemed to wiggle just a little more as if she was putting on a show just for me. ‘You are deluding yourself,’ I thought. It was hard for me to believe that she’d been flattered by my attention, perhaps a momentary doubt that she’d been the ugly duckling of the group now dispelled. I’d just followed them all the way into the Admiral’s Nest not even noticing the “Closed - Private Party” sign on the door.
I was also selfishly sad being kicked out, because while I’d been enjoying the view on the way to the Admiral’s nest, the view after I arrived was nothing sort of mesmerizing. The private party that was closing down the bar appeared to be a bachelorette party or a sorority meeting of some sort. I tried not to stare too much and drifted to my regular spot at the bar where I nonchalantly watched them in the mirror over the bar. Eric had smiled understanding, but had strict orders that it was private party guests only.
The Admiral’s Nest was on the top deck all the way at the leading edge of the foredeck. Even on our smaller cruise ship with only four decks, the view out into the ocean from the bar was impressive. When we started our voyage the view had inspired thoughts of the scene from Titanic. Though without my Rose, it would be pointless and empty.
I’d known for years something was wrong, but I was raised to believe that the promises you make to God are forever. And… in my heart they were.
It wasn’t that I’d become blind and dumb the moment I walked down the aisle, but I was convinced that what I thought I had, was better than anything else I’d ever known. I’d had other offers, especially once I had a wedding ring on, a surprising and somewhat disconcerting revelation that a number of women seemed interested only if you were already married. I absently stroked the empty indentation on my left hand. I’d learned early on to really lay it on thick and to innocently deflect them so I could avoid having to reject them directly.
What a self-righteous prick I’d been. I couldn’t help but feel like a fool now. I’d been played so completely I still had trouble understanding as I rolled from wave top of grief down into a well of burning fury which warmed my skin, until the next grief wave hit.I stood for a moment suddenly needing to do something. The nervous energy lept under my skin like the distant thunderstorm. I had no where to go. I leaned out over the railing and looked down and laughed at myself. I brushed away the momentary thought of jumping to my death as an absurd notion. I’d never even make it to the dark water roiling past instead, I’d fall to the first deck and probably only break my legs and maybe my spine. That would have to be the stupidest idea ever, the ultimate statement of symbolic impotence.
I’d lost enough in the last two weeks already. I’d lost the illusion of a marriage, and in it, someone who I’d thought was my best friend. I’d taken a “leave of absence” from my job, which to be honest after the most recent promotion five months ago, I’d quickly grown to hate. But I’d kept doing it because I was paying my wife’s way through nursing school. She worked as an EMT for what was barely minimum wage before the double and triple time,but all of her money was spent on her necessities of make-up, clothes, hair, and nail appointments she never had money for anything else.
We’d had no children, much to my chagrin. Now I wondered if it was actually a blessing because even though I’d probably have to pay some sort of alimony, because I was the one making ninety percent of the money, at least I’d be able to completely leave her behind. I felt guilty for a moment to the kids that didn’t even exist, that I didn’t want a permanent reminder of their disgusting mother. They would have been beautiful though, stunning just like their mother. But maybe that was for the best as they would have had half of her mind and faults and maybe it was best not to add more stupid selfish people to the population, no matter how attractive they may be on the outside.
At first she’d denied it. She had always denied the very possibility for years, lying and lying until reality was a complete stranger to her. But for better or worse, I’d taken a friends advice (who’d been through the same with his previous marriage) and had gotten proof. I didn’t even listen to the recording for a whole month, I think I already knew and just didn’t want to admit it to myself. And I cried and screamed that morning in the car like a little bitch. I called a friend, yeah same friend, and he told me to play it smart. “Calm down and think.” But that was the last thing I could handle doing at that point. It fact, I drove out to hang out with him all day instead of turning around and driving home. I don’t remember much of that day. I do remember he was scared that I was going to do something stupid and wouldn’t let me leave until I had agreed to literally do nothing.
It felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest and wasn’t beating for me anymore. Like I was a Chinese national who’d been foolish enough to think for myself, and then got tissue matched to a wealthy 'medical tourist'. At some point my blood would slow and stop, like I was becoming a vampire and then the world would fade to darkness. I rarely looked in the mirror anymore as I kept expecting to see that I wasn’t there. That I was only a ghost walking through my life, out of habit. I glanced up and noticed the unblinking black eye of a camera watching me even now. I wondered if they could really seem me on the camera?
Work friends had called to offer support. “Anything you need, anything, you let me know.” Yeah she didn’t really mean, “Anything.” It’s just something people say.
What was the truth? What was anything? I felt like my world had been riven to my cells of my body and I was suddenly sure of nothing. What if they didn’t all decide to be “me” tomorrow?