Something brushed against his leg and he slowly opened
his eyes. The sun was well up now, brightly assaulting his eyes before they
could adjust. The trailing end from the outhaul line of the mainsail was
free and had grazed him in the wind. He rose, grabbed the rope and secured
it with its cleat.
He stretched and turned a slow circle, panning the horizon although he knew he would see nothing. They were eleven days from Marina Del Rey and since the plan was not to arrive at a destination, but rather to navigate a long loop back to the mainland, they were nowhere near Hawaii or French Polynesia. They were simply "on the sea". Going somewhere was of no importance. What mattered was removing himself from the world, accompanied by his two greatest pleasures: sailing and her.
He had stumbled into sailing as unexpectedly as he had stumbled into her. Two years ago his boss (the "Old Man" as he called him... though only in his own mind) had invited the entire senior VP staff on an afternoon trip out of Los Angeles. It was a typical employee solidification exercise to rally the team as they headed into Q4. His position in the company was unique in that he was almost ten years younger than most of his peers at the VP level. This in itself led him to be very self-conscious in regards to his professional life. It meant that he was meticulous in his business transactions, decisions and demeanor. He had a tendency to over prepare for the situations into which he entered, all in the ongoing effort to prove that his youth and lesser experience were not a hindrance to his ability to perform what was expected.
And there was the other thing. He would be lying to himself if he didn't admit that there was a certain favoritism shown to him by the Old Man. He would also be lying if he denied what he and everyone else suspected was the reason. He had heard rumors, water cooler gossip, mostly kept to a respectable level, about a son of similar age that the Old Man once had. About a life that was wasted, cut short not by random tragedy but pissed away. The consensus of the rumor mill was an overdose following a history of self-destructive behavior. He speculated that perhaps the Old Man had visions of passing the empire on to his well-groomed offspring successor as many successful men in his position do. The disappointment of it all probably weighed very heavily for many years. Maybe the Old Man now saw him filling that role, the son that he had but never had.
It concerned him, the light he might find himself painted in, but he had never felt any negative repercussions from coworkers. The Old Man was never overt about it and a case could be argued that it didn't truly exist at all. Or maybe the senior staff just figured the Old Man deserved a second chance at having a "son".
In any case, it was probably a combination of his drive and the shine from the Old Man that turned that afternoon sailing trip into a life-changing event. Before going out he had studied the basics so that he would be as up to speed as possible, if he couldn't be seasoned (as many of the others on that trip were) he could at least be prepared.
Once underway, he realized that he wasn't just saving face, he was actually enjoying the experience more than he ever would have imagined. This didn't appear to be lost on the Old Man and the enthusiasm no doubt solidified their bond even further, filled that void a little more. He imagined that the Old Man had dreamt of one day teaching the lost son to tack into the wind, to "back" the sails and bring the bow around. If he hadn't honestly enjoyed it so greatly he would have felt duplicitous, but it was clear to both of them that his love of the art was genuine. That day opened a new door for him and probably brought a certain closure for the Old Man.
Immediately following that jaunt the Old Man invited him out on two more single-day trips. Just the two of them gliding around the Pacific, hugging the Southern Cali coast as the Old Man imparted his wisdom, his adoration for the preparation, technique and elegance of guiding a forty-two foot yacht on the open sea.
During the next year the trips were steady, typically once a month.
"It's nice to not be alone, to not feel as though I'm the only person in the world enjoying this moment", the Old Man stated boldly into the wind during one of their journeys. "My wife used to come on these trips when we were younger, but now anything more than a couple of hours leaves her with a tumbling stomach. God bless her, but I need more time than that. I need to get out and away, really away. Far enough that I can fool myself into believing that I have the sea all to myself. There's a peace in it for me, a moment of rest in a long life of toil." He turned to face his young protege, "It's nice to have someone to share this with again.", he added with a smile.
now here he was on that same boat, in his own moment of peace, finding his
own solace in the isolation of the sea. The boat became his at an overly-generous
price when the Old Man decided that forty-two feet just wasn't cutting it
anymore. He knew that the Old Man was just making an excuse to pass the
mantle, but was happy to oblige, quickly dismissing any pangs of guilt.
He helped pick out a new fifty-footer, then they took one last spin together
on the Catalina 42mkII before the Old Man "handed over the keys".
That was eight months ago, just before she came to him. The last year had brought so many wondrous things, life was peaking and he wondered how long the plateau would last. If he let himself ponder it too long he felt fear rising up, the fear of losing all the things he held so dear, so precious.
He snapped his mind back, shutting out any worry, replacing it with the reality of the moment. He walked the length of the deck, from the stern where he sat watching the sunrise, to the tip of the bow. He dropped with a turn and sat, his back against the forward pulpit railing. The wind was picking up, as was their speed. The world rushed past him, disappearing endlessly. Surrounded by the awe of the ocean's expanse, the perfect, smooth blue above him and the mottled, intricate blue below.
And her. Her, the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. So close.
The Old Man's words echoed in his mind, "It's nice to have someone to share this with."