Now, safely on the other side of the country- may as well be the other side of the world- I lie in my bed, covered in aloe from head to toe but still burning from a ridiculous sunburn that I was stupid enough to bring upon myself earlier in the day. I thought that the warm red glow of a sunburn might feel somehow comforting, a quaint reminder of my life before Alaska, before Seattle even, a time when summers meant blistering sun and nights spent splayed before a fan. Three hours on the shores of silver lake in Barnard Vermont, lost in a book about King Crab Fishing, occasionally ordering an ice cream bar or another hot dog from the tiny state park concession stand, nearly flamboyant in my efforts to exist in high gear vacation mode, earned me a stunning, ten-point, lobster red sunburn that throbs constantly in a sleep-depriving, wincing, embarrassingly brutal sting.
Still, it does little to cut through the giddy haze I've felt since leaving the ship, a happiness that borders on disbelief: five solid weeks of 12 to 15 hour days, with no rest, no reprieve, very little palatable food, no alcohol, no clothes other than the scratchy and unflattering blue uniform and no privacy except what's afforded to you on your six foot by two foot bunk behind the drawn canvas curtain, has finally come to an end.
That's five weeks with no friends besides the crew, no swimming, no evening barbeques or all day rock climbs, no pleasure reading, no cooking or listening to the radio, no television, no jogging or driving or hiking, no exercise at all that raises your heart rate or breaks a sweat, no cold beers with lime after work, no baths, no restaurants, no sleeping in or napping, no sushi with friends for lunch, no book stores or grocery stores, no planning out weekends with the boy you're dating, in fact, there is no boy you're dating any more, and, worst of all and most damaging to the human spirit- no dogs.
And that's not including the four long weeks in the shipyard.
I have not quit, nor am I going to. But I have earned, and I mean earned possibly in a deeper sense than I've ever meant it before, three whole weeks of sun and sleep soaked vacation. I just need to remember not to soak in the sun while sleeping.
Thank goodness for three weeks off, because one, I'm learning, is hardly enough to shed the effects of the ship on the brain. I dream every night of work. Boring, tedious stuff, as if I slip out of my body every night and return to the decks of the Endeavour for a night's worth of chores and menial tasks. I consume calories like a freight train, if you can imagine what that means, needing not only a great quantity of food but also a vast array of choices to be set before me at all times.
And the sleep- when I first returned to Seattle and to Andrew's welcoming home, I was 135 pounds of uselessness wearing an Alaskan Amber sweatshirt. Bright warm days floated by in the bustling city I'd missed so much as I lay semi-conscious on the couch in front of episodes of The Deadliest Catch. I fell asleep in the car on the way to climbing, a sleep so deep that I didn't even wake up when the car bounced and ricocheted over deep ruts in a washed out access road. "I was impressed," remarked Andrew, and probably annoyed as well, when I announced my determination to remain awake on the car ride home the following night and then fell immediately into a sleep that I'd pop out of every five minutes to declare loudly, "SEE I AM STILL AWAKE" and then drop away again.
But the most difficult element of this vacation by far has been sitting with all the stories from my time at sea so far, all of the events and moments and vivid descriptions of the weird little world brimming inside of my head like ladend crab pots, and having no idea how to start telling them. Much of what I want to write I simply can't, my better senses prevent me. The season is not yet halfway over and much of the red-hot material is still being played out, and my attitude towards everything is shifting so much that I can't find a perch steady enough on which to form one solid, cohesive attitude or tone.
What I can say now is that boat world has thrown the writer inside of me into overdrive, but deprives me of any time to write it down, and I'm looking forward to the day when I can finally pull the plug and see what exactly spills out.
I can also say that I'm very, extremely, extraordinarily fond of my crewmates, and returning to the Endeavour in two weeks will be an occasion laced with joy and excitement over working alongside them again.