Storm Surge: But Isn’t the Whole World a Boat

by Laurinda Lind
read the suite from the beginning

3. But Isn’t the Whole World a Boat

It is a big day for me, the day I can dump the boyfriend who dumped me.

I have suffered over the breakup for more than a month, and I am sick of it. This is the day it can all be over, the day I drive out to his camp so I can finish moving back into myself.

I am a few minutes from freedom. I’m just waiting at the dock for him to figure out what  shape the boat motor we bought together is in. Really, I didn’t give a shit whether it started or not, but David is OCD about stuff like this, and has gotten it going.

“Get in,” he says.

“What for?”

“I want to take it into the channel and see if it will keep running. It’s not too far out to row back if it cuts.”

I don’t really want any part of this, but now that I’m getting over David Flu, I’m trying to be civil, and I walk out farther onto the dock. He doesn’t help me step into the boat, which is good. I sit up front, where he’ll want my weight to keep the bow down. Blue smoke is coming out from the motor, though that’s not unusual from an engine that’s been sitting so long. He turns the handle to give it a little more gas and at each end of the boat, we cast the lines off and up onto the dock.

As we spin around and head to the channel, the motor keeps it up. Over the water, the air is not as hot, and after a minute or two, David yells forward at me, “I want to take it out to Speakeasy and back.”

I hold my palms up in the air. Why not. Even that’s not too far to row, and from that direction the current could run us back most of the way. He opens the motor up and I get a spanking from the aluminum seat. I let the boat shake some tension out of me.

After a few minutes, we get into the gap between Speakeasy and Spruce, and it’s like the apocalypse– the sky comes down black, the air goes cold, the wind goes vicious.

I have seen these sudden river storms, but I’ve forgotten.

So, apparently, has David.

Rapidly, the waves get bigger and bigger, but the motor is still running and David is able to turn right into them, so they won’t swamp us. Every time the bow comes down, I get a shower. There is an echoing, breaking sound starting from the northeast, and I see a first lightning strike on the far shore.

It occurs to me to get scared.

The motor still hasn’t quit, but we don’t have enough horsepower to fight this. David tries to shout something, and I can’t hear him. He points toward the shore of Speakeasy. He doesn’t wait for me to nod yes or no. He works the boat over that way, and now waves are sloshing over the stern, and he is halfway to his knees in water back there.

After a wild quarter of an hour during which each of us is poling frantically away from shore boulders, we get the boat into shallow water and we both jump out to pull it in and up onto land. We have to heave and heave to move it higher than the waterline, because the river is swelling from the wind, and David takes the anchor out and carries it up the beach to wedge it between two standing stones. The sky is a weird red-green. Wind is howling around our ears. I can barely push against the force of it.

David hauls me by the arm across the beach and into the trees, and even with branches whipping against us and my hair constantly in my eyes, I can see the little shack he has in mind, a weatherbeaten old place that I remember as a snake dorm.

When we reach it and he unlatches the door, the door almost blows it off. He pushes me inside it and fights to close the door again from the inside. Now the thunder has taken over the river, and through the broken-out windows, we see flash on flash on flash. All around us, I can hear the railroad-track sound that is tornado talk.

We lie down on the floor, which is nasty but does not squirm under me; the lightning doesn’t illuminate any snakes. The wind shoves and works at the shack so that I am afraid we are going to end up in the sky like Dorothy and Toto. The thunder is simply deafening.

I don’t want to be here and I don’t want to live with David, but I do want to live. And that makes me remember how it is to love someone, even someone I hate. “I really couldn’t stand it anymore,” I shout into David’s ear. “I mean, us.”

“I can’t, either,” he shouts back, the most honest he has been with me in months and months. I so strongly feel that I am still going to be myself, and that the storm is going to stop even though it seems like it never will, and that I don’t ever have to let David be right again.

I lean into him as if he is old, old air that I don’t have to be afraid of or hold in my lungs, and I wonder how it will look once we leave and we both start again in the washed world.








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