*Have not proofread this one just yet. I apologize in advance for mistakes/typos/and nonsense.*
We had finally made a stop. We were out of everything: food, supplies, clean clothes, hopes, and the stability that you can only get on land. All of us hurried off the ship just in case the captain would decide to change his mind. We knew our best bet was to leave the ship and gain some ground so the captain had no crew to command. Three days. Three whole days. The crunch of sand and muck warmed my heart with every step.
“See you tonight at Clarisse’s,” Christopher said. He was the runt.
“Likewise,” said Sammy. He was the good looking one.
“See ya, boys,” I saluted.
Joe only grunted in reply. He was the big, strong, tough one that didn’t talk. He didn’t seem to listen either, but I knew he did.
We all wanted to experience our first awkward hours on land alone. We didn’t want to watch each other manage in a world that did not sway with the ocean waves. Plus, we had all lived in a small corner of four bunks together for the last forty days. I loved the hell out of my crew, but I didn’t want to see any of their ugly asses for at least a few hours before I would reunite with them with the help of some strong drinks at Clarisse’s.
The wind blew fiercely and maliciously searched for the neck’s of men, women, and children. I didn’t mind; as long as the ocean spray didn’t mix with it, I hardly felt the chill. The first few women that I passed, I scanned. My eyes did not search them for primal needs, just their curves and lips and womanly characteristics reminded me of my sweetheart at home. There was an ache in the hollow my chest that nothing could cure but the smell of her hair. One flash of her smile, and I was a whole man with no mysterious pains within my body. However, on the sea or at a stranger’s port, my body felt the absence of something it needed to live. Every day without her was a day closer to her, but it was also another day that I felt I was dying. Each day I spent without her was one day that I would never have with her, and I think that knowing that is the source of my pain.
A few woman brushed their fingers on my shoulder. These women were loose, but most sailors were frisky and had money to spend. My looks gave these women the wrong impression, so I continued to walk through without looking into their eyes. The money we had been given come our stop would mostly be spent on whores, but not mine. I had heard of a new contraption: the telephone. They were expensive to use, but my sweet heart at home had just purchased one. She would be waiting. And as expensive as one of these so called telephone calls were, I wanted to hear her voice.
Finding a man who operated a telephone was challenging. I walked through the city and saw many things before I finally reached my destination. A man with a mustache welcomed me. I pulled out a letter, I looked at her hand writing, I showed the man the number. He nodded and walked me to my own telephone booth. He typed in a number. He spoke to someone he called “Operator.” He gave her the number.
“A Miss Dana Larevelle. Yes. Boston. Yes. Dana. Laravelle. With an L. Thank you.” He handed the telephone to me. I waited.
“Oh, hello?” I heard her voice. I knew her voice. I remembered everything. I remembered the flower I put in her hair. I remembered the first time I had touched her shoulder. I remembered holding hands in the garden. I remembered the last kiss. I remembered her tears, and her face, and her hands.
“Yes. Yes, It’s me.” We both laughed nervously. Her voice! This was her now! Right now! In Boston!
“Oh Robert! Dear! You called. I waited. I knew you would. I’ve been reading and eating and singing and sewing all by the telephone. I knew you would call.”
“Of course, baby. Of course. We just got in. We will be here for three days. I can call tomorrow too.”
“Oh lovely! Is everything well? Are you healthy?”
I thought of the ache in my chest. The pain of every day that peeled itself away from my core without her. “Healthy as a horse. I’m getting stronger every day.”
“Oh darling! I’m so glad.”
“How are things over there? How is your family?”
“Oh, you know. Same as always! Billy’s off to college. Jonathan’s working. Oh, and Jane is engaged!”
“Really? To Al?”
“Yes, yes. We’re all excited. You’ll be here for the wedding. They’re going to have a May wedding.”
“Oh that’s nice.”
“Yes. Yes it is. Darling…”
“Do you still… Do you still think of me?”
My heart broke in pieces just to hear her ask. “Oh baby, all the time. All the time. I miss you with every breath I take.”
“Oh! I miss you too. I hardly blink without thinking about you. Oh, I miss you so much. The winter is so dreary and cold without you.”
“The ocean’s no better. That’s alright. You are getting your studying done. I always wanted to see the world. Now I know how to sail and have made friends.”
“Oh of course. This is really a good way to go. It’s just so… hard.”
We both laughed. The man knocked on my window in the booth. He held one finger. One minute left.
“Baby. I have to go now. I’ll call tomorrow.”
“Oh, so soon?”
“Yeah. But these telephones. They’re amazing.”
“They are. Well, thanks for calling, Bobby. I’ll wait for tomorrow.”
“I’ll call. I love you.”
“Oh, I love you too. Think summer thoughts. Think warm thoughts.”
“I always do.”
“I love you. Good bye.”
The ache in my chest magnetized. My entire body tingled with a helpless kind of pain. It was time to go to Clarrise’s.
By the time I reached the bar, the sun had already dropped. I was surprised to see that I was the last one of my corner to arrive. Christopher and Joe were sitting to the right and left of Sammy. Sammy had a drink in his left hand and his head in the other. Something was wrong.
“Hey fellas. What’s wrong, Sammy? Why the long face?”
He brushed his golden hair back. “Claire and I are finished!”
“What? Since when?”
“Well, I decided to call her using one of those new telephone-things. She told me she was seeing Charlie McMann now. We had been steady for a year now. Only three months until I’d be back in Kansas.” He slammed his drink down on the counter. “Why couldn’t she wait? Oh, as soon as I get home, Charlie is gonna get it.”
Christopher squeezed Sammy’s shoulder and looked even sadder than Sammy himself. Christopher was like a dog in that way: unconditional and loving. He soaked up the emotions of the room like a sponge.
“Finished with that one? I’ll get us another round.” I figured I would pay for a round and Sammy could save his pay for some company that night. The boys nodded with appreciation when the bar tender slid four full glasses in front of us. I took a large burning gulp of the warm liquid. The news scared me. Sammy was the best looking man I knew. He was a catch for any woman. If time and distance was strong enough to make a woman let him go, how was Dana ever going to hold onto me? I wished it was already the next day so I could call Dana, hear her voice, remember the love I was so sure of. I didn’t doubt her. I didn’t doubt myself. But the waters were choppy and who knew who would call to visit her and try to make a pass when the entire town knew I was out at sea, sailing away to become a man. And that’s just what I wanted: to see the world, learn the map of the stars, work hard at the ropes, let the labor of the ship build my arms and legs and lean me out. I left Dana as a boy—curious and soft. I wanted to come back to Dana a man. I think she knew that. She had to. Why else was she waiting? I looked at Sammy, his eyes sunken in. He had done well in restraining himself from tears in front of his fellow sailors. Christopher patted Sammy’s shoulder every now and then, and Joe would put the cool glass back into Sammy’s hand whenever Sammy let it rest alone on the table for too long.
I realized then that I was far from being a man. I closed my eyes and thought of Dana. The way she smiled and blushed. Laughed and turned away in that bashful way of hers. I remember her two hands holding just one of my hands, tickling me. I thought of her curls that rested beside her ears while she read poetry to me in her soft cinnamon voice. I thought of her tiny waist that connected a set of the most beautiful breasts I had never once seen (only I imagined and therefore knew that they were the most perfect breasts of any woman) to her hips, the Godly swaying curves that she had never let me touch. She was an untamed beauty that still had the morals of an angel. She was the gal that I wanted to sneak behind the apple tree with in the meadow back home, and yet she was the woman I wanted to marry and have children with at the same time. I took another long drink from my glass. Would I ever be enough for Dana? Would I ever be the man she deserved?
“Bobby, we’re going upstairs with the money we have left…” Sammy winked. “You coming?”
My hands grazed my pockets and I heard the jingling of coins. The sound reminded me of the sound of a telephone ringing.
“No, not tonight boys. I think I’ll get some shut eye.” And with that, I watched my crew march upstairs with giggling women guiding them up to ready-made beds. I finished off my drink. It was time to go to sleep and dream of the summer.