Monday 27 NOV
I wake up this morning still stinging from an argument I had with Glenn last night at dinner. I had been under the impression that we would be leaving Beaufort on Wednesday and would have today to go into town to shoot some photographs and get some writing done. Glenn said that, no, in fact we are leaving tomorrow and that it was time I start doing things for the boat and the trip and not myself and my “work” (quotations delivered by tone). OUCH! I was taken aback. This statement came out of nowhere. Well, it’s true, I said, I don’t do as much as you for the boat, but I don’t have a handle on what needs to get done in the big picture… or the small. I usually wait for Glenn to ask me to help because he’s the one in charge of the boat projects. Normally this has been okay, but yesterday his aggravation was palpable. It was as if he had repeatedly asked me to do some task that I was blatantly ignoring. I had no idea what could be so pressing. You could sew the jib, he said accusingly. Two weeks prior we had had a discussion about the jib needing some sewing, but that is a big job that involves taking the sail down and having a large space in which to sew. Okay, I had said last night, agreeing to sew today. This morning, however, I realized, with all of the other preparations and tasks, this would probably not get done. I also started thinking, when I made no moves to take out the sewing machine this morning, that Glenn’s irritation was probably not situated in the broken threads of our foresail.
Glenn and I have always dwelt very closely together. We have shared a workplace, including an office, a house, and a professional practice for twenty-six years. For twenty-six years we have been in each other’s closest orbits. And, it’s been easy. I don’t know why. I’ve been told it shouldn’t be. Yet we have somehow found a way. We avoid each other when necessary, give space… and take space as needed. It’s been the same on the boat, but we are tense right now. There’s no specific reason. This happens once in a while and it will pass, but not before we exchange our thoughts on the matter because I don’t tend to let things go until they are resolved… dissolved. For this I have been called confrontational. Or maybe I am confrontational. But what can I say? I like clarity. I like to know where everybody stands. I like transparency. And I don’t need agreement or anyone to like me.
Still, this morning there remains something scratching between us as we grocery shop in the late morning. Fortunately, this task is consuming, and, though we go together, we shop separately, thus letting us each breathe new air. Glenn hunts down proteins. (Manly!) I get carbs. (Obviously!) Ava runs back and forth relaying information and seeking the elusive-in-these-parts Greek yogurt. Eventually, we meet at the registers. In the act of pretending to be on the same team, we get a bit more on the same team, which is good because grocery shopping is bad enough as it is.
In the afternoon Glenn has to climb to the top of the mast to fix the anchoring light that was broken off on the trip down the dismal Dismal Swamp Canal. In the act of moving to the side of the canal to avoid a floating log, we hit a branch of an overhanging tree canopy and cracked off the light and the windex at the very top of the mast. Luckily, our mast has foldable steps that Glenn installed in St. Martin two winters ago. These are smart little L-shaped steps that one unfolds as one climbs. Because they are stiff and attached, they provide a much more stable way to ascend compared to other more flexible systems. And because they fold up, they are unobtrusive aesthetically, which I like. As a safety Glenn wears a rock climbing harness which he attaches to a halyard that I belay with the help of two chalks on deck. Regardless of the good system we have going it’s still somewhat nerve-wracking watching from below. He is forty-five feet above the deck, standing on 4-inch pegs, and he has to work up there while he hangs on. My mind fills with unpleasant scenarios as my neck stiffens from looking up. I run through all of the ways I will use my body in the case of mechanical failures. I wrap the line around my wrist, then change it to my leg which I figure will be stronger to break a fall, then switch to my torso. I feel insecure in the thoughts that I will be able to save anyone, but having a plan is good, I guess. Plus, I can’t think of anything else right now.
Glenn has only been injured one time in all of our years together and it happened in front of me… and because of me. Not long after we first started dating, I said something infuriating to him, something I knew would upset him. I can’t remember now what, but it was meant to cause a stir. We were at his apartment in north Philadelphia, or maybe by then it was our apartment. All I recall is that I was pushing him. And he, in response, punched a wall which broke the last two knuckles on his right hand. A “boxers break” I think the doctors called it. It was painful for him and awful to watch. I still remember the combination of horror and, to my shame, satisfaction that my immature self experienced, realizing that I could drive him to that point. I cringe now at how readily and strategically I confused anger with attention. Whatever distaste this incident left in both of us it was enough that it never happened again. It was the first and last bit of domestic violence either of us experienced together. (Domestic because Glenn hit our home… not me.)
With the job complete and the anchor light working again, Glenn climbs down the mast safely. Now though, I am late for a work call. Every week or so I “meet” with colleagues back home to discuss a new course we are designing and will teach in the first semester next year. This course, for which we won a university grant, is a new experimental format that we are evolving through our weekly conversations. The calls are very enjoyable for me because for the first time in my teaching career I have the time and resources to develop a course so thoroughly and thoughtfully. Plus, I get to talk to a colleague that I respect and hear how she shapes curricular ideas, which is always enlightening. When I finally get a good signal, I am at least a half hour behind and though I texted that I would be late, I start the meeting self-consciously, with my mind tense. Then, in like ten minutes, Glenn comes over and says something. I disregard him, turning my body away to let him know that now is not a good time, that I can’t chat or whatever, but he continues to hover and inches back into my peripheral range. We have to go, he says again. I hear him but ignore him, thinking that I have a lot more to discuss in the meeting. I stay focused on the computer so no one on the other end will notice a problem. We have to go return the rental car right now, he says insistently. I hear him, but look at the clock on my screen and think to myself, we have plenty of time. Why is he making a big deal? I try and make a signal to him to go away. He stays. I need ten more minutes, I whisper in his direction. No, says Glenn, we have to go now to get the marina van back before they close. Ugh, my phone mates now notice something’s up. Do you have to go? They ask. In ten minutes, I say to everybody, trying to eke out a bit of dignity. But in this moment, Glenn loses his mind. He takes the car keys he’s been dangling and throws them at me. Okay, not at me, but it felt that way. They land on the floor of the deck by my feet. He thunders away. Yea, I do have to go guys. I’m sorry, I say and hang up the call long before we were through. First, I am embarrassed, then, I get angry.
I stomp into the stupid Patriot and follow behind Glenn (driving in the marina’s van) to the car rental agency. As we drive through this foreign/familiar town on a never-ending strip of America’s repeated landscape of junk food and car service and big box stores I get more and more worked up. What am I doing here? I scream to myself. This place isn’t interesting or beautiful or anywhere I want to be. And I’m with someone who doesn’t respect my time or contribution. And I’m always cold. By the time I hand in the keys, I am enraged. I don’t even have the door to the marina van closed when I begin to unload on Glenn. Would it have been so hard to wait another ten minutes? I yell at him. Do you realize I had kept people waiting for me? I am embarrassed in front of my colleagues. What about what I need to do? After all, I helped you! On and on I rant. And I’m right, I have good points. We had more time. I could stop my anger shower here. I should stop here. But I don’t. Nope. My rage is bigger. It needs to decimate. I have had enough! I scream now hitting the dashboard. I hate how you treat me on this trip and how you make assumptions about me. I hate that you don’t respect my sacrifices. You are so self-centered. All you care about is yourself and your trip. And then, because there is not enough chaos or pain in the air, I go harder. And I hate sailing! I shout, using my sharpest daggers. I especially hate open ocean sailing! In fact, I hate this whole trip! Nope. NOT. Done. And most of all, I hate you! This statement I repeat, disgracefully, over and over. I can’t stop myself. Without any regard to all that he’s done for me, I attack. And, because I had a bit more as a tasty final topper I add, And I hate your fatty cooking!
When I stop and look around, only rubble and smoldering piles are left. Instead of feeling badly, I am exhilarated. There, I think, I’ve gotten it all off my chest. He should know the truth, I reason with myself. Glenn is silent. At some point he stopped talking to me but I hadn’t noticed. Who cares, I think, I’m done with this whole trip, and I believe it.
We return to the yacht club. You’re back with plenty of time, says the marina manager, which only adds more bounce to my mood. Glenn and I walk back to the boat apart. Ava comes out to greet us and I tell her that I am leaving the trip. I tell her my side of the story and then I fix a big non-fatty salad for dinner. Meanwhile Glenn goes out to be alone. Good, I think. It’s all over.
Tuesday 28 NOV
Around 2:30AM I wake up. I start running yesterday through my head. At first the pressure in my chest is small. It wasn’t so bad, I think, still awash in my self-righteousness, still convinced I meant everything that came out of me. Soon though, as the sleep wears off, I start to face what I knew even in the moment I was spouting it, I was just trying to hurt Glenn out of my anger. But by 4AM I know that I have made a very. big. mistake. Given the things I said, I wonder if I will be able to repair the damage.
Wednesday 29 NOV
Motor to Swansboro. Anchor for the night.
Thursday 30 NOV
Motor to Figure Eight Island. Anchor for the night.
Friday 01 DEC
Motor to Zeke’s Island on Cape Fear River. Anchor for the night.
Saturday 02 DEC
Fantastic and fast sail to James Island. Anchor for the night. Yes, I liked it…
Sunday 03 DEC
Move to Patriot’s Point, Charleston, SC. Anchor for the night.
Obviously, I went crazy on Monday. For those of you who care, everything is fine. Though it was a big fight and not the kind of thing we regularly have, Glenn had the grace to look past my momentary lapse of reason and we made up…