From my novel Rough Waters, a book loosely based on a cruise I took with my family earlier in the year. It's mostly fiction, some of the reality extremely embellished for entertainment purposes. Of course, some of it is entertaining without embellishment. To me at least. :)
The small crowd broke out in gasps, even me; though I’m sure my gasp had a completely different meaning then theirs. I’m sure theirs were gasps of surprise and enthusiasm, where mine was a gasp of fear and anxiety. A cruise involved my number three and number four greatest fears in the world, drowning and flying. They’re right behind something happening to my kids and spiders.
I sported a fake smile to blend in while my dad passed out vacation itineraries. I read the front page. A seven day cruise to the Mexican Riviera on Carnival Cruise Lines, departing from Long Beach in February.
“What’s the weather going to be like?” I asked hoping to at least rid myself of my Seasonal Affective Disorder for a week; the warm rays of the sun not having poked through the gray for months.
“It should be in the 80’s,” my dad answered. I let out a sigh of relief, albeit a small one.
My dad had given us a sixty-page packet of information about the cruise, being the obsessive, thoroughly organized beast that he is, with dress codes, shore excursions, on board activities, room amenities, and more. It’s overwhelming and I’m better at hearing information than reading it, so I handed the packet over to Sean without more than a glance. He sat and flipped through the pages, nodding his head and grunting from time to time.
Not only did I dread spending any amount of time on a plane or boat, but I also agonized over spending a week in a tightly enclosed cabin with my husband. Maybe agonize is the wrong emotion. Awkward would be more apropos. Just a couple weeks prior, my depression got the best of me and I told Sean I didn’t love him anymore. Though we were working through it, the wound was still fresh for him, and my issues, not entirely resolved. I hoped this trip wouldn’t be too much for us, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
I didn’t know what my parents were thinking. Maybe they thought a family cruise would be just what we need to get the home fires burning again. Right. Spending six nights in a cramped cabin with four people, with the rest of the dysfunction in each surrounding cabin would a great antidote for marital problems.
I went to the kitchen and helped myself to a glass of wine. My mother followed me in. “What’s the matter Maura?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s the matter,” I lied, sipping my glass of Malbec and picking through a bowl of mixed nuts trying to find all the cashews.
“Well, you don’t seem too excited about the trip,” she said as if she’s hurt.
“There’s just a lot going on right now, you know, with the new meds, and the counseling, and all. I’m not sure this is the best time for us to start thinking about a trip.”
“Well sure it is. What you need is a little sun, a little romance. Your marriage will be right back on track.”
My mother, she always gives the simplest nonsensical answers to the biggest problems. I remember when in elementary school, I was having continual stomachaches. Any psychologist would tell you that’s a classic cry for help. That kids who are sick all the time are more than likely having problems at school. You know what my mother told me, she told me maybe if I cleaned my room more often, my stomach wouldn’t hurt all the time. Yeah.
“And by the way,” she said, “do you think that you and Sean could bottle up some vodka for us to take. They only let you bring wine on board, you know.”
I come from a long line of winemakers, my great-grandfather, my great-uncles, my uncles, cousins, yet I’m the only one in my immediate family who picked up the hobby. I have all the supplies I need to make and bottle wine, or make anything else look like bottled wine, including, corks, and shrink wraps.
“Yeah, sure, just bring a couple bottles over and we can do it.”
“Thanks hon,” she said, kissing me on the forehead, before heading back into the throng of energized family members.
With my glass of wine in hand, I took a seat back in the living room and waited for the excited murmurs and shuffling of papers to die down, and finally cease. I grabbed my coat, my purse, motioned for Sean that it’s time to go, said, “Thanks for the trip, looking forward to it,” and headed out the door followed by my family.
We kept silent half the way home. Finally, Sean asked, “Are you okay?”
I looked over at him, “Are you okay? With this trip I mean?”
“Sure, I think it will be fun, just what we need. I mean, I don’t think it’s going to work magic for us or anything, but I think we definitely could use the vacation.”
I studied him for a moment, wishing I could feel for him what I used to. He’s good-looking, compassionate, and working hard to save our marriage, but I had built a wall, a seemingly impenetrable one. I didn’t remember building it and I didn’t know how to knock it down. I wish I did. I would’ve liked nothing more than for things to go back to the way they were, when we were happy, and passionate, and deeply in love.
“I’m okay with it if you are,” I told him.
“I am,” he said.
“Then so be it,” I conceded.