How I ended up on a very expensive sailboat for five days with four men, one teenage boy, three cases of wine, six bottles of rum, and a Beretta is sort of a long story.
We sailed from the coast of California to the Channel Islands, which is a place you cannot get to without a fair amount of effort and a considerable amount of money, and so if you go there you will not see very many other people although you are only a few dozen miles from the mainland. Some days we saw a few other boats and some days we did not see anyone else at all. We drank the rum starting at seven every morning and I learned how to shoot the Beretta and we ate continuously every moment that we were awake. We saw humpback whales and pelicans and sea lions and Europeans on a yacht and I found a dead elephant seal on the beach and kept its tooth in my pocket. I tanned as brown as a sea captain and my hair stuck to my head in dirty salty tangles and my shins turned grey with bruises from whacking myself on the boat and I spent most of the first day throwing up over the side but after that I felt better. Everyone else talked a lot which made it easy for me to barely talk at all and it was a relief to be someone other than who I was for a week, to be a quiet person without opinions about anything.
At night Mars and Saturn and the star Spica made a perfect triangle over the horizon that dipped slowly below the ridge of the island until the last of it vanished and it was time to go to sleep. At the far edge of the world there was no telling where the black of the Pacific ended and the black of the night sky began and the phosphorescence flickering in the water echoed the glittering smear of the Milky Way above. On my last night on the boat I sat out in the cockpit and tilted my head back and let myself go dizzy from the stars and you know when you are so happy you get confused about it and you start to cry instead, and there I was, crying all over the back of the boat, but only one person noticed. The next morning on the way back to the harbor we sailed through a pod of dolphins and three of them swam with the boat for a mile, flirting with the wake off the bow and darting back and forth under the boat and swimming on their sides to look up at us, and the dolphins made me cry too.
The funny thing about being a writer is that I fucking hate writing, would do anything to flip the switch in my head that is always set to record, to shuck free of the monster in my chest that woke me up at six o'clock this morning saying Now write it all down, what happened, write the story of it, and of course the story of it is never the same as what happened. The story of it will never let you remember the place you really were. For five days I didn't think about anything except what I was going to eat next and not upending the dinghy when we rowed to shore and how everybody else always knew what direction the waves were coming from until the last day when I sort of knew too. I thought about how the stars do not make me feel small but they do make me feel less lonely. I thought about how lucky I am to have the life that I live and how much good it would do me to remember that more often. I didn't think about writing until this morning, my first morning back from the boat, when I woke up at six with the story turning over in my head, the story not letting me fall back asleep, the story kicking at me until I got out of bed to write it. And the story I just made for you isn't what happened at all, but now I've told it, and neither of us knows the difference anymore.