This story is by Eve Garnier and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Today was Cristóbal’s thirty-ninth day at sea aboard a 38-foot sailing boat named The Singleton. They both circle two times the world together, and he knew it was the last one. The ship was a little run down. Despite the various repairs the sailor had made by himself, The Singleton was getting a little too high maintenance for long trips. Cristóbal received offers in the past to hand it over to sailing schools, but he couldn’t give away his travelling companion. This white boat, with those patched up grey sails, bumps and scratches, meant a lot to him.
Cristóbal was sitting down to take a moment to relax for the first time in four days. The weather had been stormy, giving a challenge to both the sailor and the ship to overcome, but they were tight. They had gone through more challenging weather and condition in the past. This trip was the most relaxing he ever had, for they were no races, no prices or anyone waiting back in Spain. That day at the altar, Cristóbal had decided to leave everything, overwhelmed by his family’s pressure and expectations. He knew that he was fleeing, sailing away, escaping.
Shuffling a couple of pages, Cristóbal took the time to read his notes. He realised it had been ten days since the last time he wrote in his journal about his life aboard The Singleton. Nothing eventful had happened, apart from stormy weather, and the sighting of jolly dolphins, who accompanied him until he reached Cap Horn eight days ago. The sailor spent most of the time on deck to keep his course, or below trying to get some rest when the weather was more forgiving. After reading the last lines of his journal, Cristóbal took his pen, spilling the thoughts hunting him the past few days.
After passing Cape Horn, all that was left in front of me was the Pacific Ocean. I felt the shift of the tides, the wind and the colour of the water. It was a new ocean, the biggest, the largest.
Since I left Valencia, I felt a pit in my stomach wondering if I got cold feet, but when the blood started rushing through my veins in anticipation and excitation, I knew I did the right thing. All I had to decide was in which direction I wanted to go since I have no intention to go home yet. It’s not my first voyage, but it is the first time that I have no destinations, no goals. I know they’ll be expecting me at some point back home. But where is home when all you want to do is spend your life at sea?
Despite having a family and friends scattered all around the world, despite calling home the roof under which I lived, I struggle to feel at home other than here, at sea.
I’m no social butterfly, but I never had trouble to get along with people or spend time with people during social gatherings. I love my friends and family, and I know they love me as well. I wish I could explain why, despite being surrounded by love, I always needed to escape, to isolate myself from it. Sometimes, I get haunted by the silent thought and hope to be somewhere else when I am among a group of friends. Yet, if I could bring all the people I love on this boat, I will end up jumping off the ship. They would all try to get me out of the water when I’d want to stay underwater, alone, with my thoughts and by my—
A thumping noise above his head pulled Cristóbal out of his reflection. At first, he thought it was the wind in the sails, some hooks hitting against the pole but as he looked through the window, he figured it was unlikely. A lost bird, falling from fatigue? It couldn’t be that either since he was too far from the shore at the moment. No, he was hearing rolling noises and footsteps now. Did he fell asleep? Unless his imagination was playing tricks on him.
For a few seconds, Cristóbal imagined that the person responsible for this noise was a merman. A merman with a pearl white skin, contrasting with his dark damped wavy hair, a toned body and a smile that would sweep you off your feet—speaking of which once the merman in contact with the ground, two legs to peel off from the rainbow scaled mermaid tail.
“I’m sorry boarding your ship like this, but I’ve swum for the last thirty-nine days without coming across a living soul.” The stranger would say in apology.
Cristóbal, after the initial shock, would invite him in his cabin so they both could get shelter from the pouring rain. Once above the bridge, he would offer some warm clothes and a hot cup of tea. As they exchange stories, both would realise having a lot in common as they both left their hometown, in search of something more, adventure, freedom and peace.
“Would you like to stay here for a few days?” Would ask Cristóbal, “We could talk more about our family, our friends, our travels and the ocean.” Together, maybe they would find some sense of belonging.
An amused smile stretched upon Cristóbal’s lips, imagining such a scenario knowing that mermaids were only found in fairytales and the only marine creature he would meet had no place on a boat. Standing up, he grabbed his vest to put it over his sweater to head outside, curious to find the source of the noises. He was hoping no reparations would be needed, nor that a group of pirates didn’t board him on a rafting boat, ready to take over and drag him into some swashbuckler adventures. This time a laugh escaped from his lips, he had one vivid imagination.
Outside, the rain was still pouring, the water wasn’t even, but it was calmer compared to the days before, looking in every direction, Cristóbal felt both relieved and a little disappointed to find that no one had come on his boat. Walking towards the mast, he found the source of the noise. Some ropes were moving freely into the wind, their head hitting against the pole in a thumping sound. Once he had secured the lines again, he continued his inspection, checking that the wheel remained secure and nothing risked to pass overboard. Once he had walked the distance from the bow of the ship to the stern. Cristóbal headed back to his cabin when a thumping noise coming from the starboard side of the boat caught his attention.
Holding onto the railing, he leaned towards the water, looking for the sea creature responsible for this ruckus. Frowning, he tried to distinguish a shadow, a fin or sign of life. Another noise came further down, he moved in the direction of the sound, holding onto a safety line as he sat on the last step of the ladder of the stern. And while he scanned the water, a shadow swan toward Cristóbal, pulling itself out of the water.
It was him. Pearl white skin, tone body, black damped wavy hair and with a faint smile lighting up his face. The creature reached for his face as the sailor leaned towards him. Their lips met, Cristóbal’s heart skipping a beat before he decided to let go of the safety line, allowing the merman to take him underwater.