Rough Sea Ahead!

Behind the Scene photo by Bryan Pitcher

Behind the Scene photo by Bryan Pitcher

My assistant and I boarded Jazz III for the 23 hour boat ride back to Misima Island. Before we boarded, Jordan met us down at the wharf and said his last goodbye to MM and me. Although most of my film work has been done apart and away from Jordan, it's now officially only me, myself, and I. I was joking with someone and said something like there were 3 dimdims in liak; Ashley left and there were 2 dimdims in liak; Jordan left and there is now 1 dimdim in Liak; and, very soon Bryan will leave and there will be zero dimdims in Liak. Good luck to Jordan as he transitions back into his life at home: husband, father and academic professor.

The boat left port, headed out of the bay, and into deep waters. Little by little the sea grew very rough as the crosswinds blew stronger. About 6 hours in, I was beginning to turn green and pale, and my stomach began to complain. I lay down, close my eyes, and try to sleep by tricking myself into thinking that I'm only rocking in a cozy hammock. To make it more convincing, I sing the words "Rockabye baby on the tree top. When the wind blows the cradle will rock." For a while the deception works, but by hour 11 the situation gets worse. The boat is now rolling up and over the high waves and down the deep troughs. From inside the cabin, I can hear the sea splashing over the front of the boat and washing down again off the sides. I sit up, feeling hopelessly ill. I know I need to get out of the captain's cabin and fast. I slip on my shoes, trying to keep my balance. I push the cabin door open and step outside where the wind blows wildly. In spite of the canvas tarps that have been vertically erected—tied from the ceiling of the upper deck down to the railing—like a makeshift wall along the sides of the boat, the passengers were only partially shielded from the unfriendly splashes of the sea. Endless buckets of salt water had washed over the front of the boat, which now runs along the floor of the deck like a water slide of sorts. No one had dry feet, including me.

I grab the wall to keep my balance on this fun house turned scary house and carefully make my way through a zipper in the tarp toward the exterior. I can now see the black sea for the first time. It's truly black as night. No stars. No moon. I can only see as far as 5 meters away from the boat because that's about as far as the boat's flood light could illuminate. It felt like we were drifting in the middle of nowhere. Regrettably, I didn't have that much time to consider the thrill and mystery of the situation because the priority was grabbing hold of the railing securely while I vomit over the side. The hurling came in waves. As the boat would roll over another wave, I too would heave. At times the troughs were deep enough that the boat railing would only be a foot or two away from being level with the sea. I could touch the water. As I leaned over the side to vomit again, I worried that my eye glasses would fall off my face and into the deep.

I stood there, gripping the railing, from 10pm to just after 2am. I can't remember the last time I had felt so ill, nauseated, and exhausted. The only thing I could do to keep from falling asleep and losing my grip, was to take time to ponder how many people throughout history have felt like I do on this boat, right now. I imagined the suffering of the Africans squished like sardines on the slave trade boats heading for America. I thought about the overcrowded refugee boats and the misery the people onboard must have experienced. It was like my mind was sifting through a Rolodex of vignettes, depicting moments in history where people had likely felt as I do on this dark, stormy night.

When my feet landed on Misima, my body bounced back quickly. By the time the truck dropped us off in Liak, I had renewed energy and surprisingly got a good many things completed at the bush house before bed. One of those things was a much needed shower at the backyard tap. It had been three days since my last bath.

Vocabulary: Dimdim = White skin/European