I’m sailing on a beam reach towards Bora Bora in a bathing-suit. I’m dancing
around to 90s music and I scream from the top of my lungs. My hair is blowing around like women’s hair often does in one of those shampoo commercials that you see on the TV.
My life is one blessed tropidelica, even when I feel as if it’s not.
A Taha’a grandmother told me that Bora Bora means “clap your hands,” but it really means “first born,” but who cares! I prefer her meaningless meaning. I saw it as a sign. It references the most delicious auditory hallucination that I had on my way to Hawaii, around day 17 or some such, I went into the v-berth and heard the voice of a funk singer say “clap your hands, hell yeah.” Then a bunch of phantom hands started clapping and I started clapping too. Bora Bora!
By the way, Taha’a is quite the dream- vanilla drops and perfect pearls. I sailed around the island. The people were sugar. I was fed fresh fish and coconuts. I floated past coral gardens. I found the underwater hermit crab that I’ve been searching for since January and got puffed by a polka dotted pufferfish. And the nights swirled with drum beats, fire dancing, and grass skirts.
I have always dreamt of living on the water, and here I am, on the water. Living. Surviving. I think I’m addicted to the exhilaration of survival. Had I never smelled the breath of death, how could I treasure the perfume of life?
It kind of like makes my insides rush after I endure something that could sink me or my world real quick-like. And it feels really good when the people doing the surviving are just me, and God, and the 14 different personalities that I split into when stuff starts to go south.
One of my personalities goes, “You ain’t ever gonna get out of here alive sister. Just give up. Jump overboard. Become something simple, like a lagoon fish or better yet a barnacle.” Then another, “Get your knife between your lips and get out there and fix it you freaking train-wreck.” Then another, “Gooo-go-ga-ga,” followed by piles of drool. And another, “Deep breaths. You got this. Om shanti.” And another, “You know why you’re in this mess? Cause you’re an idiot. You never should have been born. I wish you could crawl back between the legs of the woman that made you!” And it goes on.
I heard from the woman that made me today, my mom. She’s a hoot. We have the same name, so does my grandmother, and my cousin’s daughter. I think all the Olivia’s were named after my great great great grandpa Ollie. He was an Arkansas riverboat captain- steamboat- Captain Ollie.
My mom said that I sound too lonesome when I write to you and she thinks it would be best if I returned to Arkansas. She worries when I’m about to set sail. And I get it. I’m probably a parents worse nightmare, I never could sit still.
I don’t want to rot right next to my roots, and I tell my mom this. Then she sends me a photo of her and my dad at a wedding. They are smiling bigger than Dallas and looking at them I feel as warm as I do when I sip a summer breeze.
You won’t believe what my mom wrote along with the photo. If you need to pee at all, do so before reading the next line. She wrote, with her most southern voice, “You can’t tell from the photo, but I had eye surgery the week before the wedding…so I just anesthetized myself with a lot of scotch for the four days of wedding events and I’m not wearing any makeup!!!!”
Oops. I just hit a coconut and the air filled with foam. I see a bunch more coconuts floating around, and sticks and logs and entire trees. Maybe I hit a tree? I could build you something with all the pieces of land that the rain has gifted to the sea. What would you like? A birdcage? I’ve never built a birdcage, but if you want one, I will. I will build you a bird cage with these floating pieces of earth and I will weave it together with fish bones and stands of my own hair, only if you promise to keep the door to the cage open. Open. Always.
I regret to tell you what I’m about to tell you. Only because in doing so, you will think less of me and you will know for certain that I am a bonehead.
I dragged anchor again last night. I found myself, at 4 a.m. (why is it always happening at 4 a.m.?) on top of a part of the chart that says “Caution” and displays zero depth. The chart is wrong, because I was in 19 meters according to my depth sounder. Thank goodness for the Full Buck Moon waning, because just aft of me I could see the most shallow little pool of water I’ve ever done seen, and it was the size of Saturn.
How Juniper held at anchorage all day, then dragged on a night with little wind, seems impossible. How Juniper snaked herself around the expensive catamarans that were anchored behind her, and then between tons of shallow reef that rests behind the catamarans, without hitting anything, seems even more impossible. I mean she didn’t hit a damn thing and there were lots of damn things to hit between where she was and where she ended up.
At this point, dragging is just like this thing that happens to me all the time and I’m used to loosing sleep over it. I wake up confused. Panic. Eyes heavy. Chain heavy. Me pulling it up in a stance that resembles a baseball pitcher. The 14 personalities yelling or sobbing or cheering. Hands back and forth and back and forth. Body without blood or breath or beat.
The sun has just set the sea on shimmer. There is a fish aggregating device in front of me, a pile of boats, and a sky of birds. People are fishing. Fishing for fish, fish people. Casting nets. I see a buoy. Two. Twenty. I fall off the wind and away. There are a multitude of obstacles upon my sea safari.
No! I don’t have a new anchor yet! After Juniper held through all the rotten squalls earlier in the week, I put buying a new anchor lower on the list, but don’t worry it’s top of the list again. It’s up there next to toothbrush. I’m buying one before I leave. A fat one. A heavy one. A shiny one without any hinges.
I‘m going through the pass of Bora Bora now. It’s wide and easy. It’s near to sunset and I can’t see all the blue shades of the lagoon, but the people are grins and waves. A man on a Va’a shouts, “Welcome to Bora Bora, where it never freezes with ice!”
I see another man on a speed boat and he is towing a jumbo hot dog. I haven’t seen one of those since I was small. I used to ride on one, with my sister and cousins. We were like mustard, pigtails bouncing, my uncle twirling us in donuts until we ate lake.
Anyway, I have to catch a mooring now, but tomorrow I will tell you about the Great Mythic Octopus!