Honeymoon

A short story that illuminates a life-changing perspective found while dwelling disgruntledly at rock bottom…

by: Charles David Taylor1

Damon Rogers <damonrogers@gmail.com>

Thursday, June 22, 2019 at 5:37 AM

To: Brody, Albert

Subject: Need appt ASAP – sort of an emergency

Hi Dr. Brody,

Back from a long awful cruise trip Thursday eve, need to see you ASAP, 2 sessions min. Anytime Friday or Saturday is best for me. Possible? FYI I got beat up in a fight so ignore my face. Also arrested in Greece but freed now. Not an emergency but close to it. Marriage is off btw.

Damon

_____________________

Brody, Albert <albertwbrody1234@aol.com>

Thursday, June 22, 2019 at 10:22 AM

To: Rogers, Damon

Subject: Re: Need appt ASAP – sort of emergency

Damon, is that you? Good God! Confirmed for tomorrow Friday 5-7. Hang in there!

Albert

_____________________

Damon knew he looked bad, and the expression on Dr. Brody’s face confirmed it. Fortunately, it was after five and no one was in the waiting room. He trudged into the psychologist’s inner office and slumped onto the soft couch.

When he pulled down his hoodie, Brody squinted at him. “The bruises are entering the greenish purple phase.” He spoke with professional detachment, then added, “The ugliest stage. When do you go back to work?”

“Week after next. I called in sick already. Told them I had an accident.”

“Your email was rather shocking. At first I didn’t believe it was you. You’re the least likely of my patients…how does an insurance actuary, on the verge of marriage, come to this?”

“First time for everything.” Damon smiled weakly. “Long story. I appreciate your giving me two hours. On a Friday afternoon.”

Brody smiled. “We aim to please. Ok, what happened? Last session, you were about to be married.”

Damon shrugged. “She cancelled. Texted me on Tuesday afternoon, before the wedding on Saturday.”

“Oh my God. A text. That’s pretty cold. What did you do?”

“What do you think? I freaked out.” Damon raised his voice for the first time, then softened. “Well, not right away. Actually, I laughed. Figured one of my techie buds had hacked me, or her. So I called her to let her in on the joke, but it went straight to voicemail. So I texted, got nothing, then checked my email. Found a one-liner: ‘Don’t call, I need some space.’ I kept texting, she told me ‘I have to re-think everything’ – some shit like that. Then I checked Facebook and got the whole picture.”

“Facebook? I know I’m an old fuddy-duddy, but that’s such a public forum.”

“She lives on Facebook, Doctor Brody. Two thousand friends, at least. Marketing, branding, it’s what she does.”

“And?”

“It began to sink in that it was true. Tuesday was a bad night. I went to her apartment but she wasn’t there. Her best friends wouldn’t talk to me, acted like I had leprosy. Like it was my fault!” Damon swallowed and paused before continuing.

“Anyway, I called and texted nonstop. When I finally got home, around ten, I checked Facebook again and she was accusing me of harassment, stalking her. Her friends had circled the wagons and were crucifying me. So I spent the night reading all their sympathizing, supportive comments. I sorta figured out what was going on, reading between the lines.”

“Which was…?”

“One of her rich clients. Paul. She’d mentioned him a few times, but I hadn’t paid any attention. Old guy, at least fifty.”

Brody smiled. “That’s not so old. I’m fifty-two.”

“Sorry. But would you take up with a twenty-three year-old?”

“God, I hope not.”

Damon smiled for the first time. “Smart man.”

“What did you do next?”

“I got busy canceling — the church, the rent-a-pastor, reception hall. Plus the flowers, the cake, catering — all the stuff I’d paid for. Trying to get refunds.”

“Any luck?”

“A little, some partials. But nothing on the big one. The honeymoon cruise.”

“Wow, that’s rough. Sorry.”

“Yeah, we went all out. Make that I – she doesn’t have any money. She figured her part was shopping around, calling in favors for discounts. I wrote all the checks. Almost seventeen thousand dollars for this special honeymoon cruise through the romantic Greek Isles. Killed my savings, and then some.”

“Ouch. No refund at all?”

Damon shook his head.

Brody’s eyes widened. “Your email said Greece. Don’t tell me — you went?”

Damon looked up with a grim smile. “Yep. Went on a honeymoon cruise without a bride. All by my lonesome.”

“Oh Damon.” Brody covered his eyes, then comically peeked out between his fingers. “You were setting yourself up for ultimate misery. Seventeen thousand dollars is a lot of money, but not to torture yourself.”

“Yeah, I figured that out, after I got on board. But you know about me and money, Doctor Brody. We’ve talked it before. I just couldn’t let it… “ — he made air quotes — ‘go to waste’. And I was going crazy. I really, really wanted to get away.”

“So you locked yourself up on a ship for two weeks, no chance of escape, with all these happy newlyweds who were constantly reminding you of your personal disaster. I’m beginning to get the picture. Go ahead, tell me the whole story. I won’t interrupt.”

Damon took a deep breath and began.

“The flight over wasn’t bad, starting off. But it was overnight and I don’t sleep on planes. Kinda exciting, because I’d never been out of the country. Most everybody else was going on vacation, and that reminded me I was all by myself. The ones laughing too loud really got on my nerves. I tried watching the movie, then zoning out with my headphones on, but I had this bad, empty feeling. It got worse, the longer I sat there.”

Dr. Brody put down his pen. “Damon, I said I wouldn’t interrupt, but I’d like to provide some structure. Indulge me.”

“Sure, professor. Fire away.”

Brody smiled. “You’ve heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, stages of grieving?”

“When someone dies.”

“Right. But it’s broader than that. Your relationship with Clarisse.”

Damon snorted. “You mean, did I want to kill her? Do I have to answer that? It’s more like she’d killed me.”

“No, come on. Your relationship was dead. It was a sudden death, brutally executed. Like it or not, you began grieving. Kubler-Ross showed us the grieving process has distinct stages: first denial, then anger, followed by bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some studies have expanded the denial stage to include feelings like disbelief, shock, and numbness. Sound familiar?”

Damon stared out the window. “Yeah, yeah. That’s exactly what happened. But that long plane ride…the numbness began wearing off. I started to get mad. At everybody. Not a good way to embark on a happy cruise.” He shook his head. “I was such a dick.”

“Ok, lecture’s over. How did you act like a dick?”

“Every way you could imagine. Like at Piraeus, the Greek port, when we all lined up to go on board. It got weird.”

“Weird?”

“Yeah, the theme for this cruise was the ‘Magical Romance Honeymoon Cruise.’ You were supposed to get into a magical mindset.”

“Explain.”

“Everyone on the crew had to wear a costume. Like, when we were boarding, the woman who registered us was dressed like a cheerleader — short skirt, pom-poms, too much energy. Supposed to distract us from the tedium of waiting in line and checking in. She tried to pump us up, get us excited about the cruise. She pinned a big button on me that said ‘Honeymooner’, then looked around for my wife. I told her there was no bride and take the damned button off. I was so mean, almost enjoyed sending her off-script. She just looked blank and took her pom-poms and moved on to the next couple. They really got into it, cheering and high-fiving. Then Spiderman led me to my cabin.”

“Spiderman?’

“Yeah, the porter. Jamaican dude. Cool guy actually. Saved my ass, but I’ll get to that part later.”

“Keep going. How was your cabin?”

“Ah-ha. You know the nautical lingo. It wasn’t just a room, it was the ‘Concierge Royal Suite with Veranda’. Clarisse had insisted on it, and I was in love, remember? Huge bed, full bath with jacuzzi. And not just a dinky little porthole — I had my own damned balcony. We’d bought the full romantic package: rose petals scattered over the bed, iced champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries. Delivered every damned day.”

“Wow.”

“So I told Spiderman, cancel the rose petals, but keep the strawberries and champagne coming. I was beginning to think staying drunk the whole time was a pretty good idea. I was definitely sloshed when we shoved off, ‘cause the last thing I heard before I fell asleep was that big horn. Almost slept through dinner. Wish I had.”

Brody was scribbling. “Ok, tell me.”

Damon sighed. “Here’s how the evening meal works: it’s semi-formal, white table cloths with lots of heavy silverware, like at a fancy restaurant. Four couples to a table, you’re supposed to stay together for the whole cruise. They try to match you with similar couples so you can ’bond’. Problem was, there was no one like me on the whole fucking ship. Worse, I came to dinner late, still a little drunk and working on a headache. Groggy. Table-mates are half done and already…”  — Damon again made air quotes — ‘bonded’.“

“How’d you feel about that?”

“Awful. I was dreading the togetherness. I needed food, not a cross-examination. Right away, they’re asking where my wife is. I tried to change the subject, mumbled something like ‘had some champagne, fell asleep’ as I dug into my salad. They were all grinning like fools, thinking, ‘hey, it’s time to tease the new guy!’ They thought the story was we’d had some bubbly, done the deed, followed it with a post-coital snooze. About that time, Captain Hook shows up at our table with a bottle in each hand, bellowing, ‘Welcome aboard, me hearties! Quaff away!’ — shit like that. Soon we’re all toasting and I’m drunker than ever.”

“That’s when you spilled the beans.”

“I’d call it, ‘upset the apple cart’. There’s this one guy who would not let it go. Scott, a real loudmouth jerk. Dominator type — his wife never said a word. He says, ‘Tell us all about it Damon, you fox. What did you guys do when you got to the cabin.’ Wink, wink, nod, nod. I figured it would come out soon enough, and Scott was getting on my nerves, so I said, ‘Well Scott, old buddy, old pal, I drank it all by my lonesome and fell asleep ‘cause I don’t have a wife. The bitch dumped me six days ago and I couldn’t get a refund on this stupid trip and here I am! Cheers!’”

“Nice speech, Damon. How’d they react?”

“Stage one, all over again. Denial. They’re thinking, here’s this sloppy drunk making a bad joke. Scott got a little testy and said it wasn’t funny, so I said ‘Not kidding, Scott. You just had to know, didn’t you? Well, there is no bride in my cabin, so let’s drink up!’ And I proceeded to lead by example.”

“You were three sheets to the wind.”

“And going on five. All of a sudden it gets real quiet at our table, everyone’s looking around like they’d rather be somewhere else. I didn’t care. It felt good to spew it out like that, especially all over a loudmouth asshole like Scott. Not that I was any better. Anyway, I have vague memories of what happened next, like the crew leading us in a welcome singalong, and me really belting out ‘So happy you’re here, now we’ll get to know you.’ Something from Sesame Street. I was calling for more champagne, but fortunately they didn’t bring any, so I grabbed a whole cake and somehow got out of the dining room, though I crashed into a couple other tables on the way. Somehow got back to my room before I passed out. Lost the cake, too.”

“Quite a performance on day one, Damon. Thirteen to go.”

“Right, that set the pattern. Anyway, I slept past breakfast and lunch and had a major league hangover. But they have a twenty-four hour buffet, so I made this hangover cure I learned in college: tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco.”

“Did it help?”

“Of course not. But standing there at the buffet, I noticed people giving me a wide berth. Not making eye contact, walking away when I got near. I started feeling paranoid.”

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

”Ha! Catch-22, Joseph Heller. Read it in college. So true. What got me was how fast everybody knew about me and my situation. I was that pathetic guy who got dumped but came on his honeymoon anyway.”

“You certainly helped create a sense of community.”

“Y’think? That means so much to me. Anyway, I skipped dinner that night. When I showed up the next night, they sat me off at this little table by myself. Everyone in my group had asked to be reassigned to different tables. I saw Scott holding forth, but he ignored me. I caught a few people pointing in my direction, then look away when I looked at them. I’m sure they were all saying, ‘There he is. That’s the guy.’ Word was spreading like cancer.”

“Metastasis. You were a pariah.”

“Big words for the biggest asshole on the ship.”

“You were angry. And surrounded by people doing what you wanted to do.”

“Don’t forget self-loathing. Stewing in my own self-pity and feeling so sorry for myself I had to spoil it for everyone else. I was disgusting.”

“Ok, we got that straight. What did you do for the next several days?”

“Just wandered around. They had a great game room and I’d hang there for hours. The thing about a ship is, it’s hard to be by yourself unless you hole up in your cabin and I couldn’t stand that. I remember lying on that big empty bed and finding a rose petal the cleanup person missed. The popular spots were full of happy people, and that was so depressing. Seriously, they had three swimming pools, one with a deejay. Guys laughing, women shrieking. A rock-climbing wall for guys to show off to their brides.  Broadway-type shows with professional performers every night. Can’t complain about the entertainment.”

“But you were cruising the Mediterranean. Sounds wonderful. Where did you go?”

“Oh, sure, we had land excursions, and I went on a few of those — Chania and Heraklion in Crete. Rhodes and Mykonos. Santorini was beautiful, Katakolo was boring. You see all these ruins and it’s interesting, but for me, it was worse than being on ship. You’re surrounded by couples laughing, joking around. I was the guy in the crowd making sarcastic comments, pissing off everybody including the guide. Same old thing, depressed and angry, angry and depressed.”

“These stages are not a smooth, linear progression, Damon. Sometimes it’s two steps forward, two steps back. You were in the worst possible environment, surrounded by constant reminders…”

“Of my failure. Say it.” Damon grabbed a tissue and blew his nose.

Brody paused, allowing Damon to feel sad before he spoke again.

“Ok, back to the facts — you were telling me where the ship went.”

“Right. After Greece, we turned north toward Turkey but we didn’t land in Turkey. Turned west toward Lesbos. That’s when…never mind.”

“What happened at Lesbos?”

“That’s later. I’m getting ahead of myself.” 

Brody studied his patient. “Ok. We’ll come back to it.”

“Right. Other shit happened first. I tried going to the shows, but since people were avoiding me I took to making the rounds of the bars. The bartenders knew me and would only serve me so much. Then I’d move on. Hell, the champagne stopped coming to my room, even though I’d paid for it. I got nasty about that, but they were under orders. I was getting more hypersensitive and touchy. Ok, I was horny. Christ, all these couples, so into each other! I’d walk down the corridor and imagine all those dudes fucking their brains out behind every door. It’s like the place reeked of sex. Drove me crazy. That led to my big fuck-up.”

Brody looked up from his pad. “Lesbos?”

“Not yet, I’ll get there. That was at the end. This fuck-up happened about day nine or so. I was at this one bar, the Kon-Tiki — south seas theme, lots of shells and bamboo — mostly empty because a big extravaganza show was still going on. Some couples were sitting off to one side, then another couple comes in. It’s always couples, right? The guy sits down with the group at the table, but the woman spots me and comes over to talk.”

“Well, that’s a change. How’d you feel about it?”

“At first, really uncomfortable. Shy. By then I was used to being shunned and hanging out by myself. Anyway, she’s good-looking, in an artificial way — heavy make-up, all eye shadow and sprayed hair. Like a damned Barbie doll. Add the drippy southern drawl, and you’ve got my least favorite kind of female companion. She started off acting all sympathetic, but it sounded like fake pity and I got suspicious. Sure enough, turns out she was studying to be a counselor, at some southern Bible college. I guess she wanted to practice on me. I could have put up with that, just to talk with someone. But the whole act just got on my nerves.”

“Were you drunk?”

“Of course. And you know me, I am not religious. If there’s anything I hate, it’s someone trying to save my soul. She starts off talking about forgiveness, how she knows I’ve been hurt, moves into how Jesus has so much to teach us if only we let him into our hearts. The usual fundamentalist bullshit. Then she wanted us to pray together. Any other time I would have walked out, but by now I was steamed. Days without speaking and then someone wants to save my fucking soul?”

“She was just trying to help, Damon.”

“Not how I saw it. She wanted to convert me. So I played along. I said, let me lead the prayer. I grabbed her hand and we closed our eyes. “Lord Jesus,” I say, “forgive me for my sins. And Lord, please condemn that sleazy bitch Elysse unto the fires of hell and eternal damnation, and let Satan rip her body to shreds so vultures might feast on her entrails.” I felt her hand clench up, but I held on and said, “Then Lord, exert your power upon this hypocritical slut next to me that she might accompany this lost soul unto my cabin where she can give me a blow job and beseech me to fuck her all night so as to slake the boiling desires that are raging within my loins, Amen.”

“Oh, Damon…”

“Yeah, it was an inspired prayer. Her eyes got so wide that her eye shadow almost flaked off. Then she hauled off and slapped the holy shit out of me. But I’d been drinking for hours by then, so my skin was pretty numbed up and that slap just made me laugh. Then her new husband comes running over, this big, muscular guy with one of those buzz cuts like a marine. She was snarling and screeching and before I knew it he landed a couple hard rights. I sure felt those. All of a sudden I was lying on the floor but still laughing my ass off.”

“Damon, Damon, Damon. Please tell me that was the low point.”

“On a certain level, it was. The next thing I remember Captain America and my old pal Spiderman are carrying me down the hall to my cabin, me laughing all the way, though my mouth was bloody and swollen. That’s where I got this face. The next thing I remember, the sun was burning through my eyelids, face had scabbed over and I’m stuck to bloody sheets. I ripped my jaw free and staggered to the bathroom. On the way back, I saw this official-looking envelope shoved under the door. From the ship’s Captain. My name on it.”

“Bad news.”

“You got it. A formal letter with lot of legal language, but the gist was, I’m confined to quarters until we make the final port.”

“I did not know they could do that.”

“Apparently they can. So I just hung out in my cabin for the next few days. They brought me whatever food I wanted, but no booze. I had movies and TV, some books, but mostly I just sat on the verandah and felt sorry for myself. At a thousand bucks a day. Eventually I sneaked out.”

“They just left you alone? No one checked up on you?”

“Oh no, they were watching me the whole time. Had me on a suicide watch. You know how you always hear stories about people jumping overboard? Real black eye for the company.”

“Oh, come on. Wasn’t that part of your paranoia?”

“Hardly. For the first day or two, there was always a guy outside my door and someone on the deck below in case I tried to take a dive. The ship’s doctor, this young Indian dude, came by every day and asked the same questions, like ‘Sometimes people feel life is not worth living. Can you tell me how you feel about your own life? Do you find yourself wishing for a permanent escape from life?’”

“Checking for suicidal ideation. Textbook.”

“A textbook he probably read just that morning. He was a newbie alright.” Damon laughed. “Now if they’d sent that Christian counselor-wannabe to pray for me…that would have pushed me over the edge, for sure. Anyway, this went on for a couple days. And then came Lesbos.”

“You’ve been building up to that. Tell me.”

“Well, my sleep was all messed up. I was staying up all night, sleeping past noon. I realized that I’d been an idiot, getting into this shitty situation. And I was bouncing off the walls, stuck in the cabin. Couldn’t read, my music sucked, so I watched TV. This one channel is a map showing where we are. We were nearing Lesbos, the legendary island. Nothing else to do, and I have internet — though kinda slow — so I read all about it in Wikipedia. Lesbos was made famous by the poet Sappho, the archetypal lesbian, hence the name. Pretty exotic stuff. The island belongs to Greece, but it’s just off the coast of Turkey.

“You’re still confined to your room?”

“Right. But after a few days, they slacked off the nonstop surveillance. Crew had better things to do. So I started sneaking out in the middle of the night, grabbing snacks, hanging out in the game room, but mostly I just walked the decks. About two in the morning I’m on the lower deck. It’s maybe a hundred feet above the water. Beautiful clear night, I’m looking for Lesbos. Moon’s nearly full and glinting off the sea, all glassy and calm. Really romantic. I was thinking, ‘if I wanted to do myself in, this would be the time to do it.’ I remember that distinctly. But you know what? I wasn’t about to kill myself, not even close. That’s when I knew I could get through this, that I would get through this.”

“Good for you, Damon.”

“Then I heard the ship’s horn. One short blast, not an emergency. I look around and see nothing. I leaned way out and look toward the front of the ship, the right side.”

“The starboard bow.”

“Whatever. Something’s in the water, way off, and we’re coming up on it. Whatever it is, it’s not moving. Then I see it’s a boat, a fishing boat, or maybe a yacht. Except it’s kind of roundish and dark, drifting, not going anywhere. Then we’re right up on it, and it’s this big, open rubber boat crammed full of people, so many they’re hanging off the sides. I’m not believing what I’m seeing — forty, fifty, sixty people shoulder to shoulder, and they’re waving their arms and I can hear them shouting cause our engines are so quiet. They see me, way up above them and they all stand up and wave and shout, not friendly like folks at a parade, but totally desperate and frantic. And then this one woman holds up some kind of bundle and I realize it’s her baby, for chrissake and I’m waving back at them and running down the deck to keep even with them until I slam bang into the wall where the deck ends.”

“My God.”

“It gets worse. The wake of our ship is huge and the waves start rocking the hell out of that rubber boat or raft or whatever it is, and it’s bouncing all over and these people are screaming and I’m sure it’s going to capsize because it’s unbalanced and the people are panicking and moving around and a couple guys fall into the water.”

“What did you do?”

“Hell, I’m freaking out! I had to alert the crew, right? I found an emergency phone but nobody answered, so I ran upstairs to the room where they steer the boat from, the bridge, and there’s this sign that says ‘Crew Only’, but I start pounding on the door. And it took for-fucking-ever before this guy opens it a crack, and he was really pissed. I yelled about those people in the boat, and he told me to calm down, they’d take care of it, and says, real slow and condescending, ‘go back to your cabin, Mr. Rogers, go to sleep. Have you been drinking?’ The same shit I’d come to expect. But he had to know about the raft, right? I was pretty hysterical, but those people could die. Was that crazy?”

“Not crazy at all. He called you by name?”

“Oh yeah. Everybody knew me by then. I didn’t recognize him, though. Wasn’t the captain or first mate.”

Brody shook his head. “What did you do?”

“Didn’t have much choice, went back to my cabin. But I couldn’t sleep. I kept looking outside, expecting to feel the ship turn and pick them up. Never happened.”

Damon paused and licked his lips. “Now, I do know something about Marine law. A few years ago my company sold some big policies to a shipping firm and I did the risk assessment. Every ship is required to aid a stranded vessel, no matter how inconvenient or how much of a delay it causes. That’s a fundamental law of the sea.”

“You’re saying they did nothing.”

“They sure didn’t turn the boat around. I thought maybe they’d called the coast guard or some other rescue group, so the next morning I tried to reach the captain, but no luck. I finally got hold of the first mate, but he acted like he had no idea what I was talking about. Nothing unusual had been reported. All he said was, I’d better stay in my cabin because I was already in enough trouble.”

“How’d that make you feel?”

“Like shit. I threw up in the bathroom. And it wasn’t seasickness. All I could think of was those poor people. It was horrible. So just to do something, I sent an email to the headquarters of the cruise line and cc’d everyone I could find on their website about how our ship had come close to running over a raft of Syrian refugees who’d been stranded at sea. And we didn’t stop and help! It’s crazy because it’s only twenty or thirty miles from Turkey to Lesbos. Should take an hour at most. I’ve read how those smugglers operate. Sometimes they just fill up a boat and leave the people on their own. Seriously, the last person to board is the one who has to steer the damned thing. If the engine conks out or the currents push them out to sea, they’re screwed.”

“That’s horrible.”

“So I kept pestering the crew, calling from my room, and late that afternoon I get another note from the captain. He says I’ll be turned over to the Greek authorities when we return to Piraeus, where I’ll have a chance to explain myself. Of course it’s a threat, for me to keep my mouth shut. They even cut off my internet and locked my door so I couldn’t get out. It’s like that for the next day and a half, till we docked.”

“And they turned you over to the authorities?”

“Oh yeah, but it was never clear what kind of authorities they were. For all I know, they worked for the cruise line. Remember, for two weeks I’d been surrounded by people in costumes. All I know is, three mean-looking dudes in cheap uniforms hustle me off the ship and haul me into a grimy little office next to the dock. No water, no food, and they’re all smoking so much that I get nauseous. Hours go by, and finally this guy who speaks English comes in, same uniform but with a few extra bars. He starts giving me nonstop shit, while his bruisers pace around behind me, bumping my chair now and then to remind me they’re there. He keeps saying how much trouble I’m in, threatening other passengers and now slandering the company, making up stories about their negligence.

“Finally I got pissed, said how the media would love to know that one of their magical fantasy ships had swamped a boatload of refugees and failed to pick them up. He just laughed, claimed no one would believe me. I’d proved myself to be a seriously unstable person, a crazy, violent alcoholic given to hallucinations. He just grinned. ‘This is not America, Mr. Rogers. A Greek judge can put you in jail or the looney bin and leave you there for years.’ I was scared shitless.”

Damon buried his face in his hands. He was quiet for almost a minute.

Brody smiled reassuringly. “Damon. Chill. You’re back home now, safe and sound. How’d you get out of it?”

“I forced myself to stay calm, think it through. I’m an actuary. In my job I analyze situations, jot up the pluses and minuses, prioritize the risks. All day, I think about benefits versus losses, risk and reward. So, in that smoky little room, I knew it didn’t look good for me. I cut my losses. I promised never to take a magical fantasy cruise again and never to talk to the media about that minute of horror I’d witnessed. They let me go. Even gave me a ride to the airport, though I’m sure it was to make sure I left the country.”

“Keep going. Analyze. What are the benefits? What good came of it?”

“Good? You mean, what’s the moral of this tale? Okay, first thing I noticed was, I don’t get that pain in the gut when I think about Elysse. I hardly think about her at all. Is ‘putting it all in perspective’ too hackneyed a phrase? With all due respect to Dr. Kubler-Ross, that single minute on the lower deck short-circuited all the so-called stages of grief. Wiped the slate clean and put something else in its place, though I’m not sure what. I don’t feel sorry for myself anymore. Over and done with.”

“And?”

“I just want to be a decent person, not a disgusting drunk with a bad attitude.”

“Good for you.”

“In fact, it seems pretty selfish even coming here just to talk about myself. Using that one-minute drive-by with supremely desperate people to reach an ‘understanding’ of myself. I know I’ll never be the same. I’m stuck with the memory of that woman holding up her baby, all those people yelling and screaming. It’s burned into my brain forever. Whatever I am or do from now on, that moment is part of me.”

They were silent. Brody glanced at the clock. “Well, the two hours are up.”

Damon breathed a massive sigh. “Yeah, I’m done.”

“Not yet.” He smiled. “I’m holding you accountable, Damon. I won’t let you waste this experience. You need to tell me what you’re going to do next. Shall we make another appointment?’

 

Charles David Taylor was a documentary filmmaker for many years, then worked even longer in higher education as a Ph.D. consultant in educational technology and faculty development. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston and was recently published in Pure Slush, the Pride theme issue. He currently lives in Houston, Texas.

  1. Header art is by the incomparable street artist Banksy. []

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *