For the briefest moment, Ken’s eyes finally caught one. It had only lasted for a single second, but it was enough to make Ken feel a slight flutter in his chest from excitement. The “star” had started as a simple dot, as if someone had poked the tip of a white pencil onto the navy sky. In an instant, that dot had become a thin line streaking off to some unknown destination. It was the sort of sight you could miss in the blink of an eye, making Ken feel all the luckier for having caught it.
“Did you see that? There was one right there,” Ken shouted to Ethan, pointing enthusiastically at the sky.
After receiving no response, Ken’s eyes darted over to Ethan, where he found his boyfriend staring at the sky lost in thought. As Ken debated whether to speak again, he took a moment to drink in Ethan’s form. Ethan was the sort of guy one would describe as rugged, despite him being clean-shaven and pristinely dressed most of the time. Even today Ethan had chosen to wear a collared shirt and dress pants, though he at least had foresight to put on sneakers instead of his usual dress shoes. It stood quite apart from Ken, whose style of dress resembled a teen who never quite got out of his emo phase. Yet, somehow, the two always got complimented for how good they looked together.
Despite Ken’s continued and heavy stare at Ethan, though, the other party had not budged his form in the slightest. There hadn’t even been the slightest muscle twitch from the guy. Feeling the silence beginning to drag, Ken decided it was time to interrupt Ethan’s thoughts.
“Ethan? Captain Ken calling Ethan. You’re needed on the bridge.”
Suddenly Ethan’s blue eyes swerved to meet Ken’s green eyes, causing Ken to blush from pride in knowing a space show reference always got Ethan’s attention.
“Hey, is something wrong? You’re being awfully quiet, and you missed a shooting star,” Ken prodded gently as he ran his fingers slightly across Ethan’s back.
“Yeah. No. I mean-sorry. I’m just…s-sorry,” Ethan stuttered out.
Ken’s hand slowly stopped its comforting rubbing motion, as he felt the tightening of his eyebrows as they squeezed together in concern. Ethan was a lot of things, but not the sort of person that was ever awkward with words.
“Sorry for what? You know you can talk to me right,” Ken inquired.
“I know. I know. It’s just something stupid,” Ethan muttered, running a hand through his hair as he inched a bit closer to Ken.
“So what? I like to talk about stuff with you. Even if it’s stupid.”
“Well, it’s-“ Ethan began as he took a gulp, “…it’s just work stuff. I’m worried I’m just not as dedicated as some of the others are.”
Ken raised an eyebrow quizzically. Since he met Ethan in graduate school, there’d been nothing Ethan was more passionate for than archeology. Even the mundane part of classifying shards of pottery seemed to enthuse Ethan somehow. In conversations about work it was always Mayan culture that, old other culture this, etc. with Ethan. Suffice it to say, this was the most ludicrous thing Ken had ever heard.
“This is the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard,” Ken sputtered out, not being able to hide the disbelief in his tone.
“I told you it was stupid,” Ethen grumbled in return.
“Why would you even think that?”
“Just, I don’t even know why. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.”
“Ethan? I love you, but you’re worrying over nothing. Who works the most hours?”
“Well, I do but Thompson almost works-“
“And who do I barely get to see some weeks because of work?”
“Who yammered on for five hours with a co-worker last month about similarities between the Mayans and Aztecs pottery design?”
“Yes you,” Ken finished, grabbing one of Ethan’s hands and squeezing it. “If anything, you could use a vacation.”
Ethan looked at Ken for a moment, and the two entered into some unspoken stare contest. Ethan’s eyes raged with doubt, while Ken’s eyes combated back with assurance. The doubt swelled and raged, creating a giant wall of defense, while Ken’s eyes formed streamlined cannons to fire at the weak points. It was a fierce battle, but finally muscles in Ethan’s face released some tension and a smile creeped back onto his countenance.
“So your solution to me being more dedicated is to be less dedicated and take some time off,” Ethan questioned with a jovial melody humming in his voice.
“Yes. Basically,” Ken replied with confidence, though some redness suggested he did understand how silly that sounded when Ethan put it that way.
“You’re a goofball.”
As the words trailed off Ethan’s lips, he leaned in closely and kissed the top of Ken’s head. From the spot a slight warmth traveled through Ken straight to his heart, filling him with those fuzzy warm feelings you always hear people in love talk about. Even if Ethan might still worry, as Ken well knew he would, at least he managed to help him through it a bit; that alone gave him all the ego Ken needed for a night. Ken also couldn’t complain if it got him the chance to see Ethan more.
“What did you wish for?”
Ken looked to Ethan, his mushy inner monologues to himself interrupted with the sharpness of the question.
“What,” Ken asked completely confused.
“The shooting star you saw. What did you wish for,” Ethan inquired again, a warm grin on his face.
Ken smiled. “That’s a secret,” he said in a sing-song tone, gazing back up at the sky.
“I guess I’ll have to catch the next one so I can hear you mutter it under your breath like you usually do.”
With that, Ethan put his arm around Ken, and the two looked back up at the stars, feeling a bit lighter than they had a few moments ago.
Glug, gluuuuug, GLUG.
That’s all I could hear as waves rolled past us and began to fill our boat with water. It was supposed to be a quick excursion. At least, this is what my good friend Dutch led me to believe when he proposed that we set out on a simple, two hour trip. Who was I to question him? He was the one with a year of sailboat experience; I was just the guy who wanted to do something different for a single weekend.
In all fairness to Dutch, everything was fine for the first hour and a half. We didn’t go too far from shore, though we got far enough out the coast was a sliver on the horizon. The wind was in our favor (or so Dutch said), being strong enough to push the boat along fluidly but not enough to knock anyone about. The sea mist was cool and refreshing, the kind of thing the average working man dreams of when trying to relax after a ruined work week. It was honestly a perfect trip up until that point.
Then we hit something.
I couldn’t tell you what it was. A reef? A piece of iceberg that wanted to sink us like Titanic? What mattered is we hit it.
At first, Dutch and I just stared at each other to confirm we’d both heard the dull thud and felt the tiny shake. After a moment of looking around, we both decided to shrug it off. We weren’t drowning in the ocean, so everything was probably fine. Well, that’s what I thought, and now I’ve learned my lesson about assuming things are fine just because I’m not in imminent peril.
The sailboat, like a true trooper, somehow managed to glide towards the docks for another five minutes, leaving us about ten minutes out from landfall. That’s when the first glug pierced my ears. Now, being on the ocean, I didn’t pay much mind to that first glug. I mean, the ocean is kind of weird and makes a lot of weird noises sometimes.
Then there was a second glug, and a third, and a fourth, and so on.
As these glugs occurred, the sailboat noticeably slowed. Not enough it stopped at first, but enough Dutch noticed and started messing with the sails thinking it was the wind at fault. Meanwhile, I was listening to these glugs, trying to figure out what they were. They started very soft in sound, as if something was just lightly tapping on a hollow object. With the boat slowing, though, the passing ocean’s whoosh sound drifted off, making the glugs more noticeable. Eventually, they began to sound like deep, underwater belches, and as that thought occurred to me, I realized what was happening: we were sinking.
“Dutch, we’re sinking!” I exclaimed in haste, drawing Dutch’s attention to me. At first, he simply looked quizzical and brushed some of his brown hair out of his face. Then, a particularly loud glug flew past our ears, and Dutch’s face paled to match the white vessel that was holding us afloat. A second glug followed not long after, and Dutch finally flew into action.
“Shit. Start waving for help or something!” Dutch yelled.
Once the words left his lips, he began digging around in some secure looking box. I followed his instructions and started waving and shouting as if my life depended on it (which it kind of did). Through the corner of my eye, I saw Dutch hold up a small, black gun looking device into the air and fire it. A bright light engulfed the area for a moment. Somehow, the flare gave me momentary relief. I mean, someone had to have seen it, being as close to shore as we were.
Yet, that little nagging doubt that gets everyone in trying times hounded me, and I continued to wave my arms into a nice, tingling soreness. Every once and a while I would cup my hands around my mouth and shout towards the blue abyss, hoping some boat was just a hop, skip, and jump away from our position. Dutch had also begun waving and shouting from the opposite side, and between the both of us it was difficult to even hear the glugs. Taking a chance, I decided to look down at the small deck of the boat, where I saw the glint of water pooling on its surface.
This single sight drove me into a sort of frenzy, and I shouted even louder. With each shout it felt like razor blades scratched my throat, and I couldn’t deny I was getting hoarse. Yet, I kept with it; I certainly wasn’t in the mood to drown in the ocean, even though the life vest I was wearing would prevent that from happening right away.
The time ticked by at a snail’s pace. I would shout, wave, and pause to catch my breath. Dutch kept a similar pace, although from the shaking the boat made I could tell his flailing was a bit wilder than mine. In the meantime, that pool of water was slowly growing higher, and the boat began to tip up just ever so slightly. Really, that reference to Titanic felt pretty topical to the situation, though I suppose at least the ocean wasn’t freezing cold.
That’s when Dutch finally sung a most melodious tune.
“A boat is coming! HEY!”
I twisted my head around quickly enough to whip even my short hair a smidgen. My eyes darted about and located the figure of a boat slowly making a beeline for our position. From where I was standing, I could see Dutch continue to wave at them, and I decided to follow suit. Eventually, the boat’s form grew large enough we were able to make out the people aboard, and when we saw them wave back we both felt safe enough to lower our arms.
However, neither of us took our eyes off the rescue boat that long; the longest was probably 10 seconds when we both moved more towards the front of the boat to balance out the rapidly sinking rear. I would say it was a race for our saviors to get to us, but there wasn’t really a doubt they’d reach us before our boat was completely submerged. Unless there was some shark waiting in the water to take a bite out of their boat, which I mean, could have been plausible.
Fortunately, no shark had been lying in wait, and just as our boat was about 60% underwater, our saviors arrived. It was really a simple matter for them to haul us over to their boat. We had a nice husband and his wife to thank for our rescue. This was only her third time out to sea as we learned on the trip back, though apparently her husband had a decade of experience with boating in general. Honestly, they could’ve been mass murderers, and I still would’ve been extremely thankful towards them.
The trip back was without incident, though setting foot on the dock almost made the sinking bittersweet. We had been so close to shore it almost seemed like we should’ve been in some magical, boat protecting safe bubble. I think Dutch felt much the same, though it was hard to tell between all the curses he threw out about losing his boat. It was a nice boat, but I’d rather the boat sink instead of me, personally.
After making landfall, Dutch excused himself to make some calls while I chatted with the couple who saved us. When Dutch returned, we insisted the couple let us pay them back, but both declined and rambled on about it being just human decency. The soreness from my arms dissuaded me from pushing the matter, and Dutch and I headed to a hotel to crash for the night. At midday the next day, I drove myself home, while Dutch remained to talk to his insurance company about the incident. As a friend, I had wanted to stay to support Dutch in his time of loss and grief. As an exhausted, sore man who had to be into work on Monday, though, I had wanted nothing more than to go home. So, that’s what I did.
Had I stayed, though, it wouldn’t have matter. After a near sinking experience, I don’t think Dutch or I will be sailing anytime soon.