By Alexandra Thek
One with a tank top– brown, revealing– her elbows perched on the side as she leaned over the rail, peering downward. Mothers coaxed children forward, glancing worriedly behind them as if one might have escaped when she wasn’t looking. One small girl, jumping for the plastic bag nestled in her sister’s arm, knowing of the sweets that were inside.
A woman, her jogging pants and t-shirt stretching, wrestled to pull a suitcase as tall as she was and heavier than she would ever be into the center of the machine. Two hands on the handle, feet anchored to the floor, she pulled. She was boarding the boat because it had seemed like the right way to go. She did not know where in fact it would take her.
One driving the ship. She was the best, and everyone knew it, a woman not only of color but of character and skill. And three more, two young one not so young, exhausted, sitting, staring at nothing in particular.
Fathers sat their children on the rails. A man ran to catch the boat as the gate closed and the rail lowered. Boys on wheels of all varieties came on. Collecting money from everyone, one sat near the captain because the small control room was the only place where there was no wind. There were not many boys in town on a night like this.
There were not many cars, either. Three or four of a possible, probable, usual thirty-six, their inhabitants choosing to continue inhabiting.
The sea-snail rumbled, groaned, burped. A girl in a tank top– brown, revealing– leaned over further and smiled as the engine created whirlpools and bubbles in the night.
And as it pulled away, there was a flash. A bang. Even the woman with a suitcase as tall as she was and heavier than she would ever be looked up. A phone was next to her ear, but she did not talk into it.
Three more, two young and one not so young, looked up in surprise. They had seen this before. One small girl gave up on candy and walked to the side of the boat. There was silence, disappointment. Sitting near the captain in the only place where there was no wind, a man turned around and stared into the night, above the treeline, above the marina.
The light came again, in colors and whirrs and bangs. Fathers faced their children outward so they could see. An older sister, holding a bag of candy, hung up her phone and stared upwards, then downwards. Her sister, a small girl, had disappeared into the color and the night.
As the boat crawled out onto the open water, tilting back and forth with enough motion to be noticeable but not enough to be nauseating, the wind picked up.
It blew hard. It blew so hard, you couldn’t hear anything except the band, couldn’t see anything except the lights because if you tried to look away then the wind would get into your eyes. It blew so hard and was so cold you couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything except marvel at the light, the dark, the lines and colors and periodical sound. The wind pushed you into and you were forced to let it swallow you. Girls stared. Boys stared.
The fireworks got bigger and bigger, more and more until they seemed larger than the port, the city, the horizon. Each seemed bigger than the one before it. Each seemed different, each was unique: ohs, and ahs.
And suddenly the strangers were connected.
The motion was abrupt. The boat slammed into the dock almost purposefully… or maybe it was the captain. Maybe wind did get into her room. The ride had been twenty-five minutes. She took a deep breath and congratulated herself.
They were forced to recover. One with a tank top– brown, revealing– tore herself away from the side of the boat. Mothers coaxed children forward, glancing worriedly behind them as if one might have escaped when she wasn’t looking. One small girl directed her attention to a bag in her sister’s arm. She had forgotten how fiercely she longed for the treats inside.