I know! Today is Thursday! I usually do my Word-Prompt Wednesdays in the evening because if I attempt it during the day, my toddler sees the computer on and demands to watch songs from Moana instead. But yesterday evening my internet was particularly challenging (read: crap) and I couldn’t get it to load. So Word-Prompt Wednesday has, for this week, because Tardy Thursday. It’s not as catchy. Back to Word-Prompt Wednesday next week.
As I stand and wait for the signal to come, the signal to depart, a memory comes back to me of another night like this, another boat setting out onto dark seas.
The cars milled on, one after another, a conveyor belt of traffic disappearing into the bowels of the ship. I stood off to a side, sheltered from the driving rain by the overhanging lip of the roof of the terminal’s cafe. It was deserted now, all its previous customers back in their dry, snug cars, creeping forwards onto the ship that would take them across the Solent, back to the glittering lights of Lymington. I wondered how easy it would be to sneak in alongside them and to morph myself among the shadows. The only problem was I wouldn’t want to get off at Lymington. I’d want the ship to turn, to take on the high seas and the blurred horizon. I’d never felt very steady on dry land.
I was looking up at the lights on the ship, wondering what each one meant, when a lady blocked my view, craning to look into my eyes. It was the lady who ran the cafe.
“Are you lost?” She asked slowly, as if I did not understand English. “Are you meant to be on the ferry?”
I nodded, wondering why she needed to ask. Of course I was meant to be on the ferry. I’d never been more sure of anything in my life.
“Are you a car passenger?” She said, wiping her hands down her apron. “Has your lane already been called? Have you forgotten where you’re meant to be?” Too many questions. I stared at her, baffled. “Come,” she said, a hand between my shoulder blades. “Sit inside, it’s freezing out here.”
“Rae!” A familiar voice bellowed through the dark and suddenly he was there, hair stuck to his face, his clothes a second skin. He gathered me up and pressed me into his chest, one hand encompassing the back of my head. “Don’t do that! What have I told you about this?!”
“I think the little lass lost your car,” the cafe lady said, straightening up. He looks at her like she’s mad and holds me closer.
“Car? What? No. No, we’re not getting on the ferry.” He looks me straight in the eyes. “Not today, Rae. Come on, your mother is worried sick.” He turned his back on the concerned cafe lady and stepped out into the rain, shielding me with his arms. “You can’t keep doing this. If you want to see the boats, I’ll take you in the morning. You can’t just leave like that, anything could have happened.”
It took me another ten years to tell my father what I truly meant; that I didn’t just want to watch the boats. I wanted to be on the boats and not just on them; captaining them, steering them out to sea, feeling the wooden handles of the wheel within my palms and the sea stretched out before me, a landscape of possibility.
I remember of that memory now, twenty-five years later, and think of my father only a few closed doors away, waiting to be granted admission, waiting to see me at the helm of the ship and I think, this time it won’t be him pulling me back. It’ll be me, taking him forward.