We took that ferry ride too many times. It was a way to shave an hour off the trip, less of a grind than the Expressway. But it was boring, and the only way to put up with it was to ritualize it. So, with the car stowed in what I guess would not, on ferry boats, be called the hold, we stood on deck and watched the concrete pier receding, watched where we had been get small. We felt the engine’s hum more than we heard it. Something kept us determined to look back until land disappeared, and this at last was like an upper and a lower lid, sky and water, gradually colluding until the rickety, unlovely port was gone as if our own eyes closed on it. Then for a short time there was only water lapping away on all sides, nothing yet apparent as a haven in the offing— so we noticed, turning about face. Somehow we never felt as drawn to that so-far- unspotted destination as we’d been to what we had seen vanish. At midpoint, the ferry’s twin passed by us with a hoot, chugging to where we’d come from, as if both boats were hauled along by a double pulley. Car fumes, boat fumes, just a slim whiff of salt; blasé occasional seagulls, more than occasional children bickering, parents buying them soda. We must have felt at least a dim unease at the hiatus that our fare had paid for; we kept close to each other the whole time. The water now was army-colored, empty except for the odd sailboat in the distance, and except for our own cargo of noise the Sound was largely silent.
It’s been years since I have driven on or off that boat. Now when it swashes into my dreams, it’s all much as it was on the vibrating deck except that I’m alone and facing forward, for a change having become impatient to see what hasn’t yet come into view. All around me wrinkles the sullen water we got across so often in one piece, even emptier now than I remember. I always wake before shore is in sight.
Copyright 2016 by Robert B. Shaw. Reprinted from A Late Spring, and After (Pinyon Publishing).