Saturday, July 27, 2013


If I’m lucky, my seasickness will go no further than it’s primary stage of an incurable popping in my ears (made somewhat tolerable by constant, simultaneous yawning and nose-plugging) and some nagging tension in the back of my neck.  But, as my luck often has it, the seasickness moves beyond that, and the ear-popping intensifies and spreads to my throat, causing a thick, goopy sensation that feels on the verge of gagging me (although it never does).  No amount of water can fix the second-stage throat-clog—not that I feel much like drinking water at that point, because the tension in my neck has stretched its sickly tendrils towards my jaw and up into my head.  The resulting headache (often localized in my forehead) in turn makes me feel dizzy and nauseated.  This is my cue to suck on a ginger candy, my nausea treatment of choice (pills: drowsy, still nauseous; wristbands: bullshit), although results vary.

Sometimes the seasickness stops here and I’m left with a dull, nagging, and for lack of a better word, moldy feeling in my stomach.  But much of the time, that original neck tension ekes its way into my shoulders.  Thus begins and achy chain reaction that spreads to the tips of my toes, and I’m left wanting to do nothing more than hold my knees to my chest and sleep…or cry.  Or both.

That’s the other thing about seasickness; while it’s not making me unintentionally fall asleep or vomit over the side of the boat (for which the aforementioned nausea is commonly responsible), it’s very emotionally taxing.  Somehow, it manages to sneak into the deep corners of my psyche and drag out every unhappy detail of my life—details I’ve been trying no to focus on: homesickness, dissatisfaction with my work, old romantic wounds, you name it.  Rachel and I spent 3 wretched hours below deck the other day, while we were supposed to be cleaning, crying and feeding each others’ fires and just validating the living shit out of each other and our miseries.  Anyway, after this 60-ish-hour crossing, I’m hoping we won’t have anything too much worse, although we might.  I’ll cross my fingers for the former, but the fact is, I feel better now and we’re anchored, so I can sleep.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


We’ve all had to cope with frightening or dangerous experiences now and then.

Phoebe didn’t cope well with these situations.  Thankfully, she also had a strange condition that caused her to make uncontrollable noises like a car alarm any time she was threatened.

Her parents didn’t understand it, but there wasn’t much they could do about it either.  They first noticed it two days after she was born.  The hospital did a good job of covering up the fact that a child snatcher had come into the newborn nursery and almost taken Phoebe right out the front door.  But given the circumstances, they at least had to tell her parents.  The nurse had found Phoebe, all swaddled up like a caterpillar ready for metamorphosis, lying on the floor by the elevator, a horrible, wailing honk emitting from her tiny, rose-shaped mouth.  Her face was as red as if she were screaming, but no scream; just that honk.

Phoebe was a quiet baby.  She hardly ever squeaked or gurgled or even whined for almost 2 years. When the parents asked Phoebe’s doctor if her silence was a problem, he jokingly said that maybe the snatcher dropping Phoebe on her head in surprise had “knocked the honk out of her.”  At the parents’ stony-faced reactions, he cleared his throat uncomfortably and told them that Phoebe would be fine, maybe just a late bloomer.

It soon became clear that the honk hadn’t been knocked out of her at all.

After a grocery store outing, when Phoebe was four, she and her mother were walking to the car when a man rushed by and grabbed her mother’s purse.  Her mother held on. Phoebe, watching the scruffy man from the child’s seat in the grocery cart, went red in the face and opened her mouth, as if to start crying, and out came the honk.  The noise was so loud that her mother and the thief both let go of the purse in surprise.  The thief stumbled backwards and swore. He turned and ran out of the parking lot, staring at the honking Phoebe over his shoulder.

Her parents tried to keep Phoebe away from anything that would bring out the honk.  They appreciated its usefulness, but it worried them.  They were afraid that if the wrong people heard Phoebe’s honk, they would take her away for experiments or use her for some sort of unorthodox police training.  But it wasn’t easy to predict when the honk would be triggered.

Phoebe often went hiking with her father.  During one hike, when she was fourteen, Phoebe fell behind and couldn’t see her father anymore.  Although her father had taught her exactly what she should do if she ever got lost (in the hopes of avoiding exactly what ended up happening), Phoebe panicked and started honking.

The hiking incident embarrassed the adolescent Phoebe.  Her father had only been around a bend in the trail and had found her right away honking with tears streaming down her face as she held her hands over her mouth to try to cover the sound, to no avail.  When they got home that night, she asked her parents if she could get her vocal chords removed.  They told her no.

Over time, Phoebe learned to embrace her honk (indeed, her parents knew she was beginning to accept it when she started calling it “my honk” instead of an expletive).  When she bought herself her first car, she also got a bumper sticker that said, “I brake for tailgaters,” but she crossed off “brake” and wrote “honk.”  The more she embraced it, the more she was able to control it.  Indeed, there was a time when Phoebe was 26 and she was walking to her car one night.  She noticed a man following her in the shadows.  She turned around and let out one loud HONK, and the man fled.  Phoebe smiled and kept walking.