Sea of Lost Dreams
This excerpt from Ferenc Máté's fictional high-seas adventure will whet your interest for more books to bring aboard when setting sail. From our July 2011 issue.
A savage gust churned the sea. He closed his eyes and tried to forget where he was. He let his head fall back into the sea. Think of something else, he told himself, something good. In the darkness behind his lids, Kate’s face came alive. She looked sad, holding back tears.
He felt immeasurable warmth flowing from her; from her arms that clutched him in need, or in passion; from her mouth that clamped over his with urgency; from her whisper, “This is another world.”
A black wave broke over him; he swallowed water and coughed. He kept his eyes shut and summoned more visions—one at a time—always close enough to touch. Why her? After so many years, so many women, why suddenly her? Maybe because she loved with such fervor, as if there were only that moment, murmuring, “I never imagined life could be so exciting.”
He shook his head. If these are your last hours, he thought, at least put up a fight. He took a deep breath and began swimming. I’m not dying until I see her again. If they can’t find me, I’ll find them. Or land. It can be done. Remember the Burmese who fell overboard off West Africa 100 miles from land, and all he did was follow the rising sun, swimming no more than maybe 15 miles a day—drank rain, even caught a fish that came close out of curiosity. He knew that as long as he kept on, endured, and sang—yes, that was a big thing, wasn’t it? He sang, sea songs and folk songs, even lullabies his mother used to sing. Over and over, songs without a break, for hours on end. He sang and swam for six days; the ship’s log bore him witness. By then he had no strength for singing, not even humming, but he kept thinking the songs. And on the evening of the sixth day, he heard a song. A new song. And he saw, with swollen eyes, a sand spit of the shore. His eyes were much too dry for even a single tear.
So Dugger swam. The clouds were riddled with moonlight. He marked that as east and swam. He sang a song about an aging highwayman, his hair turning like winter’s early frost, his face lined by love and loss and laughter, but even though his eyes still blazed bright, the young and fickle women no longer looked his way. The tune was melancholy, and he swam slowly, crawling up the waves and sliding like a child in a sled down their shiny backs. Fifteen miles a day, he thought, and one day you’ll reach the coast of Chile or Peru. He wasn’t sure which, but he was sure of the distance. He’d be there by Easter.
“‘And those fickle women never even look my way.’”
He swam with his eyes closed and saw Kate in the shadows of that long-ago moonlit night, only the white of her breasts and her eyes, and he felt her flesh against his mouth, then tasted the sweet damp of her thighs and heard her gentle voice and his head filled with her fragrance of a jungle flower and smoke. And he felt his head in her caress.
Then later, when they were wound around each other, he whispered, “I love your taste.”
“You can taste me forever,” she whispered back. After a long while she said, sighing, “I wish time would stop.”
And he remembered feeling a great calm and thinking, This is where life begins. She kissed away a tear from the corner of his eye and whispered, “You will always have my love.”
He swam until his arms shook from exhaustion. He lay, out of breath, in the storm-torn sea. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, “I would have died for you.” It’s such a waste to die saving a torn sail. But maybe it will help. Maybe Nello can pull the sail down now, and when the storm ends and the sun is warm again, you can sit in the shade of the awning with needle and sailmaker’s palm and sew up the pieces. And maybe you can sing to pass the time; a good song, a cheery song—any song but “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” because by then, your Bonnie might be miles under the sea.