Grant leans against the railing of our cruise ship, shaking his head in astonishment. “Wow,” is the best he can come up with, his eyes carefully tracing the complete horizon around him. The color blue is omnipresent and impressive. The air is hot and quiet and the only visible waves come from the wake slowly slipping off our ship; the rest is kind of a perfect flat blue surface. Craning our necks over the rail, everything appears so far away. Even at sea level, we now know how people standing on top of Mount Everest must feel looking down on the world. From where we’re watching, the Atlantic Ocean looks like it will never come to an end.
Grant says to me, “Can you believe that this is what most of the world looks like?”
It’s the only quiet moment during our non-stop 72-hour party, and it briefly puts things in perspective. Inside that boat, we have amnesia. We are a self-contained paradise taking our sweet time slicing through the ocean at five miles per hour, gluttoning on gourmet entrees, perpetually drinking, constantly screaming and laughing. There is no concept of money. There are no regrets. Even when we spend six hours on an excursion to the Bahamas, the only world that we know exists is from the bow to the stern.
And on the last night of the cruise, even some sobering bad news from the outside world that comes to me in the form of a grave cell phone voice message can’t stop the steady stream of carefreeness — or shall I say “carefreedom” — that I feel while smoking a cigar with all my buddies on our private deck. It’s my first Cuban, and everything else is equally perfect: I hold a whiskey in my other hand, Mark and I sing along to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” the mainland approaching in the far distance makes us feel like Christopher Columbus, every star in the sky is visible, and as if on cue, I even see my first shooting star. I don’t feel the need to make a wish.
It’s an unforgettable time, but then of course everything about leaving the ship the next morning feels difficult and uncomfortable, especially the goodbyes to the new friends we’ve made. You know how awkward it is to spend so much energy and emotion saying goodbye to someone and then you keep bumping into them afterward, like in the lobby, and then in the elevator, and then in the parking lot, and then on the freeway? And you never know whether you should say goodbye again, or what? Everybody wants to do a decent job saying goodbye, but sometimes when you’ve had such a great time, it’s just not possible.