Early morning in the harbor, I can smell the salty water of the ocean; I hear the whistling of the dolphins playing with a drifting plastic buoy. I take a look at my boat and it is, to me, the living dream, the conclusion to many years of hard work and personal sacrifices… time investment... it is 9:00 a.m. June 17, 2020; I´m a 35 year old writer who´s now living in a boat and is getting ready to sail into the ocean; into the deep blue. The boat is docked at the local Elliot Bay Marina in Seattle; I´m cleaning the bow and look at the marina entrance, clean the stern and look at the marina entrance once again. He is arriving any time soon now.
For us (my partner and I) this boat is going to be our home for more than three months. We are on a sailing summer time vacation that is going to be our first time together under the same roof. Challenging, but we are excited; our hearts are pumped with dreams. The dreamer, we call it. Our boat´s name is; The Dreamer. We knew it was the perfect boat from the first moment we saw it in the catalog.
I keep on cleaning waiting for my, already late, “partner”, I can call him that now. It´s been almost two years since we first met at the hospital. I was the patient he was my doctor.
I enter the deck and start cleaning the kitchen´s cabinets, I´m salting off the dinner table and then I hear a voice outside greeting:
-Hello, anyone on board? Good Morning!-
I pay attention and it is not Cooper´s voice…a man´s voice, but not Cooper´s
-Hello? I´m coming on board-
-No, you better not… I’m coming… give me a minute- I said
-Oh, sorry, O.k. I´ll wait here-
After a few seconds I replied:
I put on a white t-shirt, already wearing a beige checkered short. I come out and there he is, a reason to feel my heart freezing and my lungs collapsing. He looks straight into my eyes. There is no anger though.
-What are you doing here? - I ask scared, looking around for Cooper, his father …my boyfriend.
-It is O.k. I´m not here looking for trouble, I swear- He replies
-You can´t be here, your father…-
-Yes, I know, he´s supposed to come here and meet with you-
-How do you know that?-
-It is fine, Bastian…-
-How do you know my name?-
-I know a lot of thing about you and my father-
My heart stops again. He is here to ask me questions about his father and my relationship with him. Fuck! If Cooper arrives and his son confronts him… everything gets screwed. Cooper can´t deal with this. I know him, if his oldest son, Samuel (35), asks him to end it right here and right now, Cooper (51) will turn his back on me and I´ll never see him again. That deep and strong is the love he has for his six children (used to be seven).
-Please calm down. I know I don´t have the right to be here, but I had to come. Believe me it took me a lot of thinking to finally decide to come and talk to you. This is important Bastian. Please, just stay calm and let me explain everything O.k.?-
I´m mute. No words articulate in my throat. My stomach is feeling weird. I take another look at the marina´s entrance and besides some other boat owners Cooper isn´t there to be seen; anywhere. After a few seconds I ask:
-Where´s your dad? –
-We should talk inside Bastian; may I enter your boat? Please –
-Yea, sure, come in – Samuel climbs the steps and reaches the bow, I sign the way to the deck and follow.
Once he´s inside the deck, he checks everything up and smiles. I sense calmness in his body language so I relax and find the strength to ask him again:
-Where is Cooper? –
Samuel turns around and looks at me, bits his lower lip and says:
-You have a lot of pictures with my dad. Wow, they´re everywhere (reaching out to a photo frame) you look happy together… that´s nice, the old man deserved to be happy… a good man like him deserved happiness-
-Samuel, why are you here? Your father´s going to be here any time-
-Bastian, my father died two days ago, we just buried him-
I can´t remember anything happening around me right there in that moment… few minutes later Samuel´s asking me to drink water from a glass he´s offering.
-Please sit down; we need to talk about what happened- He advices
I look at him and his eyes are watering. My eyes are watering too. I start crying, but with a mute sound. Tears are dropping, I´m feeling pain inside but there are no sounds at all. Just a few sighs and reach for air. He sits next to me, and waits for, what he later told me was about, an hour or so.
-What happened? - I finally ask
- An Hispanic robber followed him to the parking lot after he got some money from the ATM… the police said dad resisted and the man shot him. He died right there, didn´t suffer-
I stand up, walk to the cabin and sit on the bed…Samuel follows. There it is, the bathrobe I have for him, hanging behind the cabin´s door… I feel my eyes opening wide; I squeeze my mouth and hold the stomach cramps. My mind is a mess. What now?
-I know this is too much to take Bastian. I haven´t been able to sleep well these days (…)- Samuel explains while sitting in the bed next to me again.
- (…) I had to take care of my mother and my sister. They are devastated. My brothers are stronger of course but the youngest…-
- Cooper Jr. He´s the sensitive one, your father´s protégé-
-Yes, he, Kiara and I were closer to my father than the others-
- I know, your father never stops talking about you and your sister and brother… but the triplets… he loves them but he doesn´t fully understand them -
-Yea… they are good guys but they´re very independent. We all think they don´t love us at all-
We giggle a bit
-That´s what your father said one day while we were talking about his children, he said that the triplets were amazing guys but Kat was always misbehaving… and giving Cooper Jr. a hard time and a lot of bruises; but despite her behavior she was one of his favorites. He really loves his children...-
I start gasping for air… look at Samuel and we share that moment. He looks at me and says:
-Your eyes… they are blue… deep light blue…-
He hugs me and I cry. I don´t lose it… just cry contained. I hug him back and…
-It is ok, just let it out-
I look at him and wash off the tears
-What do you know?-
-Oh man! Don´t ask me that…-
-What do you know?- I ask again
-We know you both were dating and were in love; very much in love. We understand what happened between you two, although we find it disturbing on our father´s side. But, we know where he´s coming from with all those feelings for you-
-Who´s “we”- I ask
I stand up and go to the bar, pour a big glass of wine and offer one to Samuel. He walks towards the bar and asks for something stronger; I give him a shot of Colombian Aguardiente. He drinks it and continues his story. He tells me that his mother asked him to go into his father´s belongings and he found a piece of paper with a username and password for a Skype account.
He logs into the account and realizes that there is only one contact there. Opens the chat´s history… reads, reads and keeps on reading. Sometimes he feels dizzy, some other times he just smiles approving. He keeps his eyes focused on the computer screen, he reads about his father´s most intimate desires with Bastian (me); he reads all about the secrets of that man who he thought was transparent and never capable to lie. He reads and reaches a point of no return into his father´s life. He thinks he can not let his mother find out about it and that is why, obviously, he comes to his closer siblings, Kiara (30) and Cooper Jr (25). for advice
They were the ones advising Samuel to keep that information on their father only between them. They swore on their lives. They crossed their hearts on it.
Samuel stands up and after a few minutes he explains to me that his siblings are there with him, in the parking lot, waiting for him in the car. He asks me if he can call them and introduce them to me. I agree, a few minutes later, they were asking permission to get on board. Samuel goes out to the bow and leads them to me. Kiara looks at me and cries; stares at me and cries. She tries to get closer but reaches out for his brothers´ hands. She lets the tears drop with no restriction and says:
-Your eyes. You have my sister´s eyes-
-Stop it Kiara… don´t- Cooper states
-Let´s all calm down and… I don´t know… talk? Let´s just talk and we will take it from there- Samuel advises
I ask if they want to drink something and they agree to have a Scotch, a straight shot of Scotch… we all drink one. We sit around the dinner table and look at each other in silence. Kiara keeps on watching me; her deep light blue eyes (just like mine) never stop watching me and they make me feel uncomfortable. They scan the cabin and see the photo frames of their father and I; hugging, laughing even kissing… they didn´t show any disapproval of it, just sadness…
-It is sad… to not have the chance to share this happiness with our dad- Cooper Jr. says.
-Well, we have to focus on Bastian now. Are you ok…? Bastian? – Samuel states
I´m looking at Kiara´s eyes and with my voice tone down and still with tears in my eyes I say:
-Yes, I´m fine. Just figuring out what I´m doing now…the plan was to be with him! If I´m not with him, what´s the point of this trip? I mean, he was the passionate one; he dragged us into learning how to sail. He was the one looking for the perfect boat, perfect color, the perfect size, he picked the name… I know how to sail but… without him... I can´t go-
We stayed in silence and then I added
-Besides, you must be here to claim the boat now that you know half of it belongs to your father-
They look at each other, Kiara holds Cooper´s hand tied. Samuel is next to them, they all look at me with sadness and sympathy in their eyes… and then, Samuel explains:
-We are not here to take anything from you Bastian. We are here because you are the only thing we didn´t know about our father and it is important to us to understand. We want to get to know you better. That is all we want from you-
-Besides, my dad was a good judge of character and I can see he didn´t fail with you. This boat is yours and yours is going to be- Cooper Jr. adds
-Do you know whose eyes are those you have now?- Kiara says
Samuel stands and tries to explain that they need to go now. Their mother is alone with all those strangers in the house and she needs the help and the triplets never help. Kiara refuses to leave, Cooper tries to grab her arm and make her stand and leave and then she:
-Those eyes were my sister´s eyes Bastian-
-What?- I ask
Samuel and Cooper close their eyes and make a sad face. They let go of their sister and let her talk freely
-Yes Bastian, when my sister died -she…she… she had a stroke- my father decided to donate all her organs… we all had a family meeting and after a few weeks and studying a lot of cases, we decided that YOU, among all of them, YOU should have what we all thought was the most beautiful feature of her. Her eyes-
Though it was too much to take, I stayed soothed and didn´t feel anguish. Cooper never told me that one of his children had past. All he said was that I should be grateful with the person who died so I can have those two beautiful eyes that he was able to transplant into me. I never asked again. He was right! I should be just grateful and quit asking questions. I had my eyes and was able to see again. So no questioning of where the eyes came from.
Most people would think that learning that, should be enough to think Cooper was crazy or mentally unstable. I didn´t think that. I knew who he was, and I immediately understood that he was just doing the right thing… preserving his daughter as a legacy and giving me the chance to my sight.
He didn´t know he was going to find me interesting of knowing better, he didn´t know he was going to feel “weird” whenever he got to see me in his practice. He didn´t know we were going to fall in love, he didn´t even know the kind of love he felt for me even existed. He didn´t question the love he had for his wife for he understood it was a clean and pure love, because she was, after all, the mother of his children, but he felt alive when he discovered he was able to feel the way he felt for me, for another man and, as brilliant as he was, as open minded as he was, he allowed himself to experience something new and when he felt comfortable within his own skin, he let go and embraced it.
From there he was mine and I was his. He was always clear to me, his family time, was never to be changed or disturbed; we were to see each other only when he had the time and only under his conditions. I agreed, I was not only grateful to him but also in love. I wanted him in my life even if that meant to have him for short periods of time. Two years passed and being patient paid off. He was going with me in a summer time sail vacation trip. We bought “The Dreamer”, we were happy and full of energy. He loved me and I loved him. I love him.
-Thank you. Thank you for giving me her eyes. Thank you for understanding that I really needed them. Thank you for your father and thank you for being here- I said with my voice braking and continued:
-I never meant to disrespect you or your mother and I know I never did. She, your mother, was sacred to your father and so she was to me. You were sacred to him and so you were to me-
-We know that Bastian. If two years past and you guys were having this intense affair, should had been because you really loved each other and thought of us with respect and for that we thank you. We don´t feel deceived, thank you for not trying to hurt my mother in any way and thank you for loving my dad the way you did- Samuel kindly replies and adds
-But, and I think I´m speaking for my brother and my sister here, you should go and make the trip, you should sail this pain away. You should go and honor our dad and you should…-
-Can I go with you?- Kiara interrupts her brother Samuel
-Kiara please, stop it… you don´t know anything about sailing and you hate the ocean- Samuel says
-I feel like going, I don’t know why, don´t ask me to explain my self, just let me go please. Can I come with you Bastian? Please?-
-This is your father´s boat Kiara. Of course you can come, you are more than welcome to come with me- I smile
- Ok, then we should go right now; I have to pack- Kiara rushes her brothers
We all go out to the bow, Cooper Jr. gives me the most loving hug ever, Kiara smiles and asks me to wait for her to return with her bags. Then they get off the boat and start walking the harbor´s dock. I stay there, watching them walk away, to the parking lot. They are talking and suddenly, stop. They keep on talking but this time Samuel and Kiara are having a discussion with Cooper. They gesture as if they are picking a fight, they talk more and point my way. They point The Dreamer.
I get a little anxious and curious. They keep on talking and talking, I can´t hear a thing, but then, Samuel comes back; alone. Kiara and Cooper stay behind. Once he gets closer to The Dreamer… he smiles and asks:
-Can we all go with you Bastian?-
-What?- I ask amazed but a sudden rush of happiness felt like and explosion in my chest
-Can we, the three of us, go with you, can we sail with you Bastian- he smiles
-Yes, you can come, yes, of course Samuel, yes… that is a great idea, yes, you can come with me… we can get to know each other better. Yes, bring your things to, I´ll wait here-
Samuel smiles, now, despite the pain of losing Cooper, a sense of peace appeased our souls. We found our selves for a reason and we were ready to go with destiny.
-Then, it should take us a day or two to get everything ready, our documents and all we need to organize our schedules, our jobs… God! This is crazy but I´m excited about it. I feel like a kid- He laughs
I smile back and add:
-You take the time you need, I will be here waiting for you guys. Now I have a new reason to make this trip-
We are smiling at each other now and our hearts are feeling renewed. Our hearts are pumping hard, our minds are flying fast.
Three days pass. Though they´ve been coming to the boat everyday to say hello they were ready only at the day four. We all are excited. It is six in the morning. The harbor is calm and silent, is like if the seagulls are waiting by my side for they to appear at the marina entrance.
Then, there they are, minutes later, they arrive… their faces are enlighten. I´m there waiting for them as if I was waiting for him, Cooper, I felt the same way. They climb the boat´s steps and we say hello as if we knew each other for years. We are really happy to see each other. They are like kids, fighting for the compartments, rushing to find the best cabinets for their clothes, talking loud and laughing.
Cooper´s photos are all over the place, in them, we, he and I, are smiling. He smiles. He has the most generous and marvelous smile. My favorite photo of him, the one I took when he caught his first marlin when we graduated from sailing school. We are having a great time together, his children and I, surrounded by his smiling face.
I start the engine. The seagull’s caws were like goodbyes wishing us the best. The fresh air was in our faces and the sun on our sides. The Dreamer starts it´s journey into the ocean and into the huge dark blue. Hours later, at night, the stars are up in the sky and we poured glasses of wine and kept on chatting; kept on telling our stories to each other; laughing when we needed to laugh; keeping silent when we needed to shut up.
It is the middle of the night, 3 a.m. in the morning, the stars are amazing. We have never seen anything like it. In the cities it is impossible to witness the greatness of the night as you can in the middle of the ocean when the sky is clear, as it is tonight. I´m outside, the children are inside talking and cleaning everything under Samuel supervision.
-When my sister died almost three years ago…-
I turn back and it is Samuel talking to me, he handles me a glass of wine and a joint.
-… we thought it was the end of our father. Kiara, Cooper, Kat and I were his closest kids. The triplets were never close to him or our mother for that matter. We four are his favorites, but Kat was, his real loved one. We knew it and it didn´t bother us. They were close. They were friends. They talked for hours. They travelled everywhere together… and when she died, we thought our dad was going to die right after. But, when they asked us at the hospital to donate her organs it was like finding a new purpose in life. He got obsessed. He cried every time they called us to tell us that one organ had been given to some stranger (…)-
The night is a little cold and he passes me a blanket while talking. He smiles and sits next to me again. I feel his body close to mine and right there… we connected. He continues talking and telling me the story of his father.
-(…) Then right after, he was happy and ready for life. But, with her eyes, everything was different. He didn´t want her eyes to go just to anyone. He went to the hospital and talked to the board; he asked them to let him perform the transplant and also asked them to let him decide who to give the eyes to, he was after all the most prestigious optometrist surgeon in the practice. Then, he came home with all those files, hundreds of them. Good people, all in need of a good pair of eyes. But then, we found your file (…)-
He looks at me, there is pride in his eyes; sympathy for all those things that I had to go through while walking across the continent. He looks at the stars and then I see the resemblance. He has his father face features. Handsome, manly and yet sweet and tender; he continues talking
-(…) the file said that you contracted toxoplasmosis while walking across Colombia, Central America, Mexico, United States and finally to Canada, in a trek that you called Backpack Trek I Want to Live, advocating and creating awareness about tolerance; about learning how to love HIV+ people. The file said that even though you were treated, the toxoplasmosis was never going to leave your system… so by that time you had lost your right eye and were about 70 percent short of your left one. That hit us hard. That you, after all you´ve done, were going blind. Then we all knew you were the one and you know the rest-
We remain quite for a while. The ocean, the stars and the moon were one huge universe extravaganza that needs to be gaze at and then he says:
-After just a few hours with you here in this boat Bastian, I now know why my dad felt in love with you… because it is easy to love a man like you-
I smile and offer him to cover under the blanket with me. He moves closer and adds to his conversation something that made me think about Cooper, the love of my life.
-Bastian, did my dad tell you that I´m gay?-
By Mauricio Betancourt 2012