She is already done with me. I climb down the steep steps to the main deck and maneuver along the leeward promenade toward the bow just as we smash into the ice again and make about 10 or 20 yards before we have to back up, rev the engines and ram forward again.
There is a small but hearty band of us forward on the main deck, intent on our progress, pounding away at the ice regardless of how cold the seawater had to get to freeze.
After a couple of cycles of stall-backup-ram ahead, I see us as an American football team with no passing game. We have to rely simple-mindedly on our offensive line and running backs to wear down the ice that separates us from that channel of open water near the iceberg.
At the moment, we are 100 yards away. But we are notching first downs, moving forward in eight-, 19- and 26-yard gulps and all of us on the bow are convinced this is just a matter of time.
I’m standing by a bell when a prize position near the center opens up and I move to the line of scrimmage. We huddle and the quarterback calls the same play every time, fullback dive, sometimes to the left guard, sometimes to the right. We hammer away. And hammer away.
The chains keep moving. I turn to the fellow on my right and ask him, ‘Is it one or two more?’ He says one, but I think it’s two. And sure enough, we get about 12 yards from the goal line when the defense stiffens and stops our forward progress. We huddle again on second down and of course every man and woman among us knows the play by then.
I like to think the captain revved it up a little more, but he probably didn’t. Or that we on the offensive line drove more resolutely into the wilting defense. The ship surges forward, the ice cracking and scattering to the side, plowing toward that clear sea ahead, but losing momentum and then the guards, tackles and tight ends lean into it, our hips thrusting forward, the quarterback helps drive the pile of a dozen or so humans trying to will a multi-ton iceberg ship forward to the promised land, our momentum staggered but not extinguished over those last few feet and then.
We are through. Touchdown. The offensive line turns as one and cheers for the captain. “Ring the bell,” I say, and Lakshmi – I didn’t know she was there – flails away at it and I see Dr. Nashville leaning gleefully over the rail, snapping memories into his camera with abandon.
It is almost anticlimactic, streaming toward the big iceberg in open water, a victory lap after ejaculation, as the rest of the tourists pour up from below to the main deck and the captain throttles down and we drift as close as we can toward the iceberg which is, after all, flipped over and shrunken enough to get out to the open sea. With most of itself hidden underwater.
It looks big out here, but it was bigger before, maybe a year ago when it sheared off the glacier and began its long journey, perhaps to sink a poorly navigated transatlantic vessel. We glide toward her, cameras clicking electronically.