Back Ashore

Back at the harbor, the Danish couple have another moment of unsynchronized matrimony getting off the ship.

There is an obvious protocol for disembarking. Each person who crosses the threshold to solid ground turns to see if the next person needs any assistance. I’m standing behind Mrs. Danish, who expects her husband to wait for her to go first.

But he brushes past her. Ignores the old fellow who preceded him and bounds some distance away on the wharf, where he begins to fire up a cigarette he has already retrieved from the packet.

The older gent who had expected to be relieved of his post simply tilts his head slightly to one side. He holds his position faithfully and awaits Mrs. Danish. When her face turns toward him, he smiles. Once across, she thanks the old gent and takes his place in the human protocol. Then her lad jumps across, unassisted and like his father scampers along the wharf.

Then it is me. I do not need her help, but I willingly accept it. She takes my hand firmly and uses her other hand to guide my elbow. Enchanted in a passing pas-a-deux at six below with a fur-bound Dane.

We trade smiles. I turn to help the next passenger get back on solid earth. And so forth, our race proceeds, trying to pick up the slack caused by others.

I end up in a van with Mrs. Danish and her son. The husband waits on the wharf for the last van to savor his smoking. In cramped quarters, she smiles at me awkwardly. We have wound up knee-to-knee, sitting across from each other. It is impossible not to look at each other.

“I got hypnotized to quit cigarettes,” I offer, trying to be helpful, but I don’t think she fully gets my drift.

I force myself to look out the window as we launch off on another hair-raising drive through town. We are dropped off at the outfitter’s office and go our separate ways.

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