Author: Guede Mazaka
The ocean dreams, Archie thinks. He canít see out the porthole very wellóin fact, he canít see it at all, except for a few moments when the sway of the crowded hammocks are in concert with his desires. But when that happens, he can catch a glimpse of soft darkness and the occasional flash of white as the moon trails her finger along the edge of a wave.
He can hear her, very faintly beneath the loud grumbling groans of the timbers overhead. She has a soft quiet slap that is mostly hidden by the more forward voice of the ship. So the way he knows is mainly through the way she feels.
Tonight she rocks gently, gently as a drowsy mother with her foot moving the corner of the cradle. But Archie has been on deck through enough night storms and through one dreadful becalmed stillness to know that her mood isnít always so. When she tosses about then, howls and shrieks punishing streams of water through the lines, he wonders of what she dreams then.
Thereís an old myth he saw put to stage once, where the ocean and the sky were lovers cruelly separated because they embraced too tightly for life to flourish. Perhaps she longs for her love. Perhaps she rages against the fate that divided them, and counts the results of her sacrifice as an insignificant amount of comparison. Or perhaps she merely weeps, and it only seems as if she rages because they as men are too small to see all of her.
If there were one large enough, heíd offer her a handkerchief.
Archie has to quickly cover his mouth to keep his soft chuckle from bringing down the ire of the others upon his head, even though heís not laughing entirely out of self-mockery. He laughs because laughing is less dangerous than wishing, and wishing is what heíd like to do.
Sometimes if the rocking of the ship achieves the right rhythm, Horatioís hammock will graze against Archieís for a brief few seconds. After so long at sea, Archie has learned to distinguish the bump of a hip from the bony projection of an elbow, the slight give of the canvas stretched over the dip of Horatioís waist and the slightly greater give of the canvas stretched over the space between Horatioís neck and shoulder. Once in a while, he risks putting out a hand as if he were trying to push the other man away. That would be the part that is and isnít amusing.
He could lie back and try to fall asleep, but Archie knows he would have to resort to counting sheep. And somehow the sheep always turn into seconds, and minutes, and then he is already reaching for the edge of his hammock, a full second before the time is rung.
Horatio murmurs, drags himself out and onto his feet with, oddly enough, more grace than he often manages when awake. He is less concerned with appearance, more so with clearing his mind, and so Archie supposes itís easier for him to be himself. His smile at Archie is without a hint of self-consciousness, and he is almost playful as he mouths a greeting.
Archie mouths one back as he slides out of his hammock, taking the hand Horatio offers him. But as they climb to the deck and to all the unknown troubles, major and minor, that await them, he glances back towards the porthole and the two empty hammocks. Itís the last moment before he must stop dreaming, and so he lets go only reluctantly.