Folds has gotten a haircut. MB has a new pink hoodie. These are the first things I notice when I spot them at baggage claim. Familiar. Yet refreshed. We split a cab. First, Mike’s Pastry for cannoli. I realize I forgot to pack my special color-care shampoo after my 3 AM shower. Our driver idles outside a CVS while I run through, grabbing a bottle and some sour patch kids, then putting the sour patch kids back, then paying…all with the half-eaten cannoli still in my hand. I devour the rest before we reach port. We are happy. Six weeks is not long. ZPill is hungover and late, so he comes bearing iced coffees for everyone. Our squad smiles. We can do this.
Getting back on is a cluster, but we know it, and everyone keeps blood pressure low. The boat looks prettier. The workers happy to see other humans again. MB and I nest into our tiny room, we have a cast dinner, the crepe guy welcomes me back. And we’re off.
We do one line-through of the mainstage show, and we make no mistakes. It is in our skin. Even after I haven’t thought about the scenes for four weeks, I can do them with my eyes closed. The new lights are set. We warm-up. Our 7 PM is gravy, and our 9 PM is ridiculous. New Orleans gave us slow, jolly folks. Boston is basically like performing at someone’s kegger. The audience roars, whoops, gives applause breaks where they have never existed. It is explosive. Not too bad, we all feel. Not bad at all. ZPill and I scarf some cookies and I run down to crew bar where Game Seven of the NBA finals is on. I get to watch the last half. The room is screaming, including me. When the Cavs are thirty seconds from a title I jump up and down. Most of the cast is uninterested, but a few of us are hyped out of our minds. This is a post LeBron world, we joke. I overuse my crown emoji. We are in port, so what the heck. We go to a club in Bermuda. I dance on the empty floor, it smells like the ocean, Justin Beiber is blaring, RJBerns giggles at how happy I am. I yell, “I’m gonna live forever!” ZPill tries to analyze the phrase, so I walk out to the shore. At 1:40 I walk the drunkos home, stay out past curfew, and slink into my ice cold bed. I will never forget June 19th, 2016.
Bermuda is a much different experience than the Caribbean tour. It’s fancy, safe, and expensive. Monday we had dinner and a cute lil game night of three-round charades. MB mimed Foghorn Leghorn by hopping side to side. Tail sizzled, “Oh, so you know Damn Daniel but not Marvin Hamlisch.” At the end of it all we morphed into a few rounds of mindmeld. Tail and I melded on Zac Efron and actually jumped out of chairs to embrace, and then I fell down from losing my balance. It was warm out, maybe time for an evening dip? We donned suits and walked off the ship. Being in port at night feels magical after three months of 4 PM all-aboard. We went over to a typical crew hang out—a campy pirate ship, complete with a plank that I spent an hour or so jumping off into the sea. Okay, job, not bad.
The production cast we grew to know signed off for good at dry dock, so a whole new flock of dancers and singers are in their places. I went to my favorite show—the jank American Idol rip-off that culminates in “Witness.” I cannot tell you how weird it is to see the exact same piece of art down to the exact toe-taps and color combos in costumes with a completely new cast. A reminder of this corporate performance can I’m floating on.
Post a meandering “spirit quest”, RJBerns, ZPill, and I sat and chatted listening to a guitarist play through every island song that has been written. The boys drank dark and stormys and I sipped on a lemonade. We ended up talking about the vastness of existence. How there is no beginning. How there may have been cruise ships a billion years ago. Improv rehearsal feels funny. The more you perform with an audience, the harder it is to do so without. Ten years ago I felt the opposite. I remember my sweet LZ gang in college. How we rehearsed for seven whole weeks before any people showed up. That felt right. OMG I have been doing improv for so long. I actually just spent about twenty minutes calculating, and the cumulative total of time I have spent in my life so far in improv rehearsals, classes, shows, and auditions is 1,500 hours. A far cry from a Master, but it ain’t bad.
Late night after our family show. At the martini bar I mentioned how Tail had told me the first day of the ship most people take these jobs to secretly run from something. We wondered what that was for each of us. And then we snagged a jungle from a popular improv warm-up to sing after each person shared. We’d clap, “What are you running from, I said, what are you running from!” SNAP SNAP. I ordered two spinach artichoke dips at 1 AM, told RJBerns to help himself, then got fussy when he did, and ordered a third like a tortilla chip gremlin. Usher’s “Yeah” is still holding up, ZPill tried to forcefeed me cookies from his pocket. MB and I talked about sad things we both forgot about until it hit us hours after we had woken up Thursday.
Thursday was one of the laziest days of my life. We snuggled up into one comforter and recapped the night, talked for hours, decided we wanted the tiny circular hashbrowns only the 24-hour diner has. I threw on a hoodie and ordered three entrees, ate all of it, we get up and leave without paying (as one does on a cruise ship), and I feel just so careless in a grimy way. We watch the Bachelorette and make each other laugh for hours. By the time we have any motivation to actually be in society it’s 2 PM. I read on the elliptical at the gym, eat some French fries, try to read, fail, spend too long at dinner, curl my hair, spend longer than necessary on makeup. Our director calls the adult show “smash city” and he’s not wrong. Folds and I dance like lobsters, we hit a run of raunchy dentist jokes, this is my job. We stand together on the deck, absorbing the perfection of a week well-done. It’s my third time in the 24-hour diner in one 24-hour period, and I can’t bring myself to eat any of it. I grow cranky. ZPill is acting like a drunk little brother. I don’t want our director to leave. There are so few of us and someone is escaping this awesome cage with live in. He is a bro and refuses to give me a hug goodbye.
Lavender picks me up for brunch. We happen to overlap in Boston, oh, miracles of miracles. She cries a lot about her breakup. From where I sit, across from her vegan pancakes, I know what she has to do. Stop talking to him, focus her energy, be happy. But it’s never so easy. We don’t have any pictures together. We take several, marveling at our stereotypical post-MFA colored hair.