Friday, July 22, 2016

Alice in Ship Land: Penultimate

Island of Hamilton!
Guest entertainers only have to attend one crew drill per month. After our last one (first week in July) I said, “At least this is our last!” ZPill said, “Don’t. The ship will hear you.” I corrected to the wind and waves, “I take it back!” But, it was too late. On Monday night, around 10 PM, our manager calls to tell us the new policy is guest entertainers go to two crew drills per month effective immediately. So long Tuesday plans. The deck is on FIRE. I woke up early to workout before hand, which adds to my guts feeling boiled. I had drank about a third of a bottled water. Why? Because there is literally no more water being sold in crew areas. A new policy means passengers can’t bring beverages on or off board, so they’re (understandably) buying twice as much water as usual. Which means all the bottles in crew bar and mart have been brought upstairs. I have two big bottles and I am trying to ration them for the week. I drink two cups every meal at the buffet, but I’m getting increasingly suspicious. I’ve been sickly this whole contract. The men who come on board to work on the purification systems never ever ever drink ship water. Not even through two filters. They’re a strictly Aquafina gang. All this is to say, I almost pass out in the Bermuda heat. The lifejacket I am made to wear for an hour seems to get tighter and tighter around my neck. I sweat profusely. Something’s coming out of my shoulder blade—a bump. I ask MB to rub it and it feels like I’m a hunchback in training. There’s a stress lump growing. The drill ends, and I run to the buffet to guzzle three glasses of water.

The ferry to Hamilton is one of my favorite pieces of life. All the big island houses hiding in green hills. Sailboats. Breeze. Tail says he thinks the seats smell like mildew, but they smell like the ferry to me, so I guess I like mildew now. I tottled to a little coffee shop and had a “normal person day.” I wrote, gchatted, emailed, researched for hours. I almost caught the 6 o’clock ferry, but instead I spotted a teeny wooden restaurant called Devil’s Isle and the pull of a beet quinoa fennel cashew bowl was too strong. I drank a sour cherry soda and journaled about how to love more people. I walked back to the sea, sat on the balcony of the boat, listened to Keegan Michael Key on a podcast. Onboard I went to the gym, showered, and started Sophie’s Choice while eating ginger cookies from the local market. At 10:30 crew spa night started. I started a failed game of Marco Polo in the reflecting pool and closed my eyes in the sauna. It was almost midnight, but I was still up. I put on a skirt and made my way to nightlife. MB was out with a gaggle of peeps who all shocked said, “What are you doing out!” I danced for an hour or so before getting bored and wondering what the choice Sophie was going to make. I was watching Meryl when MB bust in with a gang of several people drunk and hungry. They ordered pizzas from room service and we all marveled at how everyone else sounds smarter to us (South African, British, American, Australian accents flying).

I spent a lot of time thinking philosophically about our sketch show while curling my hair. So many adults don’t laugh on a regular basis. We really get to bring a lot of joy to people. It’s something not to be taken lightly. And then we performed to the most tired, sunburned house ever. The lines fell painfully flat. The scenes barely moved at functioning level without the natural rhythm of pausing for laughs. Ten college kids sat in the front row, totally annoyed, not clapping as we bowed. Oof. But I don’t mind. I mean, it happens. And the show was actually still good—just not well received. It’s great practice to be disliked. And what do you know, the 9 PM was literally our best house ever. We performed the exact same show to roars and screams of joy.

Cruises remind me of high school. Your social patterns and status are so temporary and you KNOW they are temporary, but also, inside the bubble it seems like your whole world is ending if, say, you have nothing to do on a night you want to do something. You have to consciously step back and say, “Wait a minute, there’s only ONE thing to do right now that’s not watch a movie by myself. And it’s a fake dance contest I have seen twenty times. And it’s not really very entertaining.” Or, “I like my cast, but they are not my best friends. So maybe no need to get so upset about one of them hurting my feelings.”

It’s been hard writing my solo show. I have an urgency to do it, but just as much force in the self-doubt column. I need to send my next draft by Friday, and so much judgment crowds in. And so I fight! I fight very hard! I ask for text support from my spirit squad. I read Lean In at the gym. I pray. I do more research. I force myself to recall how I always feel this way and then sternly say, “And was it bad? What actually happened with the last thing you were afraid of?” I ask what will happen if I truly fail. Not very much. I keep writing.

After our first improv show Wednesday I have dinner with MB and Folds. He’s disappointed he wasn’t more productive. In some ways, no one should be disappointed in themselves here. Menial things take way longer, your mental state is stale, you’re lonely. On the other hand, if you haven’t done “it” in this environment, you probably won’t. This job is the perfect backdrop for any major goal. And if you can’t do it here, you probably don’t actually want to. I am relieved to find out I want to be a writer. I want to work out every day. I don’t want to be healthy (I had a free salad bar at every meal and I still opted for candy lunch.) I don’t want to meditate. I don’t want to keep an organized closet. This is the land of no excuses, only the harsh mirror of reality. At 2 AM MB and I are trying to sleep, but I keep starting 90s songs and replacing the key words with “scone.” She’s definitely over it, but I complete the entirety of Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Scone” anyway.

Our closing night show wasn’t good. Our opening was solid, and we closed with a great rap battle. So I doubt the audience hated it. But what happened in the middle was…just fine. It’s tough to shake the stink off. You just have to forget. Watch a castmate practice magic tricks, eat all the sour cream cheddar Pringles in bed with your roommate. Tail explains Native Americans would sometimes go to jail and be told it was for a year, but they had no concept of time. It felt like the end was never coming. They chose to starve.

A few of us walk the windy streets to the next island over to see the cemetery up close. Mostly sailors who drowned or died working on a ship. I whisper to stones I like best, “You can haunt me if you want.” Folds even dares me to lay down in a sunken plot of land. He takes us through a grassy path to a secret beach. It’s full night at this point, and the boys strip down and swim via moonlight. I decide to head back to the graveyard to get more time by the gazebo, but a few steps into the narrow trail I swear I hear someone spit, so I run back and wait for companions. On the walk back to the boat we come across some abandoned condos. I want to go in—fitting with the night—but right as Folds gets to the doorway he yells, “F*ck that, no way.” And we kind of take off, a bit faster than we came.

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