Chp. 7 – Avoiding Goodbye at Marseille

We spent the following day on the boat. We were docked at Marseille but no-one was in any shape to go ashore. After learning that the tours had been overbooked, Mother and Norm slept in while my brother and I recovered from a much later night at the ship’s “white party.” The cigarette ash and spilt mojito stains on my linen jacket were all indications of a good night that I couldn’t really remember. I do, however, remember we met a lot of the crew there and I remember feeling compelled to ask the Cirque du Solei acrobats whether or not they had to wait tables during the day when they weren’t performing.

“Umm, no” they would respond in something like a Spanish or Romanian accent – I was too far gone to tell which. Then they would simply turn around and talk to the blonde British ladies from the spa. The whole ship was there that night and I couldn’t talk to more than half of them. Figuring out who spoke English was a bit of a crapshoot. Guessing wrong meant a lot of awkward pointing and staring as I tried, in vain, to figure out some way to walk away without it looking awkwarder. At some point during the night, we decided just to smile and dance with a few of the Spanish girls who couldn’t understand a thing we said.

The boat was packed that day in Marseille. I was particularly disappointed we didn’t get to go into town but I didn’t know it until after I managed to shake myself out of the Bacardi-induced coma. At that point, we didn’t have enough time to go anywhere worth going anyways.

And so, after our day of putzing around on the ship, we set off back to Barcelona. That next night, I had planned to meet up with a few of the people I met onboard. One was Darren, a 25-year-old investment advisor from St. Louis who I met at the blackjack tables. He was a good time. At the white party he was chasing girls like a French skunk after a cat with a stripe painted on her back. He was good looking so the fact that he couldn’t speak to any of these girls didn’t seem to matter much.

The other was a group of girls I met during our first day at sea. One girl’s grandfather approached me while I was by myself. He asked how old I was then eagerly introduced me to the group of them. We played a board game for a little while by the pool but I didn’t see them again until that day at Marseille. We all planned to meet after the show at the outdoor bar on one of the top decks. I left a message on their room phones and then headed to our dinner before the show.

When the winds picked up, they closed the top deck. As soon as the sun went down, waves began to rock the massive boat and didn’t stop for the whole night. I think it’s amazing that they don’t just crash against the side of the hull as the great weight cuts through the deep water. It’s a rather unsettling sensation feeling the ground move beneath you while you watch the walls of a theatre or the restaurant stand completely still. The only way I knew we were really moving was the occasional misstep by the waiter. Also, one of the people in the theatre puked on the floor.

After the show, I walked around the atrium to see if Darren or the girls were around.

Nothing.

I went back to the room around midnight and I saw two messages blinking red on the room phone. Turns out one of the girls, Claudia, had to stay in with a friend who was spewing a bit of rockyboat stew. None of them made it out for dinner.

Her message was more than a little awkward; one of those weird goodbyes where you try to think of an appropriate thing to say since you know you’ll never see the other person again.

“So…um…yeah, maybe if you’re up really early…um…maybe we’ll see you when you get off the ship? But if not, it was nice meeting you. Bye!?” She signed off with an upward inflection, like she wasn’t sure if it was actually nice meeting me or if that’s just what people say during weird, farewell phone messages.

Actual ‘goodbyes’ – real and final ‘goodbyes’ – are uncomfortable. I hardly knew Claudia but the whole ‘have a nice life’ send-off clearly didn’t seem right to her. But I think that’s the way everyone feels. Instead of dwelling on the finality of ‘good-bye’ in the moments of silence following it, most people try to talk over it with a maybe-I’ll-see-you-but-probably-not. It’s all just a few words to avoid the truth that I’ll never talk to these people again.

Darren just left his email. That way, the silent listener could decide if it was going to be the end of a brief friendship. “Nice to meet you dude,” he said. “Look me up if you’re ever in St. Louis.” Then I heard the plastic click of the phone as he hung up.

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