The Twilight Zone
He was just standing there, rocking on his heels. Had to be one of the gawkers. But no, he wasn't snickering: putting on a show. Seeing as our colossal monument to brazen lunacy was stuck, center stage for everyone's derision, this man was way out of character.
Elena picked up on it, froze and went silent. If she had hackles, they would have risen.
"What? Ignore him. Probably wants to sell us something." I waved the sailboat diagram that we had been studying, and pointed at an upside-down vertical stabilizer. "This, do we have one, and what does it do?"
Uh uh, no way! Elena was done. Arms folded across her chest, she ghosted away from the travel lift, to who-knows-where.
I wandered up to the source of her fear. "Yes please! How are you today? Finest yachts in all of christendom, I have, just for you!" It's true, I'm a bit of an asshole at times. "And, fine sir, where are you from?"
He put down a couple bags of groceries, straightened up, pushed back his hat, and said, "Oregon," and that's it.
Whew! He wasn't Russian, or homicidally pissed at me for trashing his travel lift booking. "Okay, Oregon." I kind of leaned back on my heels, like he was doing, stared at the bottom of the boat and said, "British Columbia," and that's it.
"I know. We've met."
"Huh!?" Who was this guy, and did I owe him money?
"... Briefly. You were looking for a boat. Seemed preoccupied. It's Jon, by the way."
I was still pulling a blank. "Aaaaah."
"I live on a boat. We met in town. You'd been to the gulet broker, I sent you to Gino's."
Ding! Ding! Ding! "Oh, yeah. I got it now. That was you?" He'd told me about living on a boat. I thought he meant, under one of the overturned rowboats or crates along the canal. Elena had Jon pegged as another Alexi. She's like that, typically Russian: thinks everyone's out to get her, and guilty of something heinous.
"I see you have a boat now, and I hear you are going offshore? Congratulations!"
Weird. Wind of our endeavor tended to elicit you're-gonna-freaking-die-out-there, not congratulations. Unless, of course, the congratulater was trying to sell me something.
Jon and I chatted a while, then he picked up his groceries and carried on toward his boat. And no, it wasn't an overturned rowboat on the canal's bank. I wasn't sure what to make of him. He wasn't scamming me, conniving a date, bragging, demeaning, or belligerent. He just was. For a male humanoid around boats, he was so far beyond the bell curve, he'd have to take a train back to normal.
"Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffeeee chameleon. You come and gooooo, you ooh oooh..." I was rudely interrupted -- pouring my first cup of mercy, and singing my joyful coffee song -- by what sounded like someone strangling an old macaw.
"Cooo-weeee! Ellie an Megs, ya 'wyke dine b'lie?" It was Harvey. He was on board and down the companionway before I thought of what to say, or not to say. "Here it is, going on six-thirty and you're still in your nightie!?"
"It's a t-shirt!" I growled.
"And nothing else, I suppose, hmmm."
"I wasn't exactly expecting company." Our boat was in the water, and it was our first morning back in our own digs. I leveled the glare of death at Harvey, and tugging my shirt down, backed slowly out of the galley.
"Aww, don't go on my account. I was just bringing your survey over..."
"Fine, leave it on the table. I'll check it out later." I had my tushy into a cabin and could just about close the door.
"... And my bill." He grinned, more like leered. "You don't happen to have twelve-hundred euros on you?"
The report was magnificent. Apart from a corporate annual meeting, I had never seen such a marvel of layout and design. It had chapters and headings and subheadings and paragraphs and photos and charts and comparisons and recommendations. Bottom line: we had ourselves a decent, bare-bones, charter yacht.
Aboard the musty gulet, I watched Harvey count the euros I'd painstakingly gathered from ATM's around Marmaris. Having one of the automated tellers swallow my card, freeze my accounts, and report me for international banking fraud, really didn't make things any easier. But, with the last of the colorful bills counted and stacked, I asked if he could recommend a device, or two that we might need for long distance sailing.
Well, I'd certainly come to the right place. Harvey's Yacht Inspection Service instantly morphed into Harvey's Yacht Outfitting Consultancy. With a gleam in his eye, he talked of designing and outfitting yachts for far more demanding tasks, than simply crossing oceans. "Nie whyries mite. You ladies leave it to me, go and enjoy your day. You'll have my proposal by morning."
True to his word, in the pre-dawn twilight, he hand delivered it through a tiny, porthole-hatch between the cockpit and our cabin. We'd wised up. Started locking the companionway before going to bed. Part one: the preamble, consisted of a map showing three possible routes to Canada. Based on what I mused about with Harvey, he had traced three lines from Marmaris to that Great White Northwestern Mecca. They all snaked their way through the Mediterranean and down the west coast of Africa. Two of them hung a right near the equator and made a beeline west to the Caribbean. The one that didn't, crossed the equator and most of the southern hemisphere to round Cape Horn -- the southernmost point of South America -- and then, cross the South and North Pacific, heading north to Vancouver Island. Of the two lines that parted ways in the Caribbean, one of those turned north, getting alarmingly close to Florida, and ending up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The other one crossed Panama -- via the canal, I assumed -- slalomed way out into the Pacific to rejoin the other line from Cape Horn, and also came to an end on Vancouver Island.
Brief footnotes rated the routes according to distance, advantages and pitfalls. The Panamanian route was Harvey's clear winner. It avoided rounding the Horn the wrong way, and instead of Halifax, it got the yacht home; not frozen into the ice in Eastern Canada. Oh, bloody hell: Winter! Another complication I hadn't thought about. Once we decided on our route, Harvey would set to work, researching and ordering the thousands of dollars worth of charts we would need; for a fee -- but, of course.
The equipment list was broken into two parts: need to have, and nice to have. The nice to have stuff was more than the price of the yacht itself. Are you freaking kidding me?! The necessary stuff rang in at merely astronomical, but within my borrowing limit. What choice did I have? We needed a way home, and I was too far into blood to turn back anyway. I gave Harvey the green light to go ahead. His take from the project would be a ten percent commission on the parts, shipping, fees, taxes, labor -- including his -- you name it. For the next two months, Harvey was not only going to be a project manager, but our new best friend.
We were heeled hard over, spray flying from the bow. Elena was screaming blue murder. It was sailing lesson number one. Well, not quite number one, but somewhere on the way to a safe area to conduct it. Sinem was getting a feel for the vessel that Elena had started to call, Boadicea: a strong warrior princess to carry us across the seas; to battle with us in the fight for our lives. Boadicea worked for me. Sure beat The Boat, The Vessel, Yacht, Money-black-hole, or the Russian word for, Lightbulb!
From the maniacal gleam in her eye, I was pretty sure, Sinem was more than getting familiar with Boadicea. Having a yacht she could sail the living crap out of -- without puking charter guests -- was clearly her kind of excellent. In no time, she had Boadicea completely under her control. I was in awe, this tiny powerhouse of a woman was fearless.
Sails came down, the motor started up, and Elena took the wheel. She was a natural. Forward, reverse, throttle control, rules of the road -- yup, she was a born powerboater. Sinem had a weighted, floating stick for throwing into the water and retrieving, to practice maneuvering and man overboard rescue. Given what it was made of, and what it was for, we called it Natalie Wood.
Under the guise of, let's see how I can do, I took the wheel and totally bollixed rescuing Natalie Wood. I think I actually ran it over. I was used to steering with a tiller, not a wheel. All the directions were reversed!
Our training progressed -- fast. We were having a blast with Sinem. Eating a lot of pizza on our balcony at the Marina restaurant. Being tourists a lot. But that was it! The clock was counting down to a non-metaphorical deadline, and sweet diddly-squat was happening with Harvey and our boat. Okay, that's not entirely true. To be fair, he was surfing the net a lot, and printing online, equipment adverts. Then, he stuck them in clear plastic covers, bounded on board, and got me to phone in my Visa number to order the thing.
The idea was, the equipment would arrive. He would take delivery, deal with customs, and handle the installation. For doing all that, he got ten percent -- in cash -- of whatever the grand total -- including bribes -- came to. I guess it sounded right, but all that had happened, so far, was a lot of Visa phoning in for stuff that had yet to appear. I know, I had trust issues, and Harvey reminded me of my beloved, Scottish grandfather, but by krikey, our lives were at stake. Something had to give.
Jon was wandering into the marina as we were heading out. Probably for pizza, and an insanely, wild club crawl with Sinem and her ripped, Amazonian girlfriends. I wasn't sure he could see us over his groceries. I said, "Hello, Jon from Oregon," self impressed with my name recall, and uncharacteristic geniality.
"Meg, Elena! How good it is to see you. Have you decided to stay in Turkey?"
"No, why?" I asked, risking Elena ghosting off at a friendly hello. To my astonishment, she stayed. I went on, reminding Jon of our deadline.
"I'm sorry. I assumed you no longer had a deadline. I haven't seen anything happening on your yacht to make it ready for the high seas."
"You and me both, Jon!" Talk about a buzz-kill. My guts tightened, and I spilled them.
Poor Jon. He listened to my worries, straining under the groceries, soothing his aching feet by rocking side to side. Finally, "It is going to be a crunch, but I think you can have your yacht ready to go in time." Then he pointed at a little marine electronics shop on the marina property. "If you need solar charging, I know he has two, big, high-wattage panels. A deal fell through, and you will never get panels like that, not in the time you have left."
The next morning, Elena and I were standing right there, on the electrical shop's welcome mat, waiting for the owner. The solar panels were perfect. The seller could cover his rent, and we had finally started to equip Boadicea for the voyage home.
Harvey wanted to know how much they cost. Of course, I just blurted it out -- all proud of myself for getting the show on the road. He needed to calculate his commission on them. Solar panels were on his equipment list, after all. Okay, so that was the first, niggling hint that I wasn't dealing with my kindly, old grandpa. The next, was his demanding the panels.
"Uh huh. That's okay, I've got it covered. The guy I got em from is keeping them safe. They're huge. No point storing them inside a boat." I was pretty weirded out by then.
"Dingbat sheilas!" He muttered. "My welders need to make brackets to mount your panels on the radar arch, I am building for you! They are a diff-er-ent size from what I ordered, lady."
"You ordered the solar panels?" I couldn't recall a Visa phone-in for anything that useful.
"Well, no. I guess I didn't. Been too busy because you have to go, 'right away!' But if I did, you would still pay for them. And for my time. Did you stop and think that I might have put in a lot of hours already? Well, I did, and I am charging you for it!"
"So, I have to fork-over ten percent of what I paid for those panels, that I found and bought, entirely on my own?"
"Right! And you pay me for the hours it took me to come up with the right panels for your project, before you went behind my back, and bought any old Turkish garbage. I have to redesign the whole arch, which is why I need your shitty panels for measurement."
"You've started on the holo arch?"
"It is a good thing I didn't start yet. I need to redesign the whole arch now. These delays are your fault. Push me, lady, and you will see how slow I can get."
I started for the gangplank, dying to get off the hothead's gulet.
"Hold up, dear." Harvey's voice took on a sudden pleading -- less truculent -- quality. "Since you brought it up, I need two-thousand dollars -- cash -- to buy the steel for your arch. Then, my guys can get to work on it."
"That's a lot of steel!"
"It has to hold a lot of stuff. Those solar panels of yours, the radar -- which is why it is called a 'radar arch' -- satellite TV, wind turbine, barbeque. You might want to store your tender and outboard on it."
"Tender, what!?" I was taken aback.
"Tender! Your little boat for getting to shore. Yours is an inflatable."
"Our boat isn't little and it sure as hell isn't inflatable." I had a feeling that he had lost it, all at once. Krikey, what was I going to do!?
"Dingbat! It is an inflatable, rubber dinghy. You have one, and it has an outboard motor. It came with your boat. I saw the thing, doing your survey."
"Hah, too cool! We have a tender, rubber dinghy -- with an outboard?" It felt like hitting the jackpot. "Where is it? How come I never saw it?"
"Big locker at the bow -- that's the pointy end of your boat. You're beyond the black stump, lady! Just like a woman to think she can do anything she wants." He paused. Looked like he really wanted to lay into me. Probably thought better of it. "Nah, I'm not here to tell you what you can and can't do. I'm only the poor sod who's got to get your boat ready, so you can figure it out the hard way." He stood. "Come back with my cash, then I can get started."
Sailing lessons were getting intense. Both of us -- and that means mostly Elena -- were now, like totally, "No fear!" when the yacht did what it was supposed to, even when it didn't. Sinem showed us sailing tricks that would scare the snot from your average yacht clubber. We rescued Natalie Wood, under full sail, in a stiff breeze, without warning and all too often. Sometimes, not even screaming and swearing too much. It took an awful lot of strength and cool thinking to completely change the sail configuration, maintain control of the yacht, not lose sight of the rapidly receding, wooden pole, and then, retrieve it, entirely on one's own.
We practiced climbing back aboard, even underway, without a ladder, or assistance from our taunting crew mates. We put out way too much sail in strong wind, just to see what happens. It wasn't pretty, but it taught us to heed the warning signs before the dishes started flying. We climbed into the rigging while bouncing over waves. We listened to the yacht and learned to find the sweet-spot, an indefinable set of the sails and helm that brought Boadicea to life. Elena, who had only weeks before never tasted seawater, or been on a yacht, commanded the vessel, exhilarated, empowered and beaming. It brought tears to my eyes. We and the boat were becoming one.
A couple more wild tacks with Elena at the helm, screaming at me: "Grind, grind, grind! Damn you, robotoyou work, Meg!" -- Which means, she was asking me, very politely, to crank an insanely taut rope through a really big winch. The sooner the rope was near the breaking point, and the sail it was attached to, tight as a drum, the faster we would turn and the more speed we'd pick up -- had me begging for mercy. "That's it. I take the helm. You grind, or how about we drop the anchor in the next nook and go for a swim?"
The Mediterranean is salty -- really salty! Especially in the eastern end of it, a mask is a must, if you don't want to shrivel up your eyeballs, like raisins. Sinem didn't have one, and she got all sullen and morose at the mention of going back to Marmaris. Fine. She could mope in the cockpit while Elena and I played crazy-sea-otters-gone-berserk.
We chased each other underwater, as deep and as long as our breath would let us. Circling rock formations, chasing startled fish, it was all fun and beautiful games until a human skull leered at me, inches from my mask. Holy shit! I thrashed to the surface. Elena had to check it out. She couldn't just take my word for it. No way. So, she was on the surface, a few seconds later, screaming out the details of our grizzly find. It had to have been down there a while. The rest of the skeleton had been scattered about by various sea creatures looking for dinner, but there was no mistaking what it was, or had been.
We were already telling Sinem about it, screaming distance from the yacht. She was screaming back at us to, "Shut the fuck up, and get the fuck on board, and let's get the fuck out of here!"
"Memorize that spot. We need to tell the police," was my sage recommendation.
"The police, are you crazy?" Sinem clearly wasn't a fan. "This is Turkey, not America. You tell the police you found a body, and they are going to keep you here, whether you like it or not, until they find out how it got there, and then, charge someone. That takes a long time. Maybe the guys who put that body down there, will not be happy about you finding it, and dragging it up like some show-and-tell souvenir. You will end up down there, keeping those bones company. You need to forget about what you saw. Nothing you can do. You saw a dead goat or two, that's it! Got it!?"
We hauled anchor and headed for Netsel marina. No sails, no grinding, no ribbing, no laughing, no talking. Sinem was in one heck of a foul mood. She sat at the transom, chain smoking while Elena manned the helm. The marina entrance was in sight. I was about to call them on the radio, when Sinem reached up, pulled the throttle back to idle and announced, "I don't want to go back to Marmaris tonight. How would you feel about spending the night at a friend's beautiful resort?"
The resort was deserted, and I mean scary deserted. Expansive, concrete dock; flags of all nations at full staff; tiki-tiki torches burning; pillows and blankets around a beach bonfire, and the three of us were the only living souls there. Sprawled on expensive cushions around the fire, looking across glassy water at the only boat at dock: ours, I so totally expected a monochrome Rod Serling, sucking nervously on a cigarette, to step out from behind a palm tree and enounce, "Three women, on a beach you won't find on any map. Because these three: a Canadian, a Turk, and a Russian, have sailed into... The Twilight Zone."
Instead, Sinem broke the silence. "It's cuz of my boyfriend." She stared into the fire. "I had to tell you two, why I don't want to be in Marmaris tonight."
"Boyfriend!?" It wasn't what I expected to hear from her.
"He is there?" Elena asked.
"No, not him... his mother."
"Oh..." Elena let that sink in. "Then, where is he?"
"London." More fire staring.
"Ach, boyfriend left to London, so you missing him?"
"He's English. Lives in London. His mother is in Marmaris to see me."
Nobody said anything after that. What could they? At least, Rod Serling's aside would have made sense of things.
The fire was down to mere embers, and nothing restoked it. Sinem stood. "Want to play some night volleyball?"
"No. Want knowing why mother of boyfriend, she has come to here." Elena was unsettlingly serious.
"Oh, Lenna... It is complicated and long story. You probably do not want to know it."
"I do." Elena whispered. Teary eyes locked on Sinem's.
We pulled our huge beach cushions together in a conspiratorial coven. Sinem started. "I met this guy. He was a lot younger than me, but we got along great. He was into poetry and I was, too. We would read each other's stuff. He would come over, and we would recite poems and improvise, and talk all night. So I fell in love with this young guy and he fell in love with me." She stopped, took a deep breath and gazed up at the stars.
"Now, he is back in England, and his mother is here?" I prodded.
"Yeah, I'm getting to that. He wanted to study at university in England. He wanted to be a poet and he was good, and he won a scholarship to study at Cambridge."
"Wow, Cambridge!" I was impressed.
Elena shushed me.
"He told me that he would kill himself, if I didn't go with him, but I couldn't go to England with him. I'm Turkish. Like a Russian, I can't go anywhere." Sinem explained.
"That sounds like emotional blackmail." When it comes to spouting pop-psychology; babe, I'm the best. It sure takes the pressure out of dealing with real feelings.
Sinem glared at me, like I'd blown a pant-ripper during a minute of silence. "Not really. I know how he felt. I felt the same. I really, really loved him. God, I still love him."
"Why didn't you get married?" Elena asked.
"We couldn't," Sinem hesitated. "Never mind, it's not important. He wouldn't go without me. He would give up the scholarship and stay in Turkey. He has so much talent, I couldn't let him throw it all away. So, I told him I would go with him. I gave him money to go and get set up. I promised to come to him when the charter season ended."
"And you never went?" I said.
"No, I never went. He told his parents about me. Was going to leave everything to be in Turkey with me. His family and parents would disown him. His mother found my number and called me. He doesn't know this. She told me that their family would have nothing to do with him, would cast him out and would ruin me and the sailing school and even the charter company we use their yachts from; if he was with me."
Elena's cheeks were wet. All I could say was, "Harsh."
"Not so much. His mother was right. She is right. We can never be in a relationship in Turkey and I can't stay in the UK. We can only love in secret here. I don't want that for him, or for me."
"Why in secret?" It didn't compute. I'd seen couples in the local nightclubs hiding nothing!
"He comes from an important, rich, and influential family. They would be ruined if the papers found out about us." Sinem shifted on her cushion. Stuck out a foot and kicked at the embers -- in sandals! It was like she was numb. "So, I had no choice. I ripped out my own heart. Broke it off with him. Told him we were finished, that there was someone else. I never heard from him again."
There was silence.
Sinem stood, kicked at the ashes. "Girls! Our fire has gone out. We need to play drinking backgammon, or swim, or..."
"Gare-ells?" That's the best I can do for how Elena said it. "Still, I do not know why should his mother be here to see you."
"Oh right: guys! So, guys, last one to that mooring buoy and back buys the raki."
Nobody moved. Not even Sinem. She sighed, dropped onto her cushion. "I don't know why she is here. She wrote me a long letter, to thank me for sending him away. She said he isn't taking it well, but with time and treatment he will be okay; if I keep my word and help them rebuild their lives by leaving their family alone."
"Wow... horrible. This woman sounds like a monster. The family sounds creepy. You ripped your heart out and crushed the love of your life for them!? Because someone else knows what is best for you and him?" I looked at Elena, took her hand. She shook her head at me to lighten up.
"She isn't the worst. His father wanted to kill me. I am thinking that she is here to thank me, to threaten me, maybe to sue me. Or just to make sure that I am gone from their lives and will leave them alone."
"She is waiting for you in town, now?" Elena asked.
"She is, at a hotel, leaving it up to me. She will wait to see if I will meet with her. She wrote that she will wait there until noon. It is up to me. Oh gir-guys. I can't face her. I can't go to Marmaris."
"To play some twisted game? No way." My first instinct was to deflect with some jest about drinking games. "I am so sorry, Sinem. But touched that you would share this with us." I was actually a little astonished at my sudden onset of sensitivity. Maybe I could be a bit human after all.
"Well, now you know. It is so good to be here, with my friends." She half crouched and encircled us in an awkward hug. "Time to go to the yacht, get in pajamas and I will teach you how to play backgammon like true Turks!"
Across the bay we could see the lights, lasers, and hear the throbbing of Marmaris's open air nightclubs. It was good to be here, and not there.
I awoke to bright light flooding the cabin, and the glorious aroma of coffee dancing on micro air currents... Coffee!? Elena was lying beside me, still asleep, our legs impossibly entangled. We don't have a coffee maker, besides, she's never made me a cup of coffee in my life. Sinem! Oh yeah, resort, beach, cushions, bonfire, broken hearts.
"Rise and shine, sailors. We're going back." She handed me a cuppa Joe in bed.
"You made coffee?"
"I made breakfast! I've skippered these yachts and made more coffee and breakfasts in their galleys than you ever will."
I disentangled from Elena. "Back: back where?"
"Marmaris. The marina. I'm going to face this. I am going to meet this woman. I can do this. I have to. For me, for her... my beautiful boyfriend."
Elena and I putzed around, like it was a sailing lesson. Sinem was our instructor, after all. "Oil -- check! Brakes -- set! Flaps -- up! Masters and magnetos -- on!"
"For crying out loud! I'll drive. Untie us. Let's go already."
Every mile we chugged toward town, ratcheted Sinem's stress level up a notch -- or two. She paced back and forth behind the wheel, bumping the throttle forward -- coaxing a few more revolutions from our tiny diesel -- with each pass.
"Sinem, you must not let this woman to hurt you." Elena might have been recalling her own parental encounter in McDonald's.
She was silent. Chin forward, she responded by shoving the throttle to the wall.
I hurt for our poor, little, coffee grinder engine, taking the brunt of Sinem's self loathing. At least it looked like some kind self-destructive bent to me. "She's right. Why tear at old wounds?"
Sinem alternately glared at me and then Elena. "Stop! I am going to tell you girls -- you guys -- something nobody knows." She leaned on the throttle lever for support, or emphasis. It was already at full. "My boyfriend, I have been telling you about, well she is a girl!"
Like it was a big surprise, but Elena and I were stunned into silence.
"Oh Meg, Elena! Don't you get it? I never wanted to fall in love. I didn't know that I even could, that it could ever happen. She came to me and I didn't know I had those feelings. It was like I was alive and I couldn't live without her. It hurt, and was frightening, but I wanted to feel that way." Sinem abandoned the wheel, spun around, stared into our frothing wake.
Elena quietly took the helm, easing back on the throttle a bit. "But you sent her away! You say that you did what was best for her. How do you know what was best for her?"
"She tried to kill herself! Okay, do you now see why it is best for her!?"
The engine droned. We were silent.
Sinem finally spoke. "... And now, I am going to promise her mother, that I will never speak to her daughter, ever again."