The Gull

The Gull

So the ferry plunged on and I was sat on the deck with my headphones in and I was just watching the ocean, not a care in the world. I can’t remember what I was listening to. Something with a bit of scope, whatever it was. Something perfect. There were people all around me but I didn’t care. I had my legs dangling over the side so I hung right above the bursting and boiling foam that was rolling out from beneath the boat. Every now and then the sun came out and made it all look a little too real for a few minutes before taking a bow and slipping back behind some cloud or another. I always noticed when it came out. Every time it did, I looked up and looked at the clouds around it and tried to guess how long it’d last before being covered again and I’d say to myself “oh this’ll be about two minutes” and pretend like I was some nature expert just nonchalantly showing his skills; except I was only saying it to myself and as soon as I’d had a guess I’d go back to my thoughts and not even check really.

I was in a queer mood and it seemed to me that my mind was more alive than normal. As if, after everything that it had been through that past week or so, it was finally recovering. Except, for a moment it had forgotten how it used to work and just by accident it was exceeding itself, overachieving for a while before realising what it was actually being asked for and then deciding to relax a little. Like a kid at the beginning of the school year who starts out eager and then realises nothing is challenging and ends up behind the tennis courts at lunch time smoking weed out of boredom. For that boat trip my brain was still keen I think.

I say that because even now, when I think back, I can remember every thought I had there, sat on the side of that ferry. I can remember every image and memory that shot through me. It was a strange feeling, perhaps something like what geniuses must feell all the time. Maybe. I don’t know. It just seemed to me that no matter how fleetingly a thought flashed through me I still had a firm hold on it; I could look at it this way and that. Consider it evenly and then move on by choice rather than being bustled forward by my mind with the feeling I was leaving something behind that I’d have to try and remember to come back to. I was moving on by choice for a change. And they really poured too. Thoughts slid and swirled into my head and whole stories coursed through me and even now I can remember it as one remembers a film from their childhood or even a dream. Perhaps a dream is more apt because, as with most dreams, I couldn’t tell you with any certainty how or where it began.

I remember thinking of old Fitzroy and how he had probably been on that same boat a few years before me, back before he died. I thought about him and even though his loss had left a massive hole in me somewhere I wasn’t thinking of that, I was just thinking of all the crazy shit he had got up to while he was alive and how he had given me something, ever so briefly, and how even though he was gone I still had that gift in me somewhere, that thing that he’d shared, and I felt like, for the first time, he was still very much alive. I remembered the stories about him and the girl on the balcony and how he’d gone missing that time only to turn up having spent a weekend on that yacht with the oil baron dude and all the nights we’d had in London that had started so inauspiciously and ended with such amazing stories. Tales of supermodels and secret societies and car rides with weather girls.

And then I was thinking how many other people must have had such extraordinary adventures and how you can never tell just by looking at someone. How appearances can be so deceptive, and I looked around me, with my music still pouring into my ears and drowning out any sense of real life, and I wondered how many others on that boat with me might be remarkable, how many might be incredible people that I wish I knew. Probably none, that was the shame of it. The damnable misery of it all was that if I had a detailed dossier of everybody on that boat I would probably still have thought that I was the most interesting soul on it. What a miserable world.

From there I looked at the water and my own feet in the foreground (or so it seemed to me) and I thought just for a second how silly toes looked and how toenails might not be necessary anymore and maybe we’d evolve beyond them soon but perhaps not because we’re quite a traditional bunch aren’t we, and then I went back to thinking about extraordinary people and I wondered what if some of these strangers, that seem recently to be surrounding me constantly, ever had similar thoughts. Perhaps they look at me and think ‘Is he remarkable? Is he an interesting person? Would I want him to approve of me?’ And I thought about that and I thought long and hard about myself and what I looked like right then.

I had sunglasses on, fake Ray-Ban wayfarers in tortoiseshell that I’d bought from that man named Enrico or Henrico or whatever. I couldn’t really remember because he had had the most perfectly bald head I’d ever seen and it was ridiculously distracting. I was wearing a plain white vest, some scruffy old blue swim-shorts and I was intermittently smoking cigarettes. I had my headphones in and I was sat alone with my feet overhanging and my arms on the railing. My hair was all scruffy where I’d had to rush to the boat because I’d overslept. I’d had a coffee earlier on when I first got on the boat and then a beer half an hour afterwards and I wondered what I would think of myself if I were a different person there with me and I looked at the water while I thought all of this and not for one moment did my eyes leave that gurgling, frothing water that was endlessly swelling under me and that kept, constantly, bubbling away behind the boat.

This was one of the points where the sun tucked in behind a cloud and everything got a bit darker and then I got all sombre and stupid and started thinking about other stuff that had bubbled away behind me and I started thinking of Sandy and how it’d been nearly two years since I’d even spoken to her and I thought about that picnic we went on and that little spot on the soft grass behind that hill where no-one could see us and how we’d laughed so much and then I thought of my other friends back home who still had people that loved them and I thought of Liam and Sophie and Chris and Saf and I wondered if what they had was anything like what I’d had and whether they’d stay together and whether if one of them was in a horrible accident that left them deformed would they still stay together? If they needed a kidney would they be there?

This wrinkled my brow for a second and then I realised that I knew absolutely nothing whatsoever about what kind of progress was being made or had been made in the world of animal organ transplants. Did it exist? People love cats and dogs like children and some people have more money than sense so surely these things had happened? Or given the limited lifespan of such little creatures was it just not being looked into? What about parrots and turtles that lived for centuries? What about panda bears and orang-utans and tigers and other endangered things? Surely when something that rare dies you harvest all its shit and put it on ice in case one of the ones that’s still alive needs a new spleen or something? If they weren’t doing that then they should be. This was something I suddenly felt it was very important to know about. Imagine what a wonderful conversation topic to be knowledgeable on. But I realised of course that I was on a ferry and had no way to find out so I just made a mental note to myself and determined that I should read up on it later. I still haven’t though.

I saw some fish jumping then, a little way off, and it got me thinking about how them jumping out of the water was like us going for a swim and how when we see fish jumping we’re like “oooh look” but when we go swimming and fish see us they just swim off completely unimpressed. I remembered hearing somewhere how you could drown in something like an inch of water and I wondered how many people you could drown in that whole ocean that I was ploughing across and I thought if anyone has ever actually drowned in one inch of water then they must have been incredibly stupid or incredibly unfortunate or both. You would have to pass out in a puddle or something. I thought about anchors then for some reason and how they never actually look that cool. Everyone thinks they look like the ones in tattoos or cartoons but when you actually see them they’re basically just big ugly metal spike things and I couldn’t figure out why they had been so glamorised and were seen as being so cool. I guess it’s the symbolism, the idea of them keeping us steady or whatever but they don’t really do that, they’re designed to hold you back as much as to keep you still, depending on how you look at it and who really wants to be held back? Scared people I suppose but fuck knows why you’d go out of your way to glamorise anchors when there are more than enough other things that hold you where you are already. Family, money, friends, commitment. There’s plenty of shit that will stop you moving around. I suppose anchors look better as tattoos than the abstract idea of commitment though.

I thought about Sandy again then and wondered where she was and what she did now. Not what she did as a job or where she was living or who she was seeing or anything like that, but what she did in the little moments. Had she changed? When there was nothing on tv what face did she pull now? When she was hungry and didn’t fancy anything in the cupboard did she still make that same noise that she used to? Did she still have the same moodswings when she was tired? Did she still like sleeping with classical music playing? How often did she brush her hair and did she wear make up more often now? It made me feel strange that apart from myself there was not a soul in the world that I knew these little things about. There was nobody in the world who knew them about me. If I died, if the boat blew up and sank, what would it really mean? People would be shocked and saddened and whatever but the loss of me wouldn’t rip anyone’s life apart. Not really.

The sun came back out. I gave it five minutes, maybe six.

There was a seagull sat on the water a little way off just up ahead of us. It was completely on its own and it was just sitting there barely even bobbing and I watched as we approached it and it didn’t even seem to notice us. I realised that the waves from our passing would be quite a pain in the arse for it and as they got nearer to it, it still didn’t move and then they reached him and he just bobbed up on them and down on them and then they were gone and as we kept moving onwards and away I watched him for as long as I could and he never twitched so much as a feather. Just sat there riding it out completely apart from the world.

We got in to port not long after that and that night there was a thunder storm and when I was in bed lying there, listening to the crack of the lightning and the throb of the wind and the bark of the thunder, I thought of that bird and I wondered if he was still there just bobbing around in the rain not giving a damn, just sitting there relaxing, not a care in the world. I barely slept at all that night.

 

Image by Jimmy Baikovicius

 

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