People watching and imagining the lives of those people, their stories, their histories, is high entertainment. And within the confines of a cruise ship, within the duration of a cruise, one is afforded a million opportunities to observe and imagine. Why, the tv hit of many years, The Love Boat, only reinforces the notion that there is endless story telling aboard a ship. I have only spoken with a handful of people on my particular cruise, and I know very little about them—but I can imagine, and I share these snapshots that are part truth, part fiction.
The Waiter – He is Serbian, the most handsome man on a ship of handsome men. His body is slight, his manor is gentle. He is aware of his good looks, but doesn’t exploit them, tending to guests as a humble and grateful servant. Ours was not his first cruise, in fact, he told us he is a seasoned seaman, his earlier cruises filled with women, both fellow crew members and female guests that he loved in the narrow berth that was his bed, much to the consternation and jealousies of his cabin mates, I suspect. And he drank like a seasoned seaman, cheap vodka and wine, bought at port terminals, from tug boat handlers and dock workers. Long ago, there was a cabin girl that broke his heart. He wanted to marry her, to be done with his raucous life at sea, but it was not in the stars, he said, and continued working ships for that was all he knew, the ebb and flow of water symbolic of what was, and what was taken away.
The Amputee – He is an American guest, a man torn apart by a Gulf War bomb, rebuilt by doctors with prosthetic, but no cosmetic, skills. He appears to be painfully bitter and in pain, not the type of vet that gives inspirational speeches nor participates in amputee athletics. I suspect forgiveness was taken from him along with his leg, but what do I know about that kind of loss. His wife is also a hero, the cruise her attempt to soothe his tortured soul, her fatigue, the hope that geography will change something within, that geographic change allows us to step outside of ourselves.
The Fat Man and his Wife – They are everywhere. They struggle with steps, they struggle in narrow hallways and streets, they struggle with breathing. I am shocked by the extent of my prejudice, shocked as to how much I judge their dress, their conversations, their size. Grandchildren seem to be their only activity, and in my short time onboard, I’ve looked at too many pictures of smiling babies on bulbous bellies, and yet these large people seem happy, or at least, happy to have each other. I suspect that my aversion is in part fear that I could easily become just like them, sedentary and obese, unhealthy, the American that Europeans ridicule behind their backs. My hope is that the souvenir I take home is compassion, an understanding that we are all held captive by something within.
photo credit: telegraph.co.uk