Misery of the Seas

It was hard to believe I was actually making a move and not letting life trample over me. That instead of retreating farther into my couch with a pile of romance novels and sappy movies I was hopping on a cruise ship to meander through the Caribbean. Gary was Gary and he wasn’t going to change. Fourteen years had proven that too many times to count.

I’d tried. He’d tried…for a while. But enough, I cleared my head of my ex-husband as I climbed out of the cab and took it in. The boat was the size of a prison. Wait no, Gary always said that I could spot the tiniest impurities on the largest flower. My floating paradise for the next two weeks awaited. There.

The only hitch to this get-Sarah-back-on-her-feet plan was Gina. This was supposed to be a trip for two. But Gina had met a cowboy a few weeks back and hadn’t come up for air since. So then there was one.

A cute guy checked my bags. Said cute guy called me Ma’am. Paper work. Pictures. Luggage. The whole time I was surrounded by starry-eyed lovebirds. This was going to be a long two weeks.

So I did what I did best. I sulked. I thought about how every year Gary and I had gone to Myrtle Beach so that he could golf with his buddies. How he’d been all over the country with work and never once asked me to join him. How sometimes he met up with friends before even coming home first. This, while around me the lovebirds chirped. About staying in their room for the week, about hot tubs and tans. Heavier lovebirds squawked about the buffet. I watched the ramp close like a cell room door before we we were ushered to the ship.

I roamed the corridor. Strolled along the deck. The day was beautiful but I was all gloom. Then I heard my name.



I leaned forward. Looked to the port where I saw a man flailing. Gary. Yes, that Gary. Waving his arms like mad and screaming.

Romantic comedies always end well. So why not? Why couldn’t this be happening? Why couldn’t I squint through my sulky tears and see my husband calling to me like our lives depended on it.

I needed to get off the boat. I looked for someone, anyone to help me. Those lovebirds weren’t loving now, they were gawking at a real live woman trying to save her marriage. Fine, take notes, newlyweds.

I scraped past. Elbowed and fought my way to the edge as the bellow of the barge horn became my call to arms even as it muted my Gary’s pleas for forgiveness.

This could happen, right? This could be our lives. Gary had never been Mr. Spontaneity but hey, I was moving on, and maybe that’s what it took to light a fire under his saggy behind. My mind swam as I bolted for the front of the ship and found an employee.

I begged him to stop this boat right that minute. He said it was too late. No. Gary was up on the rails now, waving what looked like a flag of surrender. A gathering behind him, bystanders watching a man trying to get the girl.

And that girl was me.

He looked so small. He looked so…vulnerable. He didn’t look so much like the man who told me my ass had more dimples than a golf ball. He looked desperate. Like he’d just realized that he just might lose me forever.

“Miss, please get down. I’m going to have to ask you—”

I jumped. I jumped for my love like a goddamned Pointer Sister. My stomach folded and flopped as I plummeted twenty stories into the Atlantic, the whole time thinking that one day this plunge might be talked about in marriage counseling classes. This is what it took.


I was able to tuck in and not to kill myself. The water was warm and tasted tart, a rainbow toxic sludge of fuel and waste. I held my breath. A man on a loudspeaker was making demands but I swam through it all. I swam for my man and found him at the dock.

Gary. My sweet Gary. He leaned in, his face the hue of an onion as he pulled me up from ocean and into his arms. Almost.

Seaweed in my hair, dripping with fish guts and diesel fuel. Gary took a step back as security rushed to the scene. Someone handed me a towel. An ambulance came barreling ahead and Gary’s face found that distinctly Gary expression I knew all too well.

Oh shit.

Even with all the commotion he went through with it. He nodded to what wasn’t a flag of surrender but some papers in his hand. This was just after he’d taken in the massive cruise liner, then me. As though he was impressed with my feat, yet disappointed I’d lived.

“So, uh, I heard you were leaving. My lawyer thought it would be best to get you to sign here and here.” He flipped to the back. “Oh and here.”



–Pete Fanning/2016


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