Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Nurse the Hate: Hemingway Weekend Goes Off Rails

I had gotten in too deep.  All of those Hemingway novels and short stories I had consumed on a jag in my twenties sat in the back of my brain, apparently waiting to be activated by the self guided tour of Hemingway’s Key West house.  The romance of the Hemingway lifestyle is impossible to debate.  A global citizen when that was a real commitment, he maintained residences in Paris, Chicago, New York, Key West, Havana, Bimini, Spain, and on and on and on. I think I would be well suited to the insulated upper crust 1930s lifestyle of spending the summer in Provence with a consistent cadre of friends until leaving for Barcelona on a whim with Bradley, Fitz, Lois, and Natasha.  Sure, you would have to wire New York for money now and again, but that’s a small trouble.  The reality of Hemingway being a blowhard drunkard that wore out his welcome and just kept moving is inconvenient to consider.  The myth is better.

I began to speak only in short declarative sentences.  While it was annoying to those around me that were in the inner circle, to any outsider I encountered it had to be very confusing.  What’s wrong with that guy?  I was by myself on a dive boat with a group of tourists.  One of the tourists dropped their voucher into the water by accident and an instructor casually hopped into the ocean to retrieve it.  The captain made a joking remark along the lines of “what a brave girl to rescue that piece of paper”.   I hadn’t really spoken since leaving the dock, so it must have been really odd for those on board to hear me say loudly and without expression, “We will not forget this day.  There was no hesitation.  She leaped in the water with great courage.  The sea gives no favors.  The sea takes and gives as it decides.  It is not up to us.  We must remember this day.  All of us.”   About twelve people stared blankly at me.  

I dove the wreck of the Vandenburg which is this huge navy ship about the size of a large cruise ship sitting in 135 feet of water.  It’s enormous and offers plenty of opportunities to penetrate the wreck while abundant animal life ignores you.  As I was by myself I was paired up with a Hispanic guy named William that was a relative novice like me.  We had a guide named Chris who fit the profile of almost everyone in Key West.  He had lived in Boston, was married and a construction project manager.  As he told me, “I was 52 going on 22 married to a woman that was 52 going on 62.  I wanted adventure and a life.  She wanted to relax.  I got a divorce, gave her everything, moved down here and became a dive instructor.”  We got in the water and it was obvious that William either didn’t understand what Chris had gone over as the plan or just chose to ignore it.  While he floundered around on the descent he spent almost all of that time fucking around with his go pro camera.  I became concerned about William.

There is a large percentage of the population that doesn’t actually experience anything anymore as they are so actively trying to record it on their phones.  While a shipwreck with amazing detail was directly in front of him, William chose instead to look at the two inch by three inch viewfinder of the shipwreck on his camera.  He should have paid attention.  That guy is going to kill himself on a dive one day.  When one is swimming inverted down a staircase at 120 feet in the dark, I think it is more important not to tangle yourself in debris than worry about your video of the experience that you aren’t really having.  

We ascended back to the boat for surface time before the next dive.  William fucked around with his camera.  When making dives at a depth like that it is necessary to allow nitrogen to work out of your system before going back down to depth.  A group of us sat on the deck waiting to go back in the water making small talk.  One of the guys was from Philadelphia and had an Eagles tattoo on his leg.  Are you an Eagles fan?  "Man!  I’m a huge Eagles fan!  We are going to be sooooo good man!  Chip Kelly has the guys playing awesome!  We are going to go 13-3.I turned to the water and said in a flat tone “They will need to play like men.  Like men that have faced war and cannon and loss and death.  Like men that know that only by victory can they continue to be men….”

Everything got very quiet.  It was obvious that speaking in this way made people very uncomfortable as in “how do I get off the boat with this fucked up guy on it?”.  The water made small lapping sounds against the hull.  I waited and let the silence stretch as long as I possibly could before speaking again.  I mangled some Hemingway quote I had read once.  “I always thought of the sea as La Mar, like a woman that could give or withhold great favors or be cruel and play tricks.  We men are divers and we suspect this as truth but we must know this.  We must know this as truth like the sun and earth and nights of whiskey and fighting.”  The slacker guy from Philadelphia turned to me and said “Dude, aren’t you from Ohio?  Why are you talking like that?”.  I had to do everything I could not to laugh.  “We must get our gear.  It is almost time to return to the sea.”  I could feel glances exchanged between people as I walked to my gear.  

The second dive was without incident as William must have figured out how to use his goddamn camera.   We cut down the side of the ship and entered a pitch black storage room.  We dropped down a shaft into the cold blackness.  The water became warm again after swimming to the sunlight.  I heard a tell-tale “click click click” of dolphins but couldn’t see them out in the blue.  Curious barracuda drifted over to us as we did a safety stop.  I clumsily climbed back onto the boat and got out of my gear.  “How was your dive?”  The ship is proud.  The sea wants to claim her but she holds fast.  The grouper and the barracuda and the sound of the dolphin.  To feel the sun after the darkness.  It was a good dive.  A fair dive.  An honest dive. 

I was once again met with a blank stare. 

There might be something really wrong with me in that I was essentially telling myself a joke that only I was aware was being told.  These poor people on vacation were trapped on a boat with some strange man that was speaking in a way that was just off.  I knew that when they returned to their homes people would ask them politely, “How was your trip?”.  They would then respond, “It was really good.  But there was this really weird man that was all alone on our diving boat that really freaked Nancy out.”  I hope I provided them with something to remember.  Something that was true.  Like the sea.  Dammit… I really need to stop…


At September 9, 2015 at 3:58:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

Clearly the best Hemingway writing ever.


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