I sleepily rolled from the thin mattress of my single bed and stood in the darkness of my cabin – my 70 square-foot home in the hull. The polo shirt I’d worn the day before, a pair of khaki shorts and my boat shoes – my uniform – were in a pile at the foot of the bed, just two feet from the door Jared the deckhand was rapping with his fist.
“Sorry man,” he said, “I know it’s super early, but some lady in the lounge wants to talk to you.”
I put on the wrinkled duds, pinned on the Cruise Director name tag, and trudged up the stairwell to meet her. As I looked out the porthole to the dim Caribbean dawn I thought about how surreal my life had become. The day before I’d worked 15 hours, but from 1 to 2 in the afternoon snorkeled the most beautiful reef I’d ever seen. Queen angelfish nibbled on coral spires as a school of blue tang surrounded me. The day before a seasick guest threw up on my shoe. A month earlier we hiked the mythical Mayan ruins of Guatemala. An eighty year-old guest was with me every step of the way. Then, upon hearing that only 3% of the Mayan empire had been discovered, another guest asked where all the undiscovered ruins were. A few months before that I sat with a thousand classmates in white plastic chairs and listened to the Governor of Virginia talk about the future and potential. Some speech.
I wiped my eyelashes loose from the night and laid a hand on the top of my desk for support.
“Good morning ma’am, how can I help you?”
She moved like a bird, twitchy and alert.
“Are stamps still 37 cents?”
“Yup. Still 37 cents.” I reached into the desk drawer for the stamps we kept on hand for letters and postcards and asked how many she wanted.
“Oh, I don’t want any,” she said. “I was just wondering.”
She turned and walked back to her cabin.