Monday, November 28, 2005

Ivan, Row the Boat Ashore

It was supposed to be a romantic boat ride under the moonlight. Weren’t boat rides under the moonlight romantic by definition? Yet Ivan was ruining it. He wasn’t talking. He didn’t take the opportunity to brush against her gently with small, playful pretenses of accident. He didn’t succumb to the simple fact of their being alone together in the tight confines of the rowboat. He just rowed, silent and persistent.

Pancakes looked toward the shore. It was impossible to tell if they were making any headway. They were too far out to get a good sense of where they were in relation to the land. Besides, it was dark. Ivan rowed, Pancakes watched, and the boat seemed to sit still.

Should she say something? She really wanted to. But it was his turn. That’s just the way it was. She could speak and relieve the tension, but they both knew how she felt. She didn’t need to keep going on about it.

So it was his turn. That much was obvious. Yet in spite of that, he just kept rowing. She couldn’t even see his face very well, although she could hear his labored breathing.

She felt herself getting angry. This was supposed to be their time to breathe a sigh of relief together. They were in this damn boat under the moonlight with a whole cooler of snacks and a couple of bottles of wine because this was a reward for hanging on during the last few weeks. This was supposed to be a giddy celebration after the tense silence of their little pregnancy scare.

So right about now, she thought, we should be laughing. Why the hell aren’t we laughing and drinking and eating cold grapes out of each other’s bellybuttons? Instead, here they were. Pancakes had gotten tired of making jokes and sharing her observations. Ivan’s responses short responses made her feel chastised. Plus, the wine was just making her tired. The whole affair was making her tired.

“I don’t think we are moving,” Ivan said. His tone was conversational, but the comment was so unexpected that Pancakes started as if he had just shouted in her ear.

“What do you mean?” Pancakes asked. “At all?”

He continued in his slow, studied manner. It always made Pancakes aware of the fact that English wasn’t his first language. “It’s taken me some time to make the determination, but I have been observing several different points on the shore. From what I can tell, we’re not making progress.”

Pancakes looked along the shoreline. “I can’t tell at all. What happens if you just stop rowing?”

“How will that help?” Ivan sounded almost petulant.

“Well, if you’re rowing and we’re not getting anywhere, then maybe there’s something moving us in the opposite direction of the way you’re pushing. So if you stop, then we’re not fighting it anymore.”

Ivan stopped rowing. He held the oars out of the water. Pancakes could hear the water dripping from them. “So I just stop? See where it takes us?”

Pancakes peered into the darkness. The moonlight illuminated the area, but the ocean was black, pockmarked by irregular glints of light off its choppy surface. “Unless you think it’s going to take us somewhere bad,” she said. “It might take us out to sea.”

“Or it might take us in to shore.”

Pancakes thought about it a moment. “So we just wait to see what happens?”

“I could continue to row, but that’s not having any effect. I don’t know if it’s better just to stay in one place and hope that things change or to try something new.”

Pancakes didn’t answer. She didn’t know the answer either, but she also felt anxious about making a suggestion in the face of so much obvious symbolism. It was over the top. There was subtext galore. Even though they were both too smart not to see what they were doing, they were still doing it. She felt like anything she said could push them toward some kind of decision they weren’t really ready to make. What could she say about the boat that didn’t sound like a vote yea or nay for the continuation of their relationship?

The boat was jarred by a series of waves created by some distant ship. She looked down. “Oh, shit, I think I got merlot all over this blouse,” she said, righting her plastic wine glass.