I went out to Johnson Island with a friend, and he took us around the water in a power boat. It was the brightest late afternoon, right before the sun starts to go down, when everything sparkles the most. There was a terrified pit bull burying it's head in my skirt, and my little red shoes up on the seat legs stretched out and pointed forward, because in boats all things point forward, and he went fast as he could before the others asked him to stop. Then he showed us all how to drive the machine, and I could barely make a right turn, so terrified was I that it would overturn the boat, or flip someone off into the water, since just that week I had crashed his car, and I couldn't take it if I crashed something else he owned, my whole heart would have broken. It's fun though, to be scared on the water.
Lake Erie is mine and I'm it's. Long after I've been away for years, swimming in larger more famous oceans, in rivers and bayous and hot springs and waterfalls, it will always be the body of water that owns me. It is definitely Lake Erie water in my veins after all, it's definitely Lake Erie in my spit and tears and cum. Glacial water full of life and dirt and organisms. My parents raised me as a Lake Person whether or not they realized it, and Lake People are the best people. North is always the Lake. Streets, maps, directions are in relation to the Lake. I get to all the good places by going along the coast, through the lush low forests and technicolor blue and green scrubby farmlands.
And so this is me on boats. I fill myself with happiness and freedom and wind, and I store it deep within my chest, tiny little packets of sun, shine, thunderstorms and waves to use for later. Maybe the Lake is the closest I'll ever get to the divine Mother or Father, to God. I can't articulate it better than the orgasmic pain of my chest getting tight with joy when I am by it, or in it, or on it.
In the daytime, the water is still big but it is not as big. You can see things on the other shore, you can judge distance. The sun sparkles everywhere, in the middle of the bay everything is melting glass. When you drop anchor and heave yourself off into the water, the sand is soft and clear on your toes, and you're amazed by the existence of sand bars and geography, that you can be standing in water only up to your knees but the shore is a hundred feet away. I walked to the highest point on the sand bar, where you could see the seagulls walking around like tiny proud feathered Jesuses, and I lay down with my head in the little waves, only an inch or two of water that laps around my skull, up to my cheekbones. I made sand angels with my arms and legs, and felt the water and sand filling the impressions slowly and insistently around my skin, the occasional wave going entirely over me. "This is how I drown" I said to my friend, who was laying next to me. "This is how you write my obituary, Bridget Callahan, drowned in 2 inches of water. Her last words were "I just don't care."'
The fire has died down, there are beer cans scattered underneath the wooden picnic benches, and the remains of english muffin pizzas, smores, cheese, whatever else has migrated out from the house to the dock. Around us, the air is pitch black and smells like waves, fire, and crickets. All around the shore are house lights, and across the bay the amusement park rides are lit up in purples, golds, and greens. Earlier, we watched the fireworks as the park closed.
Alright, he says, I think it's time for a boat ride. We are pretty tipsy. Our two friends decline, they want to stay on shore with their dog and go to sleep. He and I, we are dumbfounded by this. Who turns down a night boat ride? What kind of person, what creature is this, we cannot even begin to relate to the type of logic that leads to you NOT going on a night boat ride. The neighbor lady, who has a "moral" issue with boating at night, she can't refuse even, because it's gorgeous out. It's gorgeous, we're happy and young and we have a goddamn boat.
I sit on the bow, and at first he mosies along, chugging silently towards the brightest lights we can see, which is a large cargo ship on the other side, plowing the water with vast impenetrable patience towards the mill elevator. He pulls us as close as the channel will let us, and we watch the ship imperceptibly rotating around to position itself for docking, a slow giant monster, so large it is completely unaware of our tiny little running lights.
He turns the boat towards the now closed amusement park, all its neon lights glowing, and the flashiest one a Ferris wheel with a constantly changing computer guided light display - all nautiluses and stars and sunbursts, frenetically spinning and shining. He opens the throttle and we speed fast and rough directly towards the circus lights. I lie against the bow, leaning into the wind, watching the neon patterns spinning closer and closer. "This is a Gatsby moment" I shout back to him through the wind. The Ferris Wheel is my green light, and I want the rest of my life to be just like this.
We turn away from the lights, and face the open water of the Lake. There is no distinguishing between water and sky, everything is the same clouded black. The boat stops, and we rock there quietly, the darkness is so thick that it feels like we are drifting into fog. In the distance, behind us, there is an faint orange glow lighting up the clouds, and that's all the light pollution from Cleveland, hours away from us, pushing into Space. The water underneath the running lights looks milky. Every once in a while we hear a fish jumping out of the water, slight sporadic splashes coming from the void. If my entire body wasn't buzzing with sensation, I would have fallen asleep and we could have floated into the blackness to never be seen again, and that would have made me insanely happy, to see what happens in the dark.