The wind whips the hair from my face as I stare over the cliffs, over crashing waves and the spraying of foam below. I watch the ocean eat away at the rock little by little, ravenous, insatiable and undefeatable.
Nothing can fight the ocean.
I take a step back, raising my eyes to the colours upon the horizon. The sun has just set and the hues from the rays are bleeding into the clouds now engorged with gold. I can feel the quiet celebration of the stars ahead, waiting to be seen, waiting to emerge, waiting to shine.
I can hear the party behind me, can hear the laughter, the singing and the music radiating behind me like a reassuring palm on my back.
I’m still thinking of Edouard.
As I turn and sit on a table, overhearing conversations from those standing and on various perches, I wonder how I would be if he was there now. If I knew he was looking at me.
My back straightens involuntary and then I hunch over again, now with a small smile.
I imagine how it would be if he was joining in with the laughter.
If I knew I was going back to Delos with him that night.
I imagined the joy, and then upon realising that it was just that- my imagination, I swallowed down my disappointment.
One day, Elizabeth, I told myself. One day.
I threw myself into the party. We’re at a small hangout spot on top of a cliff where some of the military people like to spend time. We met a woman called Carol and her husband Steve on the first night we arrived and she insisted on putting on a huge spread for us.
“Look at all that,” Brian murmurs, eyeing up the box of fried chicken, the prawn salad and the copious amounts of alcohol.
“I don’t think I’ve ever tried this one!” I announce excitedly, holding up a bottle of black rum.
“It’s good,” one of the locals comments, gesturing for me to pour a measure.
I don’t need to be told twice, pouring a drink for myself. Music is blaring inside and soon Alex and I are dancing inside the building, Brady playing DJ to Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You.
It’s mine and Alex’s “song” at the moment. Maybe forever. Brady’s found four different remixes for us and is playing one after the other. I’m happy, twisting and turning, jumping and twirling. I’m happy.
God, I’m so happy.
Walking outside, I meet Carol’s husband Steve who is smoking a joint. I casually take a few drags and then return to the party. It takes me about 10 seconds to realise.
10, 9, 8, 7…
“Oh wow…” I say, pausing in my walk to lean against a wall.
6, 5, 4…
I manage to walk to Brian’s bench where he’s sitting with Karin and kneel beside them.
3, 2, 1-
He looks at me in question.
“Mate, I am so stoned.”
“Lizbef!” Brian laughs. I then laugh with him, although I’m not sure how I’m going to shift my legs into a standing position. I move around eventually, waiting for the fresh air to sober me up, relying on coco cola and bottles of water to rid the leadenness of my muscles.
It took about 3 hours to wear off- and I’m not even sure it wore off completely.
You’ve over indulged, Elizabeth, I tell myself. But it’s ok- we’ll wait this one out. I sat outside for a while and decided to film my confession- not knowing how much I would regret doing it the next day.
We’ve been partying a lot since being on this island and we all know it’s time for a break on our lungs and livers soon. We’ve been staying up too late, smoking too much and drinking- well… you know the story with that.
I’m looking forward to some time at sea for a break from the land. I think how strange it is when we’re on land for a while, we can’t wait to get back on the ocean. And then when we’re at sea, we’re happy, peaceful and content. But as soon as we’re almost at land again- we become restless. And then we rejoice when the land takes us. We wrap ourselves up in celebrations on hills, sand and pubs, until…
Until the land breaks us, and we cower back in the ocean’s embrace.
Wash us, we seem to say. Wash away the damage.
I need to be back on the ocean now. I need to have the sound of it surround my senses, I need it to roar in my ears and for the salt air to line my lungs.
I need those blue waters.
Some of the Ascension people have decided to throw us a party. It’s been incredible mixing such a mixed bunch of people on this island. It’s fascinating hearing the reasons how they ended up in this strange place. No one can own property here. Nor can you be buried here- unless you died of the plague and yellow fever back in the 1800’s. If you lose your job and can’t find another, you must go back to St Helena or wherever it was you came from.
But there is a celebration of life here at any hour of the day. And when you rejoice in those things you enjoy, people nod with appreciation, approval and satisfaction.
They’ll probably even buy you another drink.
We return to the boat happily and I’m excited to reach my bed. I’ve been thinking a lot and it’s been nice to have some time to listen to the words in my head.
And for once they’re kind words.
But I still need to process them.
It’s been a long time since I met anyone that I have cared for like that. It’s been a long time since I let anyone get close like that. I feel exposed and vulnerable- but at the same time peaceful.
I know that my journey is going to be an incredible one. I knew it ever since I rolled the dice with buying my plane ticket here.
I knew my life was about to change.
Regardless what happens after this trip, the adventure will never stop. I will never stop. I know that now.
I stare at the ceiling, the privacy curtain drawn and the lights out as I listen to my night time play list. Sometimes I have trouble dropping off to sleep and I rely on some chill tunes to be swept away.
You’re doing well, Elizabeth, I tell myself as my eyes start to fall. You’re doing well.
The next morning, I wake up to Brian making pancakes and bacon.
It’s official- it’s America Day and we’re set to celebrate. Each night I go to bed, I promise myself a break from festivities, but there’s always something going on wherever we go, and we’re always happy to celebrate life for some reason or other.
We had been invited to the military base on Ascension Island. It’s the 1st of July but it’s a Saturday- the best time to host a shindig. We dress up in our red, white and blue best, cutting up Brady’s American Flag pyjama bottoms into shorts and using the cut offs as striped and starred headbands.
As we head on towards the island, I hold the American flag high above my head. This is the huge flag that Delos keeps on the back when they’re anchored up. Sun-bleached and aged by the ocean, it’s a beautiful thing as it whips through the air. The colours stream out above us- a sign to all saying, “we’re coming! It’s time to celebrate!”
“Look at this,” Alex says as we hook Maggie up. “The British girl waving the American flag.”
I wave it again dramatically. “It’s my first America Day! Why not?”
I felt a sense of pride walking with my crew down the dirt beaten track towards the army base. They weren’t my colours but I didn’t care. I never cared.
I love England. I love Britain. I love our history and what we have achieved. But I also love these Americans aboard this boat. I love that in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty in the world, they embrace this one day to openly celebrate their country. And so they should.
They should rejoice in being American. And if not American, then toast to being part of the human race. Celebrate being a part of the universe where every country has hang ups, discourse and disharmony. Celebrate because you are human- and to be human is to error.
Celebrate the land you have come from, because in doing that, cutting away the politics, the media and all of the noise, it is a place where you were born and raised by the people you love.
And that’s worth raising a glass in my opinion.
I always thought I would be returning to England after this adventure. I was always told to, “get it out of your system, Elizabeth,” when I spoke about my journey. It was always met with the attitude that you head off for a year or so and then return. But I’ve changed. I’m not sure if I’m meant for an English life anymore. I’m not sure if I can go back to the concrete hubbub of the Midlands, the groaning of the weather and the cynicism towards the dreamer, the traveller and the adventurer.
I’m afraid if I go back, I will lose what I have just found.
I’m afraid I will lose myself.
So all I know is that right now- I have to trust in the Universe. I have to trust it to guide me wherever I’m supposed to go. I have to continue to follow my heart and continue to write. I’ve worked so hard to build up my base as an author. I’ve worked so hard in ignoring the naysayers, the raised eyebrows and the irritated sighs from people when they just don’t understand why you won’t get a “normal” job.
And you know what? I know I’m on my way. This is where I’m supposed to be.
I’m working as a writer aboard a sailing boat crossing the South Atlantic Ocean.
I’ve made it.
This is it.
And the best thing?
I get to share it with you, The Tribe.
My extended family.
And as the flag continues to boldly fly in the breeze, I smile. I know that everything is going to be all right.
As we arrive at the military base and walk through the bar, we are blinded by red, white and blue. The area is full of flags, streamers, decorations and anything else that could be hung on the walls. There’s baseball on the television, a huge table covered in bottles of alcohol and at the back is a bbq full of meat, being turned repeatedly over the grill by a grinning man wearing a cap. A majority of the people are wearing a Volcano Bar 4th of July t-shirt. We don’t know a lot of these people but we still wave and say hi with a small nod.
Settling ourselves in the main raised patio area in the centre, we stick our flag proudly in the middle of the table and then set to ordering drinks.
The day goes quickly like that, we drink, we talk and we eat. We’re all feeling a little bit hungover from the night before so down a couple of shots to try and perk us up.
Alex and I head to grab something to snack on, sharing a pork burger, potatoes and coleslaw. Incredibly delicious, our paper plate was empty within minutes, save the scraps of sauce we had left.
Turning to chat to each other for a split second, a gust of wind comes up and blows our plate away- to land in the lap of a woman wearing bright white trousers.
Alex and I freeze in horror as the woman slowly peels the plate away and fixes us with a look of contempt.
“We’re so sorry!” I apologise, at the same time thinking, every woman knows the risk of going out wearing white trousers.
“Can we get you a cloth or something?” Alex asks but the woman is not interested.
I sat down and tried to ignore the woman’s stares. Hell, I’d be annoyed too if my spanking white trousers got marked on the crotch with yellow sauce. But still, I know I don’t have control over the wind and my guilt lessens.
Soon it’s time for Major Dan’s speech. Major Dan is one of our friends on the island and is leaving to go back to America to be with his wife and kids. I’m excited for him. I love seeing families reunited and hearing the way he talks about his young ones and his wife, you can see in his face that he is a true American dad. I wonder what his house is like, if it has a big garden, a white picket fence and automatic sprinklers. Does he wear a mask at Halloween and scares children at the front door? When he comes home, will he be in his uniform, his wife pausing whilst she tends the garden to hear a car at the front? Will she run to him, flowers still in her hands, a smudge of dirt on her cheek?
I don’t know any of these answers, and maybe I don’t want to know.
Maybe the fantasy is better than knowing the reality.
He stands and makes a beautiful speech about solidarity, support and friendship. He talks about his time there and what he wants for our future. He talks about standing strong and quotes Abraham Lincoln.
Alex and I are standing side by side as we listen, an arm around each other as the American flag blows softly in the breeze.
He finishes and we clap our hands loudly, whistling and whooping his incredible speech.
I felt his words right through my heart and into my bones. I felt every word until-
A woman then hisses over to him and murmurs in his ear.
He sighs slightly, shoulders bowing a touch and lifts up the microphone one more time.
“Oh yeah, Bingo is at 4:30pm for those who want to join.”
What a way to end your leaving speech, I think as I watch him walk back into the crowd. My attention is soon taken up again when I realise a huge 4th of July cake is being brought up to the area where we’re sitting.
I stare at the frosted blue, white and red monstrosity as it’s carefully laid on the table opposite us, saliva filling my mouth straight away.
I won’t be ashamed to tell you that I was the first person to get a slice. The ratio of cake must have been 60% frosting and 40% cake. As a headache started to form, I fed as much of it as I could to Brian, easing my guilt of the delicious feast as I did.
More drinks come and go and soon it’s time for us to jog on. The group have been asked if they want to go to see the fishing competition the next day, which means we should probably get back to Delos quick smart.
I’m slightly disappointed at this moment after learning that a 5am wake up is required. I’m also suddenly not keen in seeing fishing as sport. I feel as though you should fish when you need to eat, not because you want to have a trophy.
I’m sure these people eat their fish as well. But walking around the pubs and seeing fins from giant fish pinned onto the wall, next to pictures of ginormous Marlin being caught and hung up next to a grinning man, have truly put me off it.
On Delos we only fish when we need to. And we do it responsibly.
I’m still figuring out how I feel about the entire thing really, but I’m sure I’ll discover more about it as my time continues here and I learn more. I explain myself to Brian and although a part of me wants to experience as much as possible, the rest of me is content to stay in bed away from watching fish being caught.
As we returned to Delos, I stayed up till 2:30am writing The Delos Diaries and when it was time to rise at 5am, the group left me in bed.
I thanked all the powers of the Universe for that.
I enjoyed a nice lie in, a peaceful cup of tea and played whatever I wanted to on the radio. I then decided to take what I had learned from Malin, the French boat and made seawater bread for the troops upon returning home. It made me feel good to try and make what I had seen Edouard make for me. It brought it back somehow, to experience it again- even if it was in a different way and didn’t taste half as good as what he had made. I wanted to be wrapped in the memory once more.
In this reality of being separated by miles and miles of ocean as we both sailed on our adventures, with no internet contact, no phones, no nothing- this was all I could do to feel close to him.
I wondered what he would think if he saw me now, flour up to my elbows and streaked across my face as I triumphantly succeeded in creating dough.
It felt good.
It was 12 when the crew returned. The bouncing of Maggie against Delos was the first sign they were home, then came the creaking of the rope as they hoisted her up on the side, their voices spreading down into the cockpit as they peered below.
I was excited to see them. Strange after spending so much time with them, a few hours away feels like an eternity. Alex jumped down, her hair in disarray as she peered at the tomatoes I was cutting up.
“Everyone is really hungry,” she stressed. “What are you cooking? Are you cooking now?”
“Yes, yes,” I nodded, moving my body quicker, pulling out pans and setting to work. “It’ll be ready in twenty minutes.”
“Ok,” she said, picking up some slices of tomatoes and popping them in her mouth. “It’s just everyone is-”
Soon, I had made a spread of bruschetta, homemade bread, fried eggs, baked beans and garlic mushrooms. I had used all of my skills to make everything as quickly as possible, setting out the table in a pretty affair to treat the troops.
But as I called that lunch was ready, I suddenly realised that everyone had gone to bed and passed out.
Alex scrambled out of her room, sitting down at the table immediately, her eyes wide at the sight of eggs, beans and bread.
She was the only one awake.
I sat down at the table where everything had been laid out, Alex hungrily eating her fried egg with beans dripping down her chin as Brady softly snored from the other room.
“Yeah, I may have just said that because I was really hungry,” she said, her mouth full with egg.
Eventually everyone woke hours later, ate their lunch with the slowness that comes from getting up at 5am and then returned to bed until dinner was ready.
It was a slow day and I enjoyed it, feeling productive and creative. For dinner I made seawater potatoes in a blue cheese sauce with sweet chilli chicken. It was probably one of the favourite meals I made and I swore to use seawater more in my cooking.
The night was drawing to a close, and after Brian, Lisa and I cuddled up to watch an episode of Black Sails, I kept glancing at my laptop. The past week had been crazy and I needed to write about it.
I needed to go back to the beginning and relive it all.
And that is the best thing about being a writer. These worlds, these memories, these days that I get to experience will never die. I can go back to them whenever I want, my fingers spinning across the keyboard as the images flare up and spark in my mind.
I have to share this with The Tribe, my heart beats. I have to share it with them.
And so I write.
Find more about Lizbef here! www.earlewrites.com
For more sailing adventures check out svdelos.com