There’s a first time for everything. Riding an airplane, playing the guitar, getting the first kiss – everyone experiences any of these at some point. I, too, have my own set of first times. But among all those, there’s one first time I’ll never forget: travelling by ship alone.
At ten in the morning, I sluggishly gave my ticket to the two guys in charge for it. I noticed the other guy wearing a navy blue cargo suit staring at me. I find him attractive but I didn’t mind staring back. All I want to do that time was to go in my cabin and catch some winks. Having horror movie marathon the night before that day was a bad idea. I barely had five hours of sleep!
When I was in my cabin, the warm air took my drowsiness away. So instead of taking a nap, I took out from my bag The Mustard Seed book which I borrowed from my cousin and started reading it. While reading, from the corner of my eye I noticed someone staring at me. I put down the book and saw a guy waving hi and smiling at me. I was a bit surprised because he was that same guy who got my ticket earlier, only he wasn’t wearing his cargo suit anymore. He was already in his white t-shirt paired with khaki shorts. He looked younger than I thought.
I wasn’t sure what he was up to but trying to be polite, I smiled back. Suddenly, he went near and sat on a bed beside mine. The first question he asked was, “Magbabakasyon ka ba sa Cagayan?” Tagalog-gait man diay te, I thought to myself. I felt uneasy at first, but his charming face made me think he was harmless. Besides, there were other passengers nearby. “Ah hindi. Ang totoo niyan, galing ako sa bakasyon at pauwi nako ng CDO,” I replied. He extended his right arm towards me and said, “Ako nga pala si Jay.”
He was tall and lean. He’s got an even-toned, tan complexion. On a closer look, his eyes were round and dark brown. And his lips, it looked smooth and pinkish. His stares and smiles gave tingles on my spine. Jusko Lord, ka-gwapo ba, I thought again.
He’s also a talker. He told me that he’s a fresh maritime graduate and had been training as an apprentice for almost a year. After the training and few exams, he will be a full-pledged sea man. His story wasn’t that new to me though. I understood the life of a seaman. I grew up in a family of sailors. My uncles and dad were sailors. That’s probably the reason I directly felt comfortable conversing with him.
After a while, he invited me for a tour inside the navigation room. I suddenly heard the over-protective voice of my grandpa saying, “Don’t go with him. You don’t know him well. He might take you to a dark place and do terrible things on you.” (If you know what he meant) I hesitated for a minute. But then my curiosity urged me to go with him. I wanted to know how the navigation room looked like and how the sailors navigate the ship there. I shook my head as I tried to ignore the voice. My instinct told me it was okay. So I broke the rule and went with him. Gahig-ulo :)
In the navigation office, he introduced me to the captain of the ship, to his co-apprentices, and to the other sailors. There he showed me the maps, charts and electronic devices they use. He also taught me the meaning of a few light signals, importance of longitude and latitude, and other navigational stuffs which now I have humbly forgotten.
And for a moment, I did not feel alone. It seemed like I was travelling in my own ship and my friends were with me.
He also took me to the bow of the ship (that part of the ship in the Titanic movie where Rose held her arms open wide and Jack was behind her. Nyaha) and there we watched the big waves reflecting the moon and the stars. Only then, I realized it was already evening.
The cold, ocean breeze was blowing against my face. I felt the freezing steel railing lingering on my skin as I leaned on it. Everything felt cold. Then suddenly, I felt a touch of warmth in my hand. It was his hand holding mine. I was surprised and at the same time, speechless. Titanic ala Jack & Rose lugar ang show ani Lord? Dili lang unta mulubog ang barko kay di raba jud ko kahibawg langoy, my mind spoke. Then he said, “It is weird how we’ve just met and yet it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time now.” I stiffened with his words. I felt a sudden stab of pain in my chest. I realized that after the trip, I won’t be seeing my new friend again. He must have felt that too. And if I ever see him, it would be God’s will.
When it started to drizzle, we went back to my cabin. We sat down on the bed. The ship was already anchored that time and the passengers were starting to go out. He looked at me straight in the eye. His face was serious. “I hope I could still see you again,” he said. “Be safe… Always.”
He stood up and then he left.
That was the last time I saw him. He got busy with helping out the ship’s crew and I was also busy carrying my hefty baggage and my heavy heart as I headed my way out of the ship.
When I was at the seaport, I just sighed as I looked at the ship for the last time. Whether I see him someday or not, nothing is certain. One thing’s for sure though, my next trip alone will never be the same again.