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[This entry is nonfiction, but not an accounting of a true event. It is a mashup of the conversations I’ve had with various people since I began declaring my intent to sail around the world.]


"I'm going alone."

The room falls silent. Across the dinner table, my grandma is staring at me with a wild look in her eye. My aunt is half-smiling, waiting for the joke. My cousin, mouth full of barbecue chicken, gives me an impressed thumbs up.

"Is that even... legal?" asks my uncle, head cocked, a line of concern between his brows.

"Technically, no," I hedge. "But no one's been arrested for single-handed sailing yet, as far as I know. I just have to be careful about staying clear of shipping lanes any time I want to sleep." And I'm off, babbling about radar and vessel identification and how the horizon is eight miles away. That gives me a good twenty minutes to get out of the way of most large vessels, out in the open ocean. Saying it aloud, though, that doesn't sound like much. My grandma is still staring.

"How long does it take?" my cousin asks, now that his mouth's empty.

"I'm thinking two years. A girl just did it in seventy-nine days." I shrug, pushing my food around on my plate. My aunt isn't smiling anymore. "But she went around non-stop, and that's no fun. It'd be like driving to Disneyland, touring the parking lot, and driving all the way home."

And unimaginably lonely. I can't imagine seventy-nine days at sea, deliberately avoiding every piece of land, interacting with only the birds and rare passing vessels, the entire way around the globe. It would be, I imagine, a little like being a solo astronaut, going off into blue nothingness with only a radio and the hope of re-entry someday.

"Are you trying to set some kind of record?" My uncle again, the practical one. I shake my head, and take time to taste the chicken.

"No, unless there's a record for most words written while at sea. The bars have all been set so high that there'd be no joy in it, especially these last few years, with all the kids going for youngest and fastest. There was a fourteen-year-old girl somewhere in Europe who tried to do it this year. Fourteen." Too young. I'm more than a decade older, and I'm not sure I'm not too young.

"Was this your father's idea?" Grandma, finally. Her knuckles are white on her fork. She's my mother's mother, a landswoman to the core. I think even fishing upsets her.

"No, Grandma." I smile for her, at her. "Mine. I'm not sure what he thinks about it yet. It's something I have to do."

To be honest, I'm not certain Dad believes I will do it. He knows the daughter I've become over the years - entrenched in my computer and my habits of leisure. But he wasn't there the day the Cruise came to me, the day I found myself sitting in the lunchroom at work, sobbing helplessly over the pages of Maiden Voyage. In that book, the girl's father was the one with the idea. He knew she needed that voyage, to circumnavigate, and he pushed her until she did it. How far would I be already, if that were my dad?

"How are you going to pay for it?" I knew that question was coming.

"By living like a miser. Sell my car, get a job, two jobs, whatever I can do." I pick at the potatos. The money's my weak point. "The boat I can probably get cheap, since I'm in no hurry. Then I have to refit and save up a cruising kitty." I sheer away from numbers. They don't need to know that I need $20,000 after expenses to make this dream come true. I'll manage, I have faith. But bringing up numbers would bring up arguments - Grandma doesn't approve of frivolous things, and I think the thought of throwing away more money than she spent on her first home on this mission of joy would offend her at a visceral level. Surely that's why she's beginning to look angry.

"When are you thinking of going?" asks my aunt. She knows it's not a joke now.

"When I have the kitty," I say with a nod. "I won't know until I've got the money coming in. I hope to be able to do some kind of fundraising, too. Maybe connect with a cause, or get sponsers." I don't say how unlikely that is. "Probably in two, maybe three years..."

"Will there be pirates?" my cousin asks, excited by the prospect. The question was inevitable; he's wearing a Jolly Roger rub-on tattoo. And he's twelve.

I grin, but it's a question I have to ask seriously. "Maybe, but not the Captain Jack kind. I'll work very hard to avoid sailing anywhere near them alone-"

I'm interrupted by Grandma setting down her fork with a deliberate clatter.

"Is this suicide?" she asks, voice hard. She's straight as an arrow in her seat, both hands in her lap now, eyes fixed on me. "You want to just disappear?"

So it's suddenly my turn to stare. And everyone else's, as well, all our mouths hanging open. "No, no, Grandma," I stammer when I can find my words again. "This is... this is real. I want to sail around the world. I've been around boats since I was born, I can do this." I hear myself as if from at a distance, my voice nowhere near as confident as I'd like.

"Then why alone?" she demands, words cracking out like stones striking stones. "People die at sea all the time."

I rub my hand hard across my mouth, pushing my plate away. "People make it around the world all the time, too. You just don't hear about it on the news because it's not news anymore. Lin and Larry Pardey keep doing it, and they're in their sixties. Tania Aebi did it at eighteen-"

"Why. Alone." She's like an Easter Island head, staring me down. No one else dares interrupt her, not even my cousin.

"... Because I don't want to spend two years in a space the size of a minivan with anyone else." It's the most honest answer I have, and I learned it the same week I cried over that book. I don't know of any relationship in my world that could stand that test, be it friendship or more.

She sits back in her chair at last, staring at me as if I've become something Other. She has no more to say.

I'm going alone.


This entry was written for [livejournal.com profile] therealljidol, a Survivor-style LJ write-off. Voting starts tomorrow and will be a weekly thing until there is Only One. Wish me luck.
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