Chapter 4: Gayla


It was both easier and more difficult than I’d anticipated. I knew I was to marry this man, but didn’t know anything about him. I had to assume I’d find him agreeable, since I knew I would marry him (and knowing myself, didn’t believe I’d have done so if he were awful)… But in the dark nights at my inn, doubts kept me company under the quilted counterpane. What if I only married him because I knew I would, and not for merits of his own?

Strangely enough, I think my fears calmed the day he told me about penguins. He even towed me into the cabin to show me a sketch in his private log, as if I might not envision his description of a bird “flying” underwater. Contrasted with my own blase attitude toward the penguin, fueled by lifelong exposure to zoos and picture books and Discovery Channel, his evident wonder at the world’s sights suddenly endeared him to me.

It also brought home to me how very different a world this is, and that was frightening. Here I was endeavoring to embark on a voyage of years, aboard a ship without motors or GPS (aside from the whimsically named sextant I had brought with me from New York), with no better protection than wool and oilcloth and the navigatory knowledge of this man beside me. And suddenly he seemed like the anchor in a sea of uncertainty. It’s not what most people would call the beginning of love, but I suspect love never does much match the fairy tales.

I’d been asking about him among the seamen ashore, knowing that captains as well as ships earned reputations in their home ports, and found him to be respected and considered a “lucky” captain. I knew little enough about him from my researches—though more about his future than he did himself. There was the engraved sextant hanging in a whaling museum beside the photo of its owner and his wife—myself—that had set me searching. (Making sure that photo got made was one of the items on my to-do list.) And a ship’s log from one of his voyagesthough now that I’d seen the thick pages of his private journal (something that hadn’t survived, or I hadn’t found) I felt another pang of worry about how much I didn’t know. How much I still don’t know.

Top of that list: I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. It’s my last day, I know that much from the newspaper clipping referencing Captain Starbuck’s wife “lost at sea”… But whether it’s overboard as the Daily Mercury will report, or if it’s what I suspect… I don’t know. If what I suspect is true, I still don’t know the outcome. I couldn’t research my own future, except the portion of it that lay in the past.

Before I Traveled I looked everywhere I could think of that I might have left myself a record, journal, letter, code, anything with extra information or clues… I finally figured I either hadn’t managed it, or it hadn’t survived. Now I know I never tried, having become convinced that I could not change the events I already knew—and not finding any hints in the future (my past) was in that category of “things I knew.”

Had I had that conviction at the beginning, I would have been less worried about that “to-do list” of clues I felt obligated to leave for myself, the ones I had already found in the future. Aside from my insinuating myself into the Coffins’ consciousness as a presumed agent of their investor, almost every other element fell into place without my manipulation. Well, the investment-scheme and the sextant. I had that engraved back when I thought I had to make things happen.

The joke is on me. I don’t make anything happen. The things I felt obligated to make happen, happened on their own. The things I’ve since tried to alter, I haven’t been able to. Ultimately, I couldn’t even convince my husband to avoid sailing these latitudes, once I realized I didn’t want to leave him. I’ve been clawing against tomorrow’s fate, knowing that whatever else the outcome entails—whether I Travel or die (or die in the Traveling)—it’s going to mean leaving him.

When he came up behind me a bit ago and teased me that I’d polish the rail with my hands, standing there so often, I forced myself to give a light answer—though I’m not even sure what I said. I was fighting the impulse to tell him.

But how to convince him in the short time left, and to what purpose? How could I let him blame himself, knowing he had sailed right into the triangle where I would disappear? The time to tell him, if there ever had been one, had passed when I didn’t tell him why I wanted to stay so far from Bermuda. I haven’t been able to change anything else I knew would happen, and I’m trying to resign myself to this.

Standing at the rail in this moment, I know I’m not going overboard unless I were to jump. I’ve (literally) weathered far worse than tonight’s riffled pewter sea. It’ll be the other. And I’m afraid.