She was instantly sick.
Ray made himself distraught trying to alleviate her pain. He kept opening and closing his tackle box and staring into its contents wildly. “I thought I packed Dramamine,” he muttered. Sheila rarely felt motion sickness when the two of them put out for a day of fishing in New York Bay. Maybe once before? One sign of weakness was enough for Ray—a lifelong New Yorker—to curse himself for negligence. Of course, wrapped around each curse was an admonishment that Sheila felt.
She tried humor from her wretched position with her head between her knees. “Maybe I’m allergic to getting up early.”
He picked up the thread for a bit. “I guess this means your Friday night casserole is officially banned from the menu.”
Underneath their words, the terror waited: Would she become sick all over the boat? Would the hundreds he’d spent renting the boat for the day all go nowhere and not even a fish would allow itself to be caught? And further down still in the dark: She’d had the stomach upset quite often lately, so often she carried a bag of medicine for her pains with her everywhere. She’d given up wheat and dairy and meat for a while, thinking there may be a connection between her cramps and animal products. In between the nausea and the momentary relief from the bloat, this thought: pregnant? “If I’m lucky,” she whispered. And Sheila knew that this kind of pain was not that simple. Dear god, was that smell coming from her body?
“We should turn back,” Ray said. He was staring straight ahead at the Statue of Liberty. They hadn’t even passed her by yet. Who knew the gateway to Gotham City was so vast?
“Stop that,” Sheila told him.
“We could dock it and go grab a bagel on Staten Island.”
“Fuck no.” She swallowed hard. “You put your foot on it.” And even with her head between her knees, bile in her mouth, and a sensation in her stomach like a pot of boiling dumplings, she smiled. This was their day off, after all.
She thought of the sun rolling into the Hudson River estuary, ignored by the city, and then onward across the Appalachia. She imagined the sun awakening furry, curled-up creatures in their beds of ferns and mosses, of the trees’ leaves being the first to touch warmth, of the play that sun pressed on the forest. Then, to the slump on the other side, and then to the Great Lakes rocking with the wind and light that moved Sheila now. The sun like a paint roller snagged on parts of the Rockies. Couldn’t warm the glaciers. West. Then, dawn over the Pacific: A religious experience Sheila recalled from their honeymoon. “I should get up this early more often,” she told Ray. Her back was as warm from the dawn as though he had nudged an electric heater into the boat to keep her cozy.
He’d had a few bites, but caught nothing and by their 11 a.m. lunch, he produced two Coronas and some ham and cheese sandwiches.
“Seems like a good fishing beer,” Sheila offered. Even though she felt too green to take a bite, she did. The instant her saliva dampened the bread and meat, she relaxed. She chewed. Had it been that frigging simple?
“You worry me,” Ray said. “Just tell me when things start to get bad before they do, OK? Next time.”
“OK, but sometimes it seems like ignoring pain is what I’m supposed to do.”
“Why would you think that.”
“You’re that way. You practically chopped your finger off last week making dinner.”
He grinned and took a big bite.
“Then, we go to the emergency room in the middle of the night because you can’t sleep. Next day, we’re zombies at work. When you could have just stopped everything and—”
“Does this mean I don’t have to cook dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays anymore?” he asked. He had just been waiting for her to lose her breath through indignant rhetoric before sticking her with the punchline. He always did that.
“I don’t know how you can cook without severing a digit or getting third-degree burns. Ah, let’s talk of something else.” The image of Ray in pain made her doubt whether eating the sandwich had been a good idea.
“Hey, I’ve got something on the line!”
The fish was dead in the cooler in a storage compartment towards the aft. The two of them were lounging side by side, Ray’s arm around Sheila’s shoulders. Her sickness was entirely gone. The anchored boat rocked and rocked under rivaling currents from the Hudson charging out to the Atlantic. When they’d moved to the city together after graduate school, Sheila told Ray that she MUST make an effort to know the history of this place. Admittedly, she fixated on the city’s origins in a rabid way reserved for tourists; as a transplant, you ought to make more of an effort to assimilate, she suspected Ray of thinking, though he always told her that her interest in Colonial History was “cute.” What did that shrug of his mean, anyway? The nice thing about history was that it had definitely happened, right?
“This is nice.”
“I feel so much better!”
“I’m glad we didn’t turn back.”
“You aren’t going to cook that fish, though, right?”
The West returned the favor of their sunrise by smearing smoke gray and sweetflower colors over New Jersey. A red tugboat charged upriver as they were docking and Sheila watched the wake’s tumult with some envy. But only for a second while Ray loudly reminded her to tie the rope and watch that the boat didn’t scrape against the dock.
Because pain (hers) was no longer a worry, they entirely forgot about it and walked toward the car hand-in-hand, planning their next boating day out. This time, they told each other, we’ll go further out; maybe we’ll sleep all night on Rockaway, maybe we’ll cook the fish on the beach. (No, Sheila returned.)
Let’s go further, was their consensus.