We went halfsies on a sailboat in January and decided to spend the spring sailing. I’m not quite sure what led us to do this, since neither of us were really the sailor-type, but when we saw the ad in the paper, we felt like we just had to. You never were particularly good at telling me no at the beginning. I didn’t have to beg too hard, though. Part of you sought out the ocean wherever you went, eternally hoping to be part of ceaseless waves of deep, blue power, whether that meant changing the world or just discovering the tide-pool swells of my obsession and fervor. It felt like you would never get enough of me, like you would follow me onto the infinite expanse of the ocean if it meant you could get another glimpse of me. It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me that I wanted you just as much.

Our first few weeks on the water were all clumsy togetherness and hesitant devotion. My hands ghosted over yours as I showed you how to tie the ropes the way I had seen my father do it a million times. One end wrapped over the other three times, looped around, then pulled tight. Hand over hand, we pulled the sails tight against the wind, pushing ourselves through the waves and the misty late February air.

Late at night, when it seemed like the entire world had gone to sleep, we would lay on the deck and stare up at the stars. “Andromeda,” you whispered, tracing out the shape in the sky. I was watching you instead, wondering if you could hear the waves whisper as they curled against the sides of the boat. How did I go this long without you? Everything in my life so far has led to this moment here with you. I leaned my head against yours and hoped that you heard it too. I didn’t want to interrupt you to ask.

The next morning, my hands fumbled over the knobs of your coffee machine. Coffee made me anxious, but you swore by it, and I swore by you, so I was going to figure it out. Your hand brushed my waist as you pointed out that the water went in that compartment and I had to make sure to press that button first.

“I thought you didn’t like coffee.”

“I wanted to make it for you.”

You looked at me with a strange expression on your face, something between flustered and elated.

“You know I’ve never really done this with anybody before, right?”

“Taught someone how to use your stupid fancy coffee machine?”

I could feel a laugh bubbling out of my chest as you rolled your eyes and pulled me closer. As you kissed me, I heard the coffee begin to pour into the waiting mug. I wished that it could always be like this: you, me, something new, and the great blue sea.

Sleepy, uncertain beginnings breezed into warm, flowing middays. I let you tackle me into the water, even though it was still too early in the year to swim. We both laughed as I dunked your head under the water in retaliation. The seagulls cawing overhead seemed to sing. I thought I knew what love was before I met you. I thought people made up this feeling for movies. Before I could point it out, they had soared away, just leaving the low cadence of the waves, an ever-present I love you, I love you, I love you. You beat me to voicing that one, and the sound of your voice made the early spring ocean feel as warm as August. Afterward, as I tried to dry my hair, I watched you slip into a pair of worn, ripped jeans and a dark blue sweater. The same blue of the sky just before sunrise: the comfortable moment when you know you don’t have to wake up and be ready for the world yet. Every moment of our little life together felt this blue.

We had started to get the hang of sailing. In the morning, you would wake up before I did to double-check we were pointed in the right direction. On the days I could drag myself out of our bed, I would make you coffee the way you liked it and sit on the counter wearing your blue sweater as I watched you drink it. “A little too much milk this time,” you commented, then dodged and laughed as I swatted your shoulder. There were days I added too much milk to your coffee and you burned my toast and then suddenly you were sitting on the deck for hours under the pretense of untangling the ropes, refusing to come in even as I pleaded for you to tell me what was wrong, what I did, if this boat was still the adventure you wanted right now.

Every evening, though, we would sit on the deck and watch the sunset, your head on my shoulder as we both let the crashing of the waves wash away the things neither of us knew how to talk about yet. On some nights, we would sit out there for hours, whispering all of the things that scared us into the deep, dark night. Just before dawn, we would crawl into bed and fall into the best sleep that we had ever had. Somewhere between those nights and the honeyed, timber-scented days, I woke up for the very first time.

I was the first one to suggest that we get off of the boat. Find a marina in the prettiest coastal town we could find and hope that the allure of salty sea breeze and white-tipped waves would convince us to come back. When you first heard this, you went out onto the deck for a long time, ignoring the way the incoming storm howled in your ears and hurled saltwater and rain onto your face. As I sat in the cabin and watched you stare out at the water, I couldn’t tell if you were crying. The tears blurring my own vision might’ve made the ocean spray seem like a lot more than it was. More than anything, I wanted to bring you an umbrella, a raincoat—hell, the morning paper—to try and keep you warm and dry, but all you wanted these days was to stay out in the rain. Every day seemed rainy now, and every day, without fail, I would find you out there in it. It seemed like you would go anywhere as long as I didn’t follow you. When you came in every night and wordlessly crawled into bed, you never cared that I got wet too. This rain didn’t feel like the same water of the waves that whispered I’d give you the moon and my whole world changed the day I met you.

I pulled the sleeves of your daybreak-blue sweater over my hands and asked the world to give me smoother waters and clearer skies. Maybe then we could stop loosening and tightening the sails against the baying wind, neither of us practiced enough to know what to do when the waters became choppy. I tried to ignore the pelting rain as the world answered my calls, a simple people like you are always going to find rough waters. You are the storm.

When you finally stepped out onto that pier in Maine or Oregon or Texas, you took the whole ocean with you.

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