On June 27th 2012, we boarded Nick’s Chance with mild curiosity and much trepidation. There were three of us—Lee, Elvin, and me. The rest of the fellow whale watchers were as follows: a German family of three, a mid-twenties couple, a solo hoodie-clad teenager, and a morbidly obese couple with an adopted daughter (just trust me on that). With the exception of the children, these are the people who would comprise the audience of Bones if the show were filmed in front of a live studio audience. They are the impaired yet inquiring minds who wonder, “What can a Vietnam vet’s skull fracture tell us about the mysterious and conspiratorial circumstances surrounding his untimely death?” on a weekly basis.
“Welcome to the Nick’s Chance whale watch,” greeted a youngish crewmember, with peculiar air quotes on whale as we walked the plank up to the boat. I glanced at the sky: pregnant clouds were inflating on the horizon. What’s a 72% chance of thunderstorms when you’re on an enclosed boat with a 100% chance of having a wicked good time taking in Mother Nature’s largest and most elegant offspring?
“Okay folks, we’re gonna have some real fun today,” the captain said comfortingly as we pulled free from the dock. “Gotta warn you though, whales are not very fond of rain, so as we hit our first patch up ahead, we might not be seeing very many…but get comfortable and feel free to visit our snack bar.” What. The. FUCK? I surveyed the rapidly widening gulf between the boat and land—my day and a good time—while doing some mental math on fifth-grade swim lessons, public humiliation, 5.5 hour opportunity costs, etc. It occurred to me that my friend Lee would post my flailing, fully-clothed, effeminate death on YouTube, so we grabbed a cafeteria table in the heart of the vessel. With heads pressed against table, we fell into a deep slumber, victims of the previous night’s super-sized, hangover-inducing, reggae-themed bar event.
The three of us jolted awake in unison as our phones buzzed against the table surface. Brendan in NYC groupchatted, “Anyone want to get pounded right now?” We gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he meant “get drunk.” Rain was coming down in heavy sheets, so I made my way to the snack bar to grab a Hot Pocket. Ham and spinach flavor, fish and broccoli, or wet garbage and laxatives? I ordered a coffee and headed to a window to commence the watching.
I asked the solo teenager how far he thought we’d traveled. Pulling out his phone, presumably to bring up a map, he accidentally (?) opened a browser with some really hardcore porn. I pretended to notice something floating in my coffee, then made a deft escape.
Three hours into our sans-whale watch and the weather hadn’t let up. But, ahead loomed something much more ominous than the ill will of an obnubilated New England sky: our full-time jobs were to begin in a couple of weeks, marking an end to our two-year vacation. That and the forty-eight bucks we each paid compelled us towards the exposed aft of the ship. Standing side by side, buried beneath the hoods of our respective rain coats, we stood in silent contemplation of the sea’s taunting white caps. Elvin claims he saw it first, and I may not have seen it at all, but through the foggy haze of her blow and the reverberated splashes of sharp rain, a forked black tail emerged momentarily to salute the eager air, slap water, and once again, disappear.
“Now that is how you watch an effing whale.” We exchanged a series of high-fives.
Thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s tumultuous grey cover, hundreds of whales chased their own tails in a frenetic series of oceanic ouroboroses. We decided not to mention the whale’s existence to our shipmates; it wasn’t their concern. As we departed the boat, I slapped a patch of peeling paint above the doorframe: “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
Has spent an inordinately large amount of time in school. He now lives in Boston/New York.