“I had a son”, she said. The words cracked as they were rolled out into the light. The winged tips of a cotton collar spread themselves over my clavicles. I looked my crewmate up and down again. She was young, but a son spoken about in the past tense could not have celebrated his thirtieth birthday.As she spoke I extended my arm, pushing the tiller away from me, let the mainsheet slip between my fingers and hauled in the jib sheet instead. As silently as the wind would allow. The mainsail luffed above us and I left the rudder and the jib to fight to kept us windward. Heads bowed and hands clasped like the faithful, we sat in irons.
“He had muscular dystrophy”
I knew the ways he could have died. I knew what she might have seen of his life. The breeze bent around us as I huddled over her sorrow in my wetsuit and collar. Warm, steady and whole.
“He would have loved this.”
The sea lapped up over the bow to catch the salt from her eyes, stirred as the dust that had collected in her silence was scattered across its surface.
As the sound of our chatter rose again, I carefully let out the jib sheet. The small sail filled, the wind scooped up the mainsail and caught on my collar as we set off again.