We fell asleep on the prow, my head resting on your shoulder, your head on stiff new rope. There was another, softer coil at the aft, but when you retrieved it, I curled my lip at its grayness. It smelled of fish, I said, and you agreed, returning the ream to the back deck. We were covered — well, I covered you, my arm tossed over your chest, my right leg thrown across yours — but atop us both was a thick wool. Before we had become so enmeshed I was looking for landmarks in the dark; Manhattan’s were easy, lit as so many jewels, but off the starboard side I hunted for familiars amongst the blacked-out boxes, and you surprised me by caping a heavy blanket round my shoulders, a red and black check. For a bed, you retrieved a net still bagged in clear plastic with bold blue lettering. Large enough, you said, tearing at the casing, to catch five hundred fish. You cast the material onto the deck, where it billowed and fell. Although the bright-white nylon was soft as silk, the knotted layers could only do so much for the briny, stippled ground, and overnight, tiny, speckled diamonds spread from my hip down my leg, and another set creased cross my back.
The Staten Island Ferry woke me up, chugging a steady northbound towards Manhattan’s southern tip. Orange, without sunlight, looks purple, and its wake appeared as a barrel-drum of black and a green, swishing lip. It hurtled towards us, and we towards it — south of the island the East River hooked west to meet the Hudson, and the current of this stretch pushed us away from the faintly backlit husk of Brooklyn. Lying on my back I counted airplanes dropping into the horizon — I figured them to be the first of the red-eyes bound for the John F. Kennedy Airport — until the ferry’s horn bleated to another early-morning traveler. Turning my head, I searched for the interlocutor, and found its disembodied lights — two white, and a red. I squinted until the dim shape of a tug emerged, maybe a hundred yards off, heading diligently east across our same channel. Lifting my head, I watched us skirt a silhouette of Governor’s Island, and then, ahead, the statue emerged from within the flattening gray of fog. Its lights were not on, and then the crown went full-lit, off and then on, off and on again. From the flicker emerged a pattern, a code, I was certain, so much so that I rubbed my eyes and rolled onto my stomach to watch the flashing coronet with greater concentration. The boat rose over the ferry’s wake, and dipped, settling back to its gentle bob. To extricate myself from you took several moments of gentle pulling and prodding, but I made my way to the rail, the ground damp and prickling underfoot. I watched until frustration and cold overwhelmed curiosity, and returned to the pile of warm net and blanket, where I fell asleep again.
Excuse me, miss? Can I have my check now?
Of course, sir.
I cross the restaurant to a glowing computer monitor. Two eggplant parmesans, a bottle of our second cheapest red wine. I print the bill, and when I set it on the table, she does not move. He picks up the leather folder. Thank you, thank you very much.
I smile. Of course, sir. Have a good night.