Dalton was a member of the travel staff for the corporate group I traveled with. We stumbled back to his cabin on our first night on the ship, and I woke up the next morning so disoriented that I had to ask a Filipino lady on the Lido Deck where I was. She said, “I think we near Ketchikan. On the other side of the world. You okay, son? You lost?”
“I’m very lost.”
Cade was a dancer on the ms Zuiderdam (pronounced with a long "I" sound, as in “cider”). He was one of seven male dancers on the ship, and although he didn’t walk and talk as gay as someone like me, his behavior on stage was gayer than anything I’ve ever seen in my life – and I’ve been to a one-woman Amy Winehouse–themed drag show at a Mexican gay bar. I’m not joking. I watched a fat Mexican drag queen in a beehive prance around and lip-sync “Tears Dry On Their Own” and it was fathoms less gay than what Cade did on a nightly basis. The first time I watched him hump the air and flap around jazz hands in his glittery, hot pink bowler hat and suspenders to “The Pink Panther,” I laughed so hard that I literally pissed my pants and was late for dinner in the Upper Vista Dining Room.
From our second day at sea, Cade and I hung out nearly every day. We went on four dates, kissed in three different cities, and managed to hook up in just about every major local on the ship – my favorite being the stage on which Cade “performed.”
|The actual stage.|
Our romance was hasty and reckless and sloppy and I loved it. The electricity between us was tangible, and I felt like at any point, we could reach out and grab this thing that was materializing between us. I would look at him and feel starved and full at the same time. I wasn't sure if this was love, but I wanted to live in it.
On the last day before making port in Vancouver, I called Cade to confirm that we were still meeting in the Crow’s Nest for drinks, but he didn’t answer. Nor did he that night. Nor the following morning. And then I departed the Zuiderdam without having said goodbye. I teamed with the staggering herd of geriatrics and overweight children and Dalton who was poorly feigning interest in whatever was going on in his man purse and silently whispered to myself, “Don’t turn around. He’s not coming.”
The last time I saw Cade in person, he was stretched across my lap in dark recesses of the Vista Lounge Balcony.
“I’ve never felt this way about someone I just met,” he said to me.
Looking down, I smiled and pushed the collar of his shirt back to reveal the smoldering, spider web tattoo that sprawled around his shoulder like axis lines on a globe.
“Me neither. Let’s keep us this way.” I said.
|The only picture of Cade and I, taken by my dad from our balcony.|
By the time I touched down in Atlanta, I had one text and one voicemail from him. I didn’t bother to read the text, but his voicemail said that he was spending his second day in bed with the flu. And since the phone service was so erratic in open water, he wasn’t able to get through to me until it was too late. I deleted the message and shoved my phone into my backpack. Because fuck him.
Today, he’s my Facebook friend and that’s about it. We Skyped a few times after I returned home and after I forgave him – not just for standing me up on an epic scale, but for being irresponsible about letting me fall for him. But he had to stay. And I had to leave. And now, we like one another’s statuses, and I write smartass comments under his photos of whatever fruity dance costume he’s wearing this week.
Looking back, I think the Filipino lady on the Zuiderdam was right. We were on the other side of the world – somewhere between my normal life and a dreamscape. A place where I could marvel at my surroundings and feel things I’ve never felt before. I went away, I fell in love, I came back, and that was the end of it.
Until it happened again.