& the Endings Thereof

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Chapter I.VI

I wasn't born Faeowynn. When Mom and Dad had me, I was named Felix. Felix was often described as "serene". Friends and family have corroborated that story, saying that when I was little, I was just about the calmest kid they'd ever seen. I could stub my toe, and I'd just frown. My parents would leave me, and I'd sit in the corner. Whatever my unhappiness was, it was expressed silently.

The family anecdote is that I didn't cry when I was born. On New Years Day, 1978, I was pushed into the world, picked up by the doctor, and I just looked at my surroundings. Personally, I doubt it. If I had a child and they didn't scream and kick and cry for their first day on earth, I'd be more concerned than wistful. But I guess they didn't have the time to be concerned about me, because when I was born, Tim got so excited he fainted.

I'll admit it. This isn't a story my dad told me. It's not a story he'd ever want to tell. This is a story I'm telling about my dad and me. Back when he really was Dad. Mom didn't feel comfortable divulging this information either, so I'm using conjecture and recent acquisitions. And I get it, too. I get why this was kept from me. Thinking I'd take the blame, or something silly like that. People do it to themselves. I don't do that to myself.

I lived in a happy household. There was nothing wrong with Mom and Tim. Mom had to take some time off from school to support me, which delayed her getting her degree, but that was okay. I don't remember much about this time in my life, but I owe Tim my first memory. He had a coworker who piloted the boats that he used to take people on scuba diving tours, and when they were both available, Tim would bring me to work. I think it felt natural, because his dad did that with him. It gave Mom time to focus on studies, take care of herself, all that jazz. So my first memory wasn't even with my parents. It was with the guy who piloted the boat.

I remember being in the arms of the pilot, and I think all the other people were in the water, because the boat was stopped and everything was quiet. Owing to my calm nature, the pilot wasn't even worrying about me. I was in a little booster seat, strapped in, looking out the front window of the little boat. It was just a plane of blue. Not entirely calm, but barely moving. Waves were short and manageable. The rocking of the boat was lulling. If I were to guess, I think the memory ends when I fall asleep.

But that's not my only memory on one of the diving boats.


* * * * *


About halfway through my first year of preschool, Tim went on a trip. It was supposed to be just a week or two, but it ended up being a month. Not that I had the sense of time to tell when I was three years old. But when he came back things were different. As a kid, you don't get the concepts to know what's wrong, you can just tell that sometimes, something is. And that's what I was feeling. Tim was doing a good job at hiding it, but Mom wasn't, not really. The dinner table was quieter. The rides to school were tenser. It rubbed off on me, but, like almost all emotions, I didn't show it.

The preschool was connected to a nursery, so when they needed more time at home, I knew to just stay and go there when school was over. Because of this, I was going out on the boats with Tim and his coworkers a lot less. But on weekends, there was still a good chance I ended up on the water. I got to know Tim's coworkers — Tim loved to bring up Bill, "the funny one". He knew how to make me laugh (or, more often, just smile), and keep me occupied. I of course couldn't dive with my dad, so I always had to stay on the boat, but that was okay. I was also a kind of mascot for the diving company, and while I didn't thrive in the spotlight, I didn't mind the attention. Some recurring customers would bring me little toys. Most often sea-themed. I still have a small collection of seashells that started with a lady who gave me hers. I never got as into it as she did, so her mass is still more than half of it, but it says something that wherever I go it gets put somewhere visible in my living space.

That day, though, I was taken by surprise. It was a Sunday, and Dad had taken me to the beach. But instead of getting on a diving boat, we got on a rental motorboat, and headed out. Tim said he wanted to "show me something". Seeing as I had been on the water plenty of times, I didn't get it, but I wasn't one to mistrust Dad so I just sat and went along for the ride. So we went, further and further out onto the waves, further and further away from San Diego.

The air was temperate, the sloshing of the ocean was calming, the rocking of the boat was as lulling as ever. Lifejacket on (in case I fell off), sun in the sky (if a bit clouded), we began to see less and less people, more and more water. Most people weren't allowed to take the rental boats this far, but Tim had built up a repertoire with the people working at Mission Beach, and he was the type to get special treatment. So, beyond where anyone else was supposed to be, the boat came to a stop, and Dad got out of the cockpit.

Not to give the wrong idea, but Tim had always been very good about hiding his emotions. His fake smile was almost as good as his real one, the difference only noticeable with a practiced eye like his family might have. In my three years of life, I guess I had begun to pick up on that, because when Dad came out onto the boat, I could tell that something was wrong. But I didn't say anything. I just let him speak.

So he raised his arms, gesturing to the great blue ocean.

"This," he said, louder than he needed to, "is the wild!"

He waited. Maybe for a response, maybe just to let the words come to him. I didn't say a word.

"You can see the city from here, but we're not in the city anymore. Look around you! It's all the wild blue yonder. Saltwater from horizon to horizon. You ever been out this far?"

I shook my head.

"Can you hear the people on the beach? The motorboats? The thrum of the city from out here?"

I didn't know what "thrum" meant, but I tried to listen for the signature sounds of my city. This far out, though, the waves tapping the sides of the boat were louder than anything else. I could hear the motor of someone going faster than anyone needed to, but I knew what Dad meant, so I shook my head.

"That's right. When was the last time you can remember being so far away from the sounds of the city?"

I didn't know what to say, so I just looked at him.

Tim sat down, and heaved out a sigh like the wind was knocked out of him. "Felix, I can't stay in San Diego. Here. I can't stay… here. Because… I'm not meant to." I just kept looking at him, with that blank, unknowing expression. A being of naivety. The quiddity of innocence. Tim had a hard time keeping eye contact, but he didn't look away.

"I'm meant to be here," he gestured to the ocean again. "All the way out here, in the wild. Where all the animals live, and the sounds are soft and pleasant, and life is free, teeming, out of the…"

He saw that his big words were lost on my small ears. His arms folded to his sides, his mouth hung open a second, and then he composed himself again. No amount of charisma prepares you to be a parent.

"How about, I tell you a story. Would you like a story?"

I nodded.

"When I was a little older than you are now, when I was four or so… I went to the zoo. Do you remember the zoo?"

I did.

"And do you remember all the animals at the zoo?"

I smiled just a little, and nodded.

"Good. Well, didn't they feel magical? Out of this world? Like nothing you'd ever seen before?"

I nodded more enthusiastically.

"Well, there are places where those animals aren't in cages. And that's what the wild is. That's where we are, right now. Have you been to an aquarium?" I shook my head. "Well, an aquarium is just like a zoo, but it's all underwater animals. You know, the ones I show people when I go diving. Well, some come close enough to the bay for me to get a look at, but the rest of them… they all live out here! Beyond the city, under the water, out in these waves we're on right now. And when I was little, I realized that, or something like it, right after I went to the zoo. I realized, that all San Diego can do is keep them in cages, but it can't let you experience them."

He looked down at the floor of the boat.

"But, on some level, I must have been okay with that. Because I stayed here, in the city, for so long. I thought that the beach would be enough, but…"

Tim leaned back and looked up at the sky, his smile weaker still.

"But it's not. I just had to have someone show me. And up north, I did. Remember that trip I took recently? That was me building a relationship with nature, one that you simply can't have living in the city. That was me going to the woods, and discovering myself. And, you might not understand right now, but, I hope that one day, I can show you. What it's like out there."

He turned from me, out towards the water, and put his hand on his face for a second.

"So, I am going to be leaving, in a month."

I stared on. This whole time, I hadn't moved from my seat, nor taken my eyes off of my dad. I just looked at him. And now, he looked back. I waited for him to continue, but he didn't. The ball was in my court. So, after a pause, I said:

"Leaving?"

"Leaving."

"To where?"

"Up north. It's a little town in Oregon, the state right above us. Have you learned the states yet?"

I shook my head.

"Oh. Well, we live in California. San Diego is a city in the state of California, see? And Oregon is a state above California. I'm going to go there."

"Oh."

Tim's smile was gone. "Because it's wild there."

"Oh."

I resumed my process, just sitting and staring, waiting for the moment that new information might come, but none did. He was letting me talk. He wanted me to ask questions.

"How long will you be gone?"

"That's the thing, Fee. I'm going to be gone more than I'm not, now. You'll still see me, but we won't live together."

"Oh."

This time, the pause just continued. All that could be heard was the soft sea breeze, the ever pushing water, and the occasional call of seagulls. He waited for me to say something more, ask something else, but I didn't. I just sat, and stared. Right into his eyes, brown as oak bark. He maintained the eye contact, either at a loss for words or hoping that I wasn't. Or maybe just thinking. Looking at the child he would be leaving, and thinking.

"So," he finally said, "I want to do fun things with you this month, celebrate before I have to go. What do you say?"

I nodded.

His smile snuck back onto his face. "Good. Good! Then what do you want to do first?"

The rest of the day passed without incident. Tim felt like he had done his due diligence, and so we went back to shore, the motor's hum accompanying our return trip. In the coming month, he took me to the aquarium, and to Six Flags, and quite often to the park, where we would eat sandwiches that Mom made and play frisbee (which mostly consisted of Tim throwing it and me running after it, only to inevitably pick it up off the ground and fumble it back towards him). They were good days.

And then Tim left. He packed up his car with all his stuff from our apartment, hugged me goodbye, and left just like that. And afterwards, Mom and I pretended nothing had changed. I went to school, I sequestered myself in the corner just like always. Mom continued her studies, made me breakfast lunch and dinner, and relied on her parents for money until she cut back on her classes and made space for a job. I was spending more time at the nursery. And I put on my best face for Mom, because I had always done that, and nothing should have changed.

But things were different.

I missed going out onto the boats. I missed when he took me out for ice cream. I missed how much he smiled, day to day, hour to hour, all the god damn time.

What this looked like, taking place in the mind of a three year old, is of course up to speculation. It couldn't have stung so clearly, but it couldn't have been nonexistent either. Each day yielded less play, less eating, and came with more apathy, more lethargy, more sleep. I think, looking back, that Mom had realized and accepted something that I couldn't get past.

Dad was immovable. Mom realized that it was part of why she fell in love with him: that he loved nature so much. I don't think she realized quite to what extent, when they married. Tim had another bride, and her name was Mother Earth.

At least, that's the explanation I was given.




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