Tuesday, May 17, 2011
After I realized what happened, I could image what the torpedo looked like, although, of course, I never saw it.
Torpedoes leave a pleasant anticipatory surface wake even though they are below the waterline. When the seawater came crashing in as the hold was breached I thought, perhaps, it was some metaphysical alleviation, some sort of mental ether.
But alas, it was just seawater: pressure exerting, crystal clear cold, seawater. I floated in the pure effluent for a moment or two. Then the upper hold disintegrated and I was no longer in a ship compartment, but floating free in a lime green sea: looking up, I saw the surface of the water reflecting back my incredulous mirror image.
A multitude of objects floated to the surface. I did not resist floating, nor did I try to sink (my old conundrum, to sink or swim, I was faced with it head long and I allowed myself, in excellent Vandemark fashion, to have fate make my decision). For it made no difference. Life is long; many accidents and misfortunes drag down the strongest of men, in spite of effort, despite our plans…
But often events, seemingly random or disjointed, dovetail into one another, meet in a ball and socket joint where we thought, perhaps, only random ends jutted out.
My feet emerged first. They swooshingly collided with the prickly icy-air. My torso next. And then, breech-baby-fashion, my head. As I righted myself, all along the swirling chop of the water bits and pieces of the unfortunate transport (which was mercifully empty of troops) bobbed up and down cork wise in the swirl. I could hear no human sounds. The swell of the water, a slight rotating bulge, circulated burning slicks of oil. I dove under the water when one rotated toward me. Emerging on the other side, I spied another one, dove below the chop once again. Exhuastion quickly ensued.
Eventually, I swam clear of the wreckage. As I broke free of the debris field, I could see the mustard yellow disk of the sun setting at the water line: west. Dovetailing, memory finally served a useful function, instead of salting a wound. I slipped out of my pants. In classic Uncle Albert fashion I twisted and tied the ends. I tapered, twisted, and knotted the waist. I straddled my own blown up torso.
One may as well begin here:
Langley Vandemark, nude, floating in the Atlantic pitch and roll, points his encapsulated, unbreakable body West, to the dusky horizon point, to the rocky cliffs of Nova Scotia. New Scotland. And why not? It could be New Wales, New England or New Mexico. The New World was just a fabulous misnomer; the concentric circles spawn an ever widening avatars over greater fields of view, until it all blurs.
My feet, the feet of Langley Vandemark, flip behind my body, the body of LangleyVandemark, ever buoyant --- ever westward. To keep moving, of course, was key. Never stop --- just go! It was year Zero and everything was ahead of me. Novia Scotia, a new world. A buoyant nothingness that was flamboyant and perverse, liquid and free. I left a phosphorescent wake in the water as I paddled toward that unforgiving sun.
I climbed the rocks and emerged on a broad plain of broken stone and lichens. La Aux a Chapelle, which later, stunningly enough, was discovered as the Viking’s first landing place in Vineland. I had retraced their steps.
I could die while writing this. So could you.