Vacation

We put gas in the car and drove to the plane. We landed on the other side and took the bus to the booth where we paid for the gas in the car with the plastic in our pockets. We treated the car like our own even though it was a rental. It was red and handled smoothly. We didn’t worry that it ate more gas than our car back home, which ate only a moderate amount of gas and made us feel good about ourselves day to day. We didn’t worry because we were on vacation.

The car had a wide track and a fine stereo. We played the stereo and almost couldn’t hear the jackhammers or sirens outisde. We were deaf to nearly everything around us.

We parked the car at the landing. We looked forward to climbing the gangplank and boarding the boat, but first we had to stand in line to buy tickets. There were groans. The last thing we wanted to do was stand in line. Standing in line reminded us just how much we hated standing in line which in turn reminded us of all the things we did back home that created similar feelings, and if there’s one thing a vacation shouldn’t do it shouldn’t remind you of home. That’s why we have vacations.

We were all thinking the same thing: we should have planned ahead. If we’d planned ahead we could have bought the tickets in advance and have avoided the line altogether. Then we would be the people already on the boat looking down at the people in line instead of being the people in line looking at the boat with longing and regret.

A glacier tour. That’s why we’d come so far. We wanted to see the world’s oldest ice.

Because it’s different, that’s why.

The ice back home is young and boring. It’s made to melt. Infant ice, we call it. Baby ice. Ice that would cry if it could.

Eventually we boarded the boat and we set sail and cast off our thoughts of home and our longing and our regret. We embraced our vacation.

The seas were choppy and swollen. Along the coast we saw glaciers rise from the water like castles behind moats. Our mouths were open. We were very impressed. It’s not every day you see ice big enough to scare you.

We ate our sandwiches and watched a large ice chunk wrench from the glacier and drop to the water. Its sound was that of thunder. The sea seethed and tantrumed waves. Someone in a fancy suit said, “You’ve just witnessed the birth of an iceberg. It’s called calving. It’s both beautiful and sad.”

Everyone agreed he was right.

The waves heaved. They rocked the boat. One or two people fell overboard but we pretended not to notice.

We looked through our binoculars at the ice calf. Upon closer inspection we spotted something dark inside. A seal or a walrus frozen ages ago. A mammal-cicle. Most things die and are swallowed up in dirt. Others get trapped in pockets of ice.

But maybe the dark spot wasn’t a walrus. Maybe it was a prehistoric man.

The way the iceberg bobbed up and down convinced us we were on to something. There was an iceman inside. We were sure of it.

We wondered what his clothes were like. His shoes. Did the animal fur covering his body have pockets? If so, we wanted to know what was in them. Did prehistoric men have trinkets? Did they have baubles? Or was everything they carried of utmost importance?

We thought of his death, how he succumbed to hunger and thirst. He fell to his knees. His breathing shallowed and he looked to the sky, shaking for any number of reasons. The snow came down and covered him. He knew what was next and he thought he would be there forever, never moving again.

Eventually the iceberg will melt and the iceman will sink to the bottom of the sea. But he should have stayed there, frozen, locked away. The earth likes to hide things, and once it’s tucked you in you should remain there, asleep in nature’s pocket.

We shouldn’t try to fight it. The earth always gets what it wants and most days it wants to bury us all.

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