“Be careful,” my Workcenter Supervisor cautioned me before removing the cover to the seawater strainer. Training had begun on what was to be a monthly task in maintaining the ship radar’s heat-exchanger. Steve was stepping me through the process for the first time, cautioning me against the possibility of a poisonous sea snake popping out the strainer, biting me, liquifying my heart, making my blood boil, and writing a swastika on my lifeless forehead. (I may have imagined a few sea snake tendencies.) After I undid the last bolt, Steve slowly removed the lid. “Oh cool!” he exclaimed. “A tiny crab! Look, Barry!” On-cue, out popped a four-inch crab, claws brandished aggressively.
Fear is my lifelong companion. I don’t overcome it as much as I learn to live with it. My earliest memories involve being afraid. Of the dark. Of being different. Of being the same. Afraid of being teased for being afraid. Of the inevitable violence married to racism. Of getting my ass whupped over bad report cards. Afraid of dad beating mom. Of mom nearly killing dad. Of dad leaving and never coming back. Of mom nearly killing me. Of nearly being killed in gang-fight crossfire. Of mom nearly killing my brother. Of possibly being killed during nearly every pointless police shakedown for “fitting the description”. Afraid of failing. Of not trying. Of not being strong enough for Navy boot camp. Of drowning. Afraid of possibly becoming an addict like dad. Of possibly being a schizophrenic like mom. Of failing my wife and kids. Afraid of being exposed as a pointless muthaphucka with nothing substantial in my soul worth sharing.
But none of my fears prepared me for squaring off against a four-inch crab angrily defending his new saltwater strainer home.
“Aw HELLLLLLL naw!!!” I wailed, wheeling around, tearing through the hatch, through the junior-officer jungle, my slipstream waking the ensigns, narrowly avoiding turning my division officer into a speedbump, out the exit hatch, trying to control my rapid breathing, hearing my bemused Div-O ask Steve, “What the fuck was that all about?!?” which, after a beat, was followed by uproarious laughter.
The navy trained me to rely on my training when confronting fear, but my hilarious fight-or-flight antics must’ve hit Steve square in his empathy chip. He never even tried to assign me strainer duty again after that. And hell naw, I sure as shit never brought it up.
And crabs are delicious. Except for when they’re alive. And bite-sized.
the sea gently rocks
I breathe in her promises
centered and focused