“I need to lie down,” I said.
I started to descend the steps leading to the cruiser’s cabin.
“No,” yelled my Aunt Ruthie. “Don’t go into the cabin. Stay on deck.”
I didn’t immediately understand why she insisted I stay in the cockpit of the boat. All I wanted was to stretch out on one of the clammy berths below. The odor of salt water mingled with motor fuel was making me nauseous. But as this feeling continued to well up inside of me, creeping up my throat, I understood. I could upchuck at any moment, and my aunt did not want it all over the cabin of her favorite pastime.
It had happened before, after all, though on a different boat. The noxious smell was one I was familiar with, growing up on the ocean. Whether it was pulling lobster pots or water skiing or just taking a motorboat ride, the recipe of odors flipped my stomach after just a few inhales. It ruined a number of pleasant boat rides, mostly on days that lacked a breeze to carry the malodor away.
“Okay,” I said to Aunt Ruthie.
I spent the remainder of that ride clutching the side rail, my head lopped over the side, my eyes staring at the still water. When we finally came ashore, I fell asleep on my own bed for three hours.
Even to this day, every time I smell that salty, sweet chemical odor, a queasy feeling overwhelms me. Perhaps I was born in the wrong environment. Perhaps I should have been born on a mountain, where I could breathe in pine trees, wildflowers, and feral air. Perhaps, I should have been born by a farm where the smells of hay, fresh dirt, and manure could tickle my nostrils. Yes, I’d rather smell manure. But … I’m an ocean girl, after all, and must accept the consequences.