Time as a Relative Construct

I get seasick.

I don’t mean a little queasy, green around the gills, take-a-Dramamine-and-stare-at-the-horizon-for-a-while seasick. I mean violent, shuddering, unrelenting vomiting, the kind that has people around me seriously considering calling for the Coast Guard, worried that I might barf up my spleen or that my heart might just say “fuck it” and burst to put the rest of me out of my misery. Judge me however you like. I don’t give a shit about society’s standards of manliness, anyway.

Worst ever was a deep sea fishing trip off Daytona about 15 years ago. It was part of a bachelor party weekend that was relatively tame on the commonly used scales of debauchery. There were no hookers or strippers; just a bunch of pasty, skinny-limbed nerds drinking a lot of beer and then deciding that, yeah, fishing was what we needed.

A five-hour cruise.

I surprised myself during the first 30 minutes. The boat was under full power heading due east away from shore. I stood aft, braced firm against a faded chrome rail, rather enjoying the cool sea spray and the morning sun on my face. I wondered if maybe the twenty-five beers the night before might have had provided some reinforcement to my obviously pathetic, underevolved inner ear. Or maybe a distraction for my cerebellum.

That foolish hope was dashed in seconds after the captain cut the engines and the boat went her own way in the four-dimensional chaos of eight-foot seas. Almost immediately I was bent over the stern, measurably lowering the pH of the Atlantic Ocean. My friends—motherfuckers—and the regular customers—toothless, shiteyed crackers—positively howled with delight. How could one person vomit this much? I weighed about 175 pounds; how was it that I’d ejected at least 30 gallons of hellstew from my guts into the sea? Ah, good fun, those landlubbing Yankees! What a girly man this one is!

The captain, surely more concerned about the slimy mess I might make on his deck or what I was doing to reverse-chum him out of business than he was about my well-being, tried all his tricks. A cool rag on my neck, sitting below deck, sitting atop the bridge, Dramamine, Sprite, voodoo incantations, a beer as hair of the dog. It was no use. Finally, he gave up and propped me over a bucket in the galley where I had the option to look out the window or not, and told me to make the best of it.

I had four hours to look forward to before we’d be back under power and heading west. I settled into a pattern and I remember it clearly. Sitting on the floor, my head between my knees and the shallow bucket just below my face, I’d retch. It was bone dry heaving by this point. All my non-essential processes had shut down, including those that pump whatever it is into an empty stomach. This would go on for a while before the muscles in my midsection finally got tired, at which point I would drift briefly into a lower state of consciousness. Higher brain function was over for the day, maybe forever. I was in a lizard state. I’d daydream, simple dreams of planar surfaces and warm sun. Snippets of songs I knew as a child would play. Visions of girls long gone. I’d snap back barely to wakefulness, ready to heave again, and glance at my watch. Surely, it had been at least 20 or 30 minutes since the last round of heaving and hallucinating. I had to be 10-20% closer to land, sweet land. Maybe another half dozen of these cycles and I’d be back where I evolved to be. Almost there.

Yet each time, my watch showed that only about 45 seconds had passed since the last time I looked.