Swinging the hatch open, one part of me reluctantly moving; nature’s tumultuous ocean and frenetic wind, working in tandem, causing a loss of balance, like standing behind a supersonic jet with a thrust and preparation to take off. My alter ego crying vainly, wanting to remain inside, protected from a tar like darkness and a thundering shower of rain.

Rain falling like ten green giants holding Lake Michigan size buckets of water, suddenly dumped on one mere object, me!

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Stepping up, over, through the arched ASROC Deck passageway, attempting to shove the hatch door shut, like a dazed boxer helplessly climbing to his feet, following a square upper cut to the right swollen cheek.

Surging forward, no option to turn or maneuver in any other direction, I knew luck could not, nor would intervene in this self-inflicted dilemma. Smelling the ocean, gurgling a breath of air, though salty and thick with unknown elements; its freshness and expansiveness stirring my senses into unexpected jaunts of relief and surprisingly, vitality.

Seasickness, my stomach churning violently, not another moment must pass without experiencing being outdoors; my friend and departmental comrade, Charlie, wearing a belt with a firearm sheathed, volunteering to seek a cup of coffee from the mess decks, one flight below.

Charlie’s responsibility simply included roaming the passageways, ensuring no sailor ventured outside, as any such adventure might result in a loss of a crew member at sea, loss of a functioning link on a guided missile destroyer with nearly 350 men, heading to the gun line and combat off the coast of Vietnam, near Quang Tri Province.

Scrambling, with an intensity unsurpassed in my first 18 years of life, racing across a standing pool of water on the deck, blindly searching and hoping to find something to grasp, like a cat clutching a blanket with claws dug in. Drenched, dripping, saturated with a wetness penetrating clothes and soul, fear previously unrecognized or anticipated, consumed me.

Sailing into the eye of a typhoon, no end in sight seemed to be forthcoming, a calm stretch of water did not appear; praying for a navy helicopter to hover overhead, lowering a bucket, climbing in, a gallant rescue would successfully ensue; carrying me away to stability, solid ground, soothing sleep.

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Such thoughts scurrying around my mind, zigzagging, almost theatrical dreams amidst an intense desire to abandon this physical and psychological arena of unbearable existence.

Abandoning the guys I worked alongside was not among my intentions; simply fleeing this ceaseless rocking and rolling of the ship, would suffice, exiting this roller coast ride not only bouncing one up and down, but flinging my body back and forth, in a whiplash fashion if standing or walking.

Sustaining my sanity marked each passing second. Someday, conveying these feelings as I presently interpret them, might be an overwhelming task, like soaring through giant gates of exhilaration, expecting others to somehow capture the emotional essence.

Charlie, expressing a sincere concern for my welfare told me, “I should not let you go, no one is allowed out there on the decks. You could immediately be swept over boards, it is not safe.”

“I have to go Charlie, I need to breathe air outside, if only for a few seconds.”

“I will fetch a cup of coffee, whatever happens I cannot be accountable for, so it is all on you.”

Glancing up, an ominous darkened outline of a massive wave dancing so high, like trees in the Redwood Forest, or sequoias in Yosemite. Tightly wrapped, my arms hugging and bound to a pole nearly forty or fifty feet from the hatch.

Briefly, I stood perfectly still, searching for clarity of thought, beginning to wonder if the sea would swallow me whole. Death loomed overhead!

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