Spare an Orca?
In the mid 1990’s, my mother lived aboard a sailboat in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge island. Every few weeks, I’d take the ferry crossing from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge and walk through the little town Winslow to her moorage.
One Autumn evening, I found myself on the observation deck staring at the backs of the of commuters staring past the ferry prow. As the boat made the turn into the harbor, the engines slowed and in the absence of their din, a bearded man in a trench coat turned to me and made small talk as we glided quietly toward the distant dock.
I wasn’t surprised when he told me that he had once fallen overboard. Of the whole list of things bearded men in trenchcoats have said and displayed to me, a story was welcome.
He was terrified, he said, and knew he was going to die. But very quickly he was rescued by an orca.
I cannot remember all of the details of his story but I remember it being just realistic enough to kinda be plausible.
The ferry docked. We disembarked. I did not see him again.
A few years later (maybe less) I read in the paper that he had died. Apparently, he had been an icon of the commute.
The short obituary stated that he had once had a family – a wife and child – but alcoholism washed that life away. He had lived a transient life for at least a decade and was a mainstay on the route to and from Bainbridge Island.
I wondered, how could such a sweet man lose his family? Why didn’t they take care of him? Why didn’t they fight for him? How bad of an alcoholic could he have been?
I have come to know the answers to those questions and have rueful answers of my own.
Now, when he comes to mind, and he does often, I remember him as three people.
The man who loved greatly and was greatly loved.
The man whose alcohol consumption destroyed his ability to recognize fear.
The man who could only be saved by an orca.