Peeking out from a time machine

Provincetown galleon

I fell asleep on the beach at Long Point, the sandy, sun-baked tip of Cape Cod, where the calm waters of Provincetown Harbor merge with those of Cape Cod Bay and eventually, the Atlantic. I awoke to the sight of a galleon–a real one, a seaworthy one, one with three masts, three decks, and miles of rigging, suitable for pirates, but used for tourists. It was quiet and massive, a magnificent spider skimming across low waves toward the swells of the open ocean.

You’ve had moments like this too, I hope–confusing moments that make you question not where you are, but when. The brief exhilaration of peeking out from a time machine.

I wondered how many others in that once-small, once-fishing-village had seen the same thing: a ship cutting across the waters, a hulking, man-made thing carrying away loved ones, messages, dreams. Wives praying that their sailor husbands would return home safely. Merchants hoping for strong trade winds and huge fortunes. Fathers and maybe even mothers remembering when they’d gone to sea themselves, before the flotsam of age accumulated around their waists, anchoring them to this remote spot.

If I were alive a hundred years ago, two-hundred, three-hundred–if I were my same self, my gay, yearning self–what would I have done?

Would I have turned my back on the ship, returned to my work, content that others were on the move, even if I weren’t?

Would I have chased it, shouted at the crew, jumped into the cool waters of the harbor, praying to swim faster than the wind in the ship’s sails so I could be carried away to another life, another view of another harbor where I might’ve found happiness?

Or would I have watched my last hope of salvation disappear across the horizon, walked into the bay, and tread water with the seals, enjoying their company until the sharks came and separated us, pulling me under?

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