Tuning the Rig
We had not had sex since living together in the mountains. Back then, we had had a lot of it for fun, not trying to get pregnant. The fun had played out, the romance ended another failed experiment in bliss. Now we were married with no ambition to be in love, only to procreate.
Betsy watched the calendar and took readings of her body temperature. When she determined she was ovulating, three or four times, we had sex on the boat, engaged in an act designed to make a baby; it was no more romantic than that. I know it sounds strange, but it didn’t seem so to us.
We treated each other respectfully, kindly, with careful consideration. We were closer with a contract signed and vows taken. Like conspirators with a secret to protect, we didn’t tell anyone about our underlying agreement. We were not in love, but joined, yes indeed, for a sacred purpose. To other people our relationship seemed conventional. Between ourselves, we were independent actors in a joint venture, as if to build a business with a baby at the bottom line, projected profit. Our intercourse for conception produced the usual pleasure. We had it a couple of times extra for fun.
The boat was ready to go, back in the water. The mast was up, the rig was tuned.
We waited to see if Betsy would test positive. It was fine either way. The sex had been good in the mountains, and would be explosively satisfying whenever we would have it over the years to come. It was the saving grace of the marriage on a number of occasions. But starting out it was just to conceive.
Living on the boat, we divided the work along traditional gender lines. I did the chores topside, getting more accustomed to the labor, stronger, more in tune with a boat than I had ever been. Down below, in the doll house interior, Betsy made a nest.
One day as we were about stop work and go for lunch, she complained of feeling dizzy and nauseated. We walked over to the marina restaurant for chicken salad sandwiches. Betsy ate only a few bites, then took a nap on the boat and woke up feeling strange. Not a month had passed. She went shopping for material to make curtains for the boat, was gone several hours, returned without a stitch of material. She had gone to a doctor and all but shouted up the dock, “I’m pregnant.”
We had dinner on the boat that night, congratulating ourselves with a good bottle of champagne for me. Betsy had gone off stimulants of any description before we mated.
For dinner we had charcoaled sirloin, green beans, and mashed potatoes. Sitting at the table, gazing at each other through teary eyes, neither of us had much to say. We were amazed to be pregnant so soon.
There was so much to plan for now, the sudden influx of possibilities caused my imagination to actually spin. During dinner, I could not stop it. My mind went flying into the future, a butterfly on nervous wings, flitting among the flowers. It would be a girl, I told Betsy. I was sure of it.
I wondered if she would be more comfortable living in a house for the next ten months. All of our former plans to travel and live on the water were subject to change. Whatever she wanted. I was not married to the boat.
Betsy had no desire to live ashore. The yacht bug had bitten her. She said that being on the water would be ideal for the baby while she was gestating. The embryo would soon be a fetus fish, she liked the idea of keeping the fish in the ocean.
I had serious reservations. Because Betsy had no idea what open water about, how the feel of the boat would change in a seaway — it would spring to life in the wave action like an animal we were riding, with no control of the motion but the steering mechanism and the sails, and that was not much. Offshore, the motion would be unrelenting, constant, wildly irregular in heavy weather. Offshore, we were bound to take beating.
All of which I told her, and had been telling her, since before she had dropped everything in Charlotte and signed on for the voyage.
Always she made light of my caution, but I had been there before. I knew I was going to be afraid, that the ocean would scare me, that the constant motion of the boat would torture me at times.
I also knew the rewards, the beauty we were bound to witness, and the glory we would feel escaping deepwater, coming back to shore. I told her about all that as well.
The price of living on a postcard was high, not out of reach. Whatever Betsy imagined of the hardships, I was proud of her disdain for my caution. She was a sport. She wanted to go, and I was capable of taking her.
I set to work on final preparations.
Aside from keeping me fed and watered, she was preoccupied with the tiny presence swimming in her womb. Betsy withdrew into secrets the baby was telling her, no place for a man in that nucleus of creation.
My part was to guard and protect. I provided pizza, rueben sandwiches, and air conditioning at just the right temperature, specially at night, when the thermostat had to be adjusted, up and down, several times.
Betsy, from having been pregnant twice before, was practiced in exercising the prerogatives of her condition. She was now the captain. Her body was the vessel. I was signed on to keep her afloat and preserved at all cost, as if her safety were my survival. Just the way it is, and has to be, going offshore in deepwater.
My loyalty and sense of obligation had no limit. I gave myself to making her comfortable. My purpose was fixed and clear. To serve Betsy was to serve the baby. No other priority intruded. The tiny thing in her womb told me secrets as well, infused my actions with meaning reaching into the future.
She rested and slept a good deal. Lounging on deck in the Texas sun, she studied the latest books on gestation and infant child care. I listened to all she had to say, impressed by her attention to detail. I studied with her, and went over in my mind’s eye, the possibility of delivering the baby with my own hands.
I pictured doing it on the boat, in some exotic location, heroically, with no medical assistance possible. A dangerous fantasy.
For a woman who had experience of both a miscarriage and a still birth, Betsy was strangely willing. She was comfortable depending on me.
It was during this stage that romance began to forge an electric and unstable bond between us from my standpoint. Having her legally bound in marriage and pregnant too, mentally I assumed possession of her in fee simple, like real estate ready to build on. She was becoming my home.