Hapa On A Boat Part 2
I Am Not Alone. I’m With Me.
By: Rebecca Lee Lerman
Midway through my contract with Norwegian Cruise Lines, my ex contacted me via email. He found out about my previous article that dealt heavily with how he broke my heart, and how the role of Cynthia in the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert helped me mend it. He proceeded to attack me, saying how he would "never write shit about me on Facebook." Well, since it was an article for Hapa Mag and not a Facebook post, it was clear he was getting his information from an unreliable source. He even admitted he hadn't actually read the article himself.
Although I do not need to justify anything to him, I countered, "I am a writer and I will always write what I know. Because it is healing. Because the only way to heal and grow from our experiences is if we own our stories."
So, I am again taking my own advice. The following is my attempt to own another story in order to heal and grow. I am still pretty much in the thick of it, and there is still pain in my chest. Here is hoping that this helps.
First, let me give thanks for the million and one amazing experiences I’ve had aboard this ship:
Seeing Barcelona, Cannes, Marseille, Rome, Florence, Naples, Palma, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Eating delectable pasta and gelato across the mediterranean and now enjoying the Caribbean sun. Having such positive feedback from guests about my interpretation of Cynthia. Bonding with the amazing Siglo Band at the Cavern Club, where I felt safe every night listening to them play. Practicing and writing music on my guitar. Orchestrating my own yoga classes for my fellow performers. Bringing people together.
One minute, you feel whole. You have put the pieces of your heart back together and are completely content with being on your own. You are proud to navigate the streets of Marseille by yourself, coming upon the breathtaking (where the Gods live) Fountain Palais Longchamp and the heavenly Notre Dame de la Garde. On the ship, I could take myself out to see the incredible Burn the Floor, filled with sizzling sexy dancers, and not feel like I needed anyone by my side to complete me.
When I would take myself out on a solo date, men.... or rather… boys, would ask me why I was alone? I was quite proud of myself when I could respond, "But I'm not alone. I'm with me."
THE BOYS, AND THE SHIP
I’ve been good on this ship; good about fending off the boys that have come on really strong from the get go. We all know the deal with those guys. They only want one thing. And once they get it, they drop you. My most uncomfortable moment came when a musician, 20 years my senior, told me he liked me and that his wife had told him to go out and find himself, "a nice young girlfriend" for sex. I politely turned him down.
And yet, still, a guy can walk into your life, kiss your hand and disrupt the whole flow of your existence.
There are such things as "ship-mances,” romances between two co-workers on cruise ships. Maybe from the same department. Maybe from two different departments. They have a clear (or maybe not so clear) start and end date. Being that ships bring together employees from all around the world, it is likely you will become attracted to someone living on the opposite end of the globe, and the reality of a long-lasting relationship isn't viable. But having a person for that time feels good. Perhaps it helps you pass the time. Perhaps it makes you feel a little less lonely.
Maybe it was because ship-mances were starting to form around me. Maybe it was because I have castmates in long-term relationships with people outside of the ship. Maybe it was because I do actually know a few people who met their future husbands/wives while doing a “ship show” together. Maybe sometimes, I tire of the sleazy boys who approach me, and I want to feel like I belong to someone.
So I let this boy in. He just walked up to me one day and kissed my hand. I laughed because it was so forward. I knew where it was heading, but this time I didn't stop it. He made me tea. He gave me his jacket. We had dinner. He showed me where he worked on the ship. He asked if I would get coffee with him the next morning. Then I let it happen.
The next morning came. He made no mention of getting coffee. Instead, I received a text:
Let's keep it private.
My heart sank. This was not going to lead to any kind of relationship. There would be no going out together or holding hands in public. This was a hook up. This was a boy who wanted to remain single and give the impression of not being attached to anyone. This was not what I had wanted. I actually texted him a reply that, to me, sounded like a goodbye.
I see. Well, thank you for your time. It was very nice.
But of course I was still hoping for more, and we did meet a few more times.
There were still men who would approach me while eating and the same question, the “why are you alone?" would seep from their lips. I hated that some of them were married. It was getting to me.
So, I invited myself up to the boy’s cabin, in hopes that he would claim me as his own, and vented about this situation.
Why is that so bad? "I'm married."
That is what he responded.
Mind you, he had told me he broke up with his girlfriend before he got on the ship. "No… you're joking," I said. And then the whole conversation became very unclear. He went from "married" to "engaged" to "friends with benefits."
I felt my heart in pain. All the memories from my ex leaped forward into my chest and I did not want believe I had been blindly placed into the role of the “other woman.” I could be responsible for hurting someone else's heart. I know all too well the feeling of betrayal. It was too much for me. I was sobbing:
I'm leaving. You're married. I don't want this...my ex did this to me.
It was then he pulled me close and said, "Oh my god! I'm just kidding! I'm just kidding."
CLOSING THE DOOR
It is still unclear if he has someone back at home waiting for him. But I think that is the main thing: that it is unclear. I didn't know him at all. He wants to keep what happened between us private. And while working on the ship, he wants to run after a lot of women. He wants to be single.
All the signs pointed to "stop."
Ship life can make you feel very empowered and independent, proud to be making it on your own, focusing on self-improvement, self-care, doing yoga, staying fit, learning a new instrument, exploring the world and meeting new people.
Ship life can also be very lonely. You miss your friends. You miss your family.
So there it is. I craved closeness. I craved belonging. I slept with someone I didn't know at all. He used me for sex. And I wanted it. And, as my good friend on the ship said, there is nothing wrong with wanting sex.
Instead of shying away from it, I'm owning it. I am writing it out to heal from it. The pain in my heart, slowly subsiding.
FINDING ME, AGAIN
Right after we said our goodbyes (as much as you can say goodbye to someone you will still see around the ship) one of my friends called me up and asked to practice yoga with me. We ended up flowing together in a studio across the ocean. I quickly access-ed my breath, my knowledge of stress relief, relaxation and healing. And through the practice, I came back to myself, reminding me that I haven't gone away.
I can still bring people together with yoga. I am still exploring the world. I am still learning and writing songs with my new guitar. I am still playing sexy, strong, independent Cynthia… a woman who doesn't take crap from anyone.
This boy didn't take anything away from me. The clouds came, and now they are gone. But the sky is still the sky. Just as vibrantly blue as before. All the pieces of me are still here. And when my next experience clouds me and rattles me, the whole of me will still be there to experience it all, and then let it go. I am not facing it alone. I am facing it with me.
Rebecca Lee Lerman is a New York City based writer and performer. Her plays and screenplays were featured at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, The Midtown International Theatre Festival, Universe Multicultural Film Festival and We So Hapa, which celebrates people of mixed race. Most recently, PheLerm Productions, for which she is writer, participated in the 72 Hour Shootout competition, and their short film was selected as the top 40 out of 400 to be screened at the Asian American Film Festival.