The cruise was now in its last two months, and Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands, was next on the port list. Then it would be Fort Lauderdale one more time before pulling back into Norfolk. This was my chance to really evaluate this relationship with Lori. With everything that went down thus far, I got to wondering if I was one of those "love the one your with" kind of guys. Or was I just plain, flat out, an ass of the worst kind? A cheater? Yeah, okay, I am a cheater, but that's not what I wanted to be. This much I knew. Live and learn.
I knew when I got back to Norfolk, I was going to have to decide what I wanted. Did I want to be with Lori? Did I want to be the anointed father of her child? Sure, I loved little Bernie, he was adorable. but did I want to raise him? Did I want that responsibility? And did I want even really want to be the man Lori always talked about wanting me to be? And if so, if I were to choose to be with her and take on all of this responsibility, could I trust her not to sit in a car at night behind a bar with a guy again while I am home with Bernie waiting for her? There were issues on the table that sorely needed to be touched upon between her and I when I returned. Ultimately, it still came down to me. Did I want all of this family structure at such a young age or ... did I simply want her to turn me loose?
St. Thomas wasn't very eventful. We were there for only a few days or so. We pulled into port on a Friday morning. Shorty and I secured a hotel room for the weekend and hung out with the guys at a night club. It was mostly a sausage fest, and prostitutes. I wasn't very comfortable for some reason. I didn't stay for very long and soon turned in early. The next morning, Shorty and I met up with the rest of the division on a section of beach where we had a divisional cookout. An event that Burke put together. They put up a volleyball net and there was swimming involved. Just the guys and food and beer. Afterwards, we all went our own direction. Some returned to the ship, others went to the clubs in town, but I went back to the hotel room. If the truth be told, I avoided any potential meetings with any girl. I was still feeling the effects of Sevina and had Lori on the brain. I guess I made the choice to keep it clean until I got back. Until I could figure out what I really wanted. Finally!
On Sunday, Shorty wanted to visit a bar for a few hours before heading back to the ship. He and I both had fire-watch duty for Monday and we were pulling out Tuesday so this was our last day on the island. I remember how dead the bar was. A few of our guys were at a couple of tables and Shorty and I were sitting at the bar until I got up to check out the tunes on an 70's style jukebox. After making some selections, I turned around and leaned against the wall between it and the entrance. Interestingly enough, there was a staircase leading up to a second floor in this bar which led to rooms. The rooms were for the prostitutes. A few of them were hanging around the bar hoping one of the guys would offer them a deal. One in particular appeared to hone in on me as i stood there against the wall. My shirt was half buttoned. It was fairly warm.
She walked up to me like a panther stalking its next meal. She was swaying to the music as she made her approach. She was locking me in with eye to eye contact as she slowly began to unbutton the rest of my shirt. She left the last button untouched when she placed both of her hands on my stomach and seductively ran them up to my chest. No word was ever spoken between us. I stared her down. She motioned her head towards the stairs, inviting me to join her. I shook my head no then pulled out a cigarette from my shirt pocket and lit it up. She sighed and began to rebutton my shirt for me. When she was done, she reached out and removed my cigarette from my mouth, and walked away. I took out another smoke as I made my way next to Shorty at the bar. He caught that exchange. "I never thought I'd live to see the day when you would turn down pussy." He remarked.
I turned to him. "It's not about the pussy." I said.
"Then what is it about?" He wanted to know.
I didn't have a clue. (Or did I?) "I don't know, my friend, but I do know it's not about the sex."
He turned to take a look at the girl across the bar while she slowly circled the tables in hopes of catching her next trick. "She's young, she's cute, and she's looking for some business. Too bad I'm broke."
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a twenty. I placed it down in front of him on the bar. "Go for it."
"No thanks." He countered. "I try not to get into debt."
"It's not a loan." I told him. "Merry Christmas."
A smile started to streak across his face. He was very appreciative. "Have I told you lately that I love you?"
I smiled too. "Tell it to her. She love you long time."
"Or as long as that twenty dollars will buy me." He ushered. And we both broke out in laughter.
Oh, he took the money and he took the girl. On his way out, he called over to me. "See you in fifteen minutes."
I waved him off. "Don't flatter yourself. More like five."
That was about as exciting as my St. Thomas experience went. Now all I had to do was get through the last port of the cruise. It wasn't going to be easy. At least, I wasn't thinking it would be. After what happened the last time, I was even debating if I should even bother getting off the ship for it. I even expressed this to Hrisko a few days before we hit port while we were in one of the holes drinking some whiskey that he and I snuck on board with the help of our MAA contacts. His brother John was with us. We had broke out the guitars too and thought to take a break from singing to do a little more drinking. I started to think John had too much to drink when he suggested our next tune. "Let's try some gospel hymns next."
I wasn't exactly game for it. "I know, let's say we did, but not."
He gave me an odd look. David took the opportunity to finally have that pow-wow with me. "What's your beef with God, dude?"
"I have no beef with God." I shot back. "Well, not with my God anyway, but maybe yours."
David found this response confounding. "We have two different Gods?"
"If your God is the God of Abraham then maybe we do have two different Gods."
"What God do you worship?" He curiously inquired, John listening in with interest too. I started picking at the strings of one of the guitars. "Me."
John found this blasphemous. "You think you're God? That's fucked up dude. That's Lucifer talk."
I handed him an evil grin. David had other ideas. "This I have got to hear."
Okay, since he seemed to want to know so much, I gave it to him and I gave it to him good. "My God is the universe. My God is energy. My God is the energy within the universe. You see, energy is the life force of everything. It's the only constant. We are made up of this energy. We are made up of the same ingredients as the universe and everything within it. Thus, this makes us all a God ourselves, to an extent. The thing is, I don't worship this God as much as I strive to learn to live in harmony with this God."
David went for the argument. "So your God didn't create the universe, the universe created your God?"
"Nope." I answered. "The big bang itself was the birth of my God because it was the birth of energy. It was the birth of the universe."
"Interesting." David countered.
"Is it?" I countered in return. "I see way too many people living outside the harmony of the universe."
John decided to jump in with a question. "And what is the harmony of the universe?"
"The harmony of the universe," I complied, "is taking what is there for the moment, not trying to want things too much. Or at least, want them in the wrong way, for you see, every time you want something, you have to not want something else in return. Maybe because you fear that something else, but the point is, you have to accept everything for what it is and not be afraid of anything."
"I'm sorry," David interjected, "but I'm not following. Can you give an example?"
I sighed. "Fine. Let's take religion for starters. Why do you believe in God in the spirit form that you do? Why do you practice being a Christian, or work to attain Christianity status?"
"I don't know," he answered, "maybe to ensure I go to heaven when I die?"
"Exactly!" I pinpointed. "You want to go to heaven when you die because you don't want to go to hell, correct?"
"Well, who wants to go to hell when they die?" John jumped back in.
"Apparently nobody." I suggested. "But that's my point. You want to go to heaven because you don't want to go to hell. You're afraid of going to hell. Every time you want something, it's because you don't want something else. That's living outside the harmony of the universe."
"You're not afraid of death?" He fired back at me. I shook my head. "No. Why fear the inevitable?"
David was going to battle me wit for wit. "Seriously though, you're not afraid of going to hell?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "According to AC/DC, hell ain't a bad place to be." I joked, referencing one of their hit songs. "Besides, in my belief, you don't really die. When I leave this body, my energy will get recycled back into the universe where it belongs."
"You're going to have to do better than that." He surmised. I obliged.
"Okay, fine, then how about this, you want money?"
David nodded. "Sure, who doesn't?"
"Why do you want money? Why do you want to be rich?" I questioned.
"Because I don't want to be poor." He said, then catching himself. I snapped my fingers to it. "Exactly. You want to be rich because you don't want to be poor. You're afraid to be poor. That's living outside the harmony of the universe."
David quickly noted. "That's BS. You have money. You're not poor. That's easy for you to say. You're making money all the time with your extra-curricular activities."
"You're right." I agreed. "But I didn't say there was anything wrong with having money, or even trying to obtain it. I simply said that to want it because you're afraid of not having it is outside the harmony. Yes, I have money, but I am not afraid of being poor. There lies the difference. In my belief system, you shouldn't be afraid of anything. You shouldn't be willing to accept one thing at the expense of not wanting the opposite. Take what the universe or life has to offer and roll with that. Sure, I make money by cutting people's hair on the side, but I didn't chase after it, I didn't go to them, they came to me. I merely accepted their offer. The thing is, nothing lasts forever. If I woke up tomorrow and I was poor, it wouldn't bother me. I'm not afraid of it because I know it won't be forever. Money comes and goes just like everything else in life. Sure, it would bum me out a little to be poor, but it's not going to make me unhappy. Rich or poor, I'm still going to be happy. I'll accept it because I know that one day, I will probably have money again. That's the secret, being happy for the sake of happy. With a lot of people, they seem to think that money makes them happy when in truth, that shouldn't be the case. You should just be happy for happy's sake. Money shouldn't be what makes you happy. Money should be something that makes you happier, understand?"
David nodded slightly. "I think I'm feeling you."
"It's just like with love." I kept going on. "You want someone to love and to love you. You want this because you're afraid of being alone, or lonely. You fear being by yourself. You want love because you don't want to be alone. That is not keeping in harmony with the universe. You think love will make you happy, but it shouldn't, it should make you happier. You should already be happy. You should be happy with yourself, in your own skin. Accept the way things are now and be happy with it, no matter what it is. Then, when something you want happens along, be it money or love, or both, or whatever, then it should be something that only makes you happier. Look, it's okay to want things, but don't want them simply because you don't want something else. Don't fear anything. What happens, happens. Live for the moment you have right now. It's all you really got. Embrace it. Embrace everything the universe gives you. That life gives you. Accept the good with the bad. Sure, you're going to have days that aren't going to be that great, and yes, there are times you will be sad about something, maybe a death of someone you love, but here's the thing, embrace it, embrace it all. Time will pass. Bad times, like good times, are not going to last forever. Everything changes, everything evolves, just like the universe. Go with that flow. That's how I try to live. It's like that saying, the harder you chase something, the farther away from you it runs. So, I try not to chase things. I let them come to me. I work with what is already there for me to work with"
"Aha!" John sounded off. "You want to be a writer someday. You're chasing that."
"No I'm not." I causally stated. "I'm already a writer. I write for me. As for being published someday, if it happens, it happens. If the opportunity presents itself, I'll probably act on it. But I'm not really chasing it. I'm already doing it."
David appeared to be taking it all in. So did it seem that John was too. This is when David asked me. "So does this mean you think Christianity is wrong?"
"I don't think any religion is really wrong." I stressed. "If you're comfortable with it, and it works for you in helping you deal with problems and to cope with the bad things that will inevitably occur, then go with it. Just keep in mind that what might work for you may not work for me or others. The thing about religion, and probably mostly with Christianity is, they're too judgmental and hateful for me."
"Wait a minute," John took offense, "hateful? How is Christianity hateful?"
"They hate gays and lesbians don't they?" I threw out at him. "They judge them. That's judging others in my book. I have also heard some Christians call gays and lesbians an abomination of God. Can you imagine that? How hurtful to someone is that? To single someone out and tell them that they are an abomination of God? Really? I'm sorry dude, that doesn't sound like love to me. If your God is perfect, and all of his creations are perfect too, then how is it that gay and lesbians are not perfect? Didn't your God create them too? I've also heard religions put down other religions. I'm just not into judging others is all. And I'm certainly not into hating people or groups of people just because they were born to be who they are. I don't hate anyone, and I'm not about to start hating anyone anytime soon either."
"But Christians don't really hate the sinners, they hate the sin." Dave protested.
I welcomed that debate. "Why is love a sin? Just because it's between two men or two women? You do realize that there are species on this planet in the animal kingdom where males are affectionate with one another, right? Look, I've learned enough through medical science to know that most people who are gay and lesbian were born gay and lesbian. It's not always a choice. But even if it were a choice, who am I to judge those people? Who are you to judge them? Who is anyone to judge them? All I know is, calling another human being an abomination of God is an evil thing to say. Anyone who says it and believes it is to me, in my book, an evil person. I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel about it. The only abomination of God should be those who are evil, and hateful."
David and John looked at each other. Quiet presided between us for a few moments. Suddenly, David broke the stillness. "That's deep, dude. That's really deep."
"I'm not saying that I have it all figured out." I went to explain. "Hell, it's not an exact science either, but at least I'm trying to figure it out. And who knows, maybe someday I will. Then again, maybe I won't. Maybe it's not even meant for us to figure it out completely, the point is, I'm trying. I'm trying to be a better person. Each and everyday that I wake up, I try to be a better person. That's all I can do. That's all any of us can do really. The moment you stop trying to be a better person is the moment you start to become worse than what you already are."
David was shaking his head and smiling. He began to point his finger at me. "You're so very fucking deep. You're blowing my mind."
I think he and I connected in a way that we never connected before. John and I may have connected in some manner too that night. I wasn't trying to be preachy, I just wanted to stress that ultimately, I'd rather make friends than enemies. I don't covet what other people have, but rather, appreciate only the things I have. I don't envy others either. I also don't get jealous of other people. I think that's mostly the problem with us humans, some of us are too busy hating someone else for what they have that we don't. And that's just sad, really. Maybe that's why people like Hammy are so bitter towards people like me. Simply put, that's not my problem. I am not responsible for his happiness, I'm only responsible for my own. We are each responsible for our own happiness. To put that burden onto others is completely unfair. I made sure to make that point as well to my two friends. They seemed to agree with me on that.
I also explained that inside of my "universe" and "energy" theory, I was all about making connections with other people's energy. For me, that was essential. To connect in a loving or friendly manner with another human being gave me internal pleasure. That is what I was all about. Which is why I think I turned down that prostitute in St. Thomas. She wasn't trying to connect with me, she was trying to make a buck. I also began to wonder if that was who I really was. Were all these girls I encountered on this cruise nothing more than me trying to reach out to their energy? Or could it just be that I am really nothing more than a man whore? Was I weak for giving into them and these urges? Or was I strong for accepting what they were willfully offering, the opportunity for our energies to connect?
Yeah, I'm still trying to answer those questions. Man whore might be the consensus though.
With that out of the way, we pulled into Fort Lauderdale. We were only going to be there for a few days or so before pulling back out and heading back to home, Norfolk, Virginia. Shorty and I got a room and once again, spent our Saturday sitting by the pool drinking banana daiquiri's. The place was pretty much dead. Not a lot going on anywhere. Not even The Candy Store. Then again, it was early November. The best memory I have of that time was when Shorty blurted out of thin air, "That pool brings back memories. Remember when you got your hat back?"
I did call Lori from the room on Sunday. I gave her our return date and time. We talked for a good four hours at least that day. She came off as somewhat excited about it. I kept the conversation lite, as anything I wanted to break to her, I wanted to break in person, not over the phone. The fact remained, I was still unsure as to what news I wanted to break in the first place. I still had a lot to ponder for the next few weeks leading up to my arrival. I still wasn't sure if I wanted to stay with her, or ask her to turn me loose. The boy and the man inside of me were still at war with each other. Well, that's how I was looking at it anyway. That seems to be another problem with us humans, no matter what choice we make, it never seems to be the right one for everyone one. There always seems to be someone who disagrees.