We climbed down a
ladder and stepped onto solid ground. It wasn't solid. It moved like the sea
beneath my feet.
I stumbled and
weaved as I walked. A cold can of beer was pushed into my hand. Bill's can was
already open and he raised it in salute. Before long we were heading into town
in two taxis. I tried to explain the sea anchor to one of the crew members. It
We stopped at the
Gandara Hotel. Bill was tremendously amused as we entered the lobby, and I
realized how the two of us looked. We were unshaven. Our skin and clothes were
black with soot. Flanked by a uniformed escort, still carrying beers, we
staggered and tripped.
The guests in the
lobby stared at us. Our keys were ready. In a matter of minutes we found
ourselves behind the door of No. 61. I clung to the dresser. "Go ahead and
take the first shower," Bill said, collapsing on a bed.
I weaved my way
to a table with glasses and a pitcher. Real water, free for the drinking. A
real hotel, a real bathroom. It took an act of will to turn on the shower and
waste all that precious liquid. It ran down the drain, black from the soot of
the still. The waves, encouraged by splashing sounds, were up to 15 feet.
Wedged against tiles, I soaped and rinsed at least four times, then dried
unsteadily and looked at myself in the mirror. Not the greatest job. I looked
at my hands. Every crease, every dry crack was packed black. I washed them
again in the sink.
"One of the
guys brought us some clothes," Bill said. "And a razor. You want to use
it while I shower?"
the beard on."
We both jumped as
the phone rang.
said, picking up the receiver. Isn't that what you're supposed to say in