As much as I reveled in my longest cocktail parry and loved the people and the friends that made it happen, I feel content in being alone face to face with myself. You are a loner, aren’t you? Visiting Karen (Abbott) had said a couple of weeks earlier. Something my mom always said about me. A bit of contradiction in my personality trait, because I am the one who also had her always rolling dozens of rotlis for so many of my friends, as if rolling them for the eight of us siblings weren’t enough. True, I do like my own company. There are times when I just want to be by myself. I don’t have to be surrounded by people all the time. So it is right now. I watch the evening fall on the gleaming water and the swaying private boats anchored along the piers. I take a deep breath and empty my mind of all intrusions. Put myself in a meditative trance and center all my energy within.

The first thing I do the next morning is drop off my car to be prepped for it’s journey on the Queen. I come back to my room and watch the Buick lifted up not much below the height of my room on the fourth floor window. Held up by ropes slung around the wheels, it conjures up the image of an immaculately conceived baby on its way to be delivered to the waiting mother, wrapped in a sling dangling down from the long beak of a stork.  I see a man dressed in shiny rubber overalls hosing down the bottom of the car, a forceful jet stream of water pointed upward. To make sure it doesn’t carry with it infested European soil and contaminate the sterilized soil of America.

●●●

I am onboard and we have already began our westward journey of five nights and four days. The sea is calm and friendly. Gentle waves slushing several decks down below lapping the edges of the ship. Mild breeze caress my skin. I have walked all the way up to the observation deck. I am leaning against the rail, my eyes fixed on the darkened horizon which looks close enough to touch. A mirage in reverse. I take a deep breath and fill up my lungs with the fresh oceanic air. I jump up and down, walk to and fro from forward and aft of the ship. Finally, I sit down on top of the stairs.

I have left Elayne sitting all alone in the bar. One of the very few young and attractive women onboard. We dance for a while. The feel of her pointed braless large breasts on her slender frame keep reminding of Jutta (Kossberger). I buy her a drink and after the initial icebreaking ritual, neither of us have anything to say to the other. I excuse myself as politely as I could and escape.

As I sit up the stairs and let all the tenseness peel out of my body and soul, I try to think of an angle that would make for an interesting travel piece I am assigned to write by Playboy Germany’s service editor, Nikolas (Frank).  On the heels of the short fiction I have already sold, Nikolas is quite impressed at my ability to write and has asked me to contribute to the front-of-the-book short pieces about America. The magazine pays handsomely and sustains me for the early months of my not being gainfully employed. A major piece on QE II could open up an entire new frontier for me. The piece obviously has to conform to Playboy’s core philosophy of hedonism, romance and the pursuit of pleasure.

Judging from the first few hours of being onboard, I shouldn’t have much of a problem observing and describing and perhaps even experiencing the excitement and the multiple pleasures of crossing the Atlantic on one of the floating Shangri-La. There is no dearth of things you can do onboard. Being up until wee hours in the morning, eating, drinking and dancing. I don’t remember having made it even once in time for breakfast. You’re served hand and foot and spoiled rotten, even if you reside at the bottom deck.

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