The joys an elderly ferryman, Henry faces daily are distant from his emotional turmoil. The comforting presence of his late wife, Sally, is but a fading memory, and the humdrums of life, a repeating ordeal.
On a ride, a young passenger opens up fresh wounds by upsetting a pile of Sally’s belongings. In a fit of anger, Henry stops short upon remembering Sally’s level-headedness in speaking to errant passengers. Clutching at her locket, he realises that she never completely departed from his side. Her memories, now brought to life and ignited with a optimism, lifts Henry out of an emotional limbo, and her meaningful coexistence, a constant for ever more.
The current beats relentlessly against the peeling paint of the ferry boat as Henry gazes out at the azure horizon beyond the shoreline. It is high noon and the waters sparkle invitingly. He sits behind a grimy window in a singlet, ribbed at the collar from long-use but lovingly patched and sewn over numerous times - a favourite shirt of his. Today was just another sweltering day to get through, he mumbles, as he creases his eyebrows.
Trampling feet and high-pitched voices punctuate the jetty’s tranquil atmosphere, as a group of wide-eyed passengers hop onto Henry’s boat. He offers a reassuring hand to a bumbling young boy, who ignores Henry’s hand and makes a clumsy jump, rocking the boat. No more than twelve passengers get on and Henry collects the fares diligently as they find seats by the side of the boat, and with that, he returns to his high chair.
With practiced precision, he takes a glance to his right, and steers the ferry away from shore. Grime was threatening to devour his windows, but as he glances out into the vast expanse and the excited chatter of the vacationers, his mind drifts carelessly as the waves do. A wave of nostalgia floods him as he wonders, what of his own happiness?
Salt of the sea, fizzed over in foam, but in memory, she had sun-kissed skin and a taste for adventure. An explorer at heart, Sally also had a shy smile and an easy demeanor. Eventually, the fading light of day caught up, and at the end of thirty years, all that was left was a shrine of what used to be: Her treasured belongings strewn in a corner of the boat, and a fading photograph near the wheel. Newspapers of issues they spoke about, lay in a crumpled stack. She would never again utter a word, as she was silently whisked away a fortnight ago, and she went as light as the sea breeze.
The ship steadied on, half a mile from the shore now, passing by yachts with burly men busy with knots. “Look, Mom!!”, the bumbling boy tugged at his mother’s sleeves, but more pressing issues occupied her on her tablet. Nevertheless, it did not stop the boy from running towards the open edge of the ferry at the dangerous distance. Unaware of the developing mischief behind him, Henry steps on the gas, causing the boat to jerk and sway to the side. The boy loses his balance, yelling as he trips over a pile of Henry’s dusty possessions. A golden necklace falls from the top of the heap and lands on the deck with a clink, and a sharp crease forms on Henry’s eyebrows as he picks it up carefully, holding it close to him.
“Uncle ah!’, the boy’s mother snaps to attention as she rebukes, “So fast for what?! My boy could have fallen into the sea and drowned!” She beckons at the boy, as he rushes over, his face now a scarlet red.
Boiling anger spills over as he raises his voice, “Why don’t you keep your son close for once!” but as he was about to continue, he clenched his fist and felt the locket in his palms. Nights of removing the treasured locket from her neck rushed back to him. A calm took his mind, and his anger dissipated. “Always show your best side,” she used to say as she pressed his palms gently when he was ticked off. It was her, who faced errant passengers as he was always quick to anger. Looking away, he then apologises softly and trains his eyes on the nearing shore.
The boat finally docks at the jetty and the passengers disembark, and Henry smiles at the bumbling young boy, who looks at him forlornly as he keeps close to his parents’ side. Henry then turns off the engine, and draws in a sharp breath. Like a boat to shore, anchor to ground, she lived by him - in the breeze, by the water-beaten rocks, and on the seafoam rushing through the paint of the boat. She would stay close to him in the very way she used to exist. A tear falls from his cheek and he quickly wipes it away, as he hears the jetty staff call for him to get ready. Another trip out, and another brood of noisy passengers, but he will be no more remain alone than he used to be. A small smile forms on his lips, as he carefully places the locket in his chest pocket, and gives it a light press.