Life had never been very easy for Jacob; this could be said for many people. People have had many different lives, many different experiences and problems. Some people have problems putting down the bottle, some just can’t give a smile to save their lives. Others keep making that bad choice that they think is the right one. For Jacob, the problem was that he couldn’t work up the courage to stand up to anything for himself. Right now Jacob was sitting on his bunk twisting his fingers in an effort to calm himself down, a tactic he had used since the day he first felt stress. The shifting balance of the cargo ship did not help. All the years Jacob worked on ships he had never fully gotten rid of the vertigo he felt on them. It was better on the large cargo ships he now worked on but not gone completely. He had always hid his condition well, and his father was a ship captain so the idea that one of his sons had sea sickness was unthinkable. Jacob had no problems with life on boats other than his vertigo, but it wasn’t the life he wanted.
The reason Jacob’s life was now on a ship was the fact that he couldn’t say no when faced with pressure to say yes. It was during his third year of collage that his dad pulled him to his first job on the seas. The money was good, and he had a free bed and meals as long he was away on the job; it was these things plus his father’s fixation with sea life that put Jacob where he was now. It was his true dream to be a doctor, preferably on land. To be a doctor and go to countries in poverty he would help people who wouldn’t normally get help. But to do that required money, and to get that Jacob would either need to ask for money or generate it himself. To ask for it he would need to go to his dad, and that would involve telling him that sea life wasn’t for him. That scenario wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. But this was not what was causing stress this time, and in fact for the first time in many years Jacob’s finances and family problems were far from his mind.
What was causing immediate anxiety was what he had found at the start of the voyage. The Almack was the vessel he was currently working on, a massive cargo ship shipping goods to and from England and Brazil. The trip from Fowey to Rio was quiet, a normal journey with nothing but past worries for Jacob. On the first day back out at sea after the few days in Rio, he was going through the lower hull when he found something … or someone. He had at first wished he had never found her, a woman bleeding out behind the wall of old boilers that used to be used before the ship was converted to use oil. When Jacob first found her he could tell that if no one did anything she would die. Having had some medical training, he did what he could. He was able to stich the wound up but beyond that required tools and training he didn’t have. It wasn’t just the cut that worried Jacob, her body had several old wounds and bruises.
After he was able to keep her from the danger of death, he attempted to leave to alert others but was quickly stopped by the woman. She pleaded with Jacob to keep her presence on the ship a secret. She was lucky that Jacob spoke Portuguese or else he would have never understood her. At the time it made Jacob happy that those years learning several different languages wasn’t a waste of time. It didn’t take much to convince Jacob to help her. That first conversion still rang through his head even now.
“O que você está fazendo aqui?” Jacob asked as the two sat across from each other, hoping to find out just what she was doing here.
“Escapando família, eu não voltará nunca mais!” there was a lot of anger in her words, anger Jacob understood. The idea of leaving family behind was a dream and only a dream to Jacob.
“Lamento ter de perguntar, mas que é sobre sua família que você está fugindo?” Jacob hoped to gain some insight on just what cause this woman to flee her home and family.
“Tenho certeza que você viu meu corpo. você pode responder a isso mesmo.” It was a bit understandable that she would be a little snide in her response. She was right, he did see the bruises and healed cuts and it didn’t take a genius to know where she got them.
“Marido ou o pai ?” Jacob asked hoping to find out just who was this woman’s tormenter, a husband or father?
Just like him but at the same time not. She has been tormented physically by her father while Jacob himself has lost the power over the direction of his life due to his. Jacob’s thoughts could be easily read off his face, and the woman could understand perfectly.
“Did I strike a nerve?” the woman said, trying to be funny.
“What? No… wait, you can speak English?”
“Little bit.” The woman said still trying to be funny.
This was the very first conversation Jacob had with the woman he would come to know as Carina Pires. Each and every day of the voyage back was either spent doing his work or taking care of the still disabled Carina. The more time Jacob spent with Carina the less Jacob thought about outside worries. Every small meal with Carina brought Jacob a small glimpse of just how his life could be if he would do things for himself like Carina did. The first time he felt like this was two days after they had met and he had brought her some food he stole from the galley.
“Can I ask, how did you do it? How did you just leave everything you knew and everyone you knew, to leave for some place you never seen before?”
“I’ve been to England before,” she said before taking a bite of the small roll of bread.
“Yes, this is not the first time I tried to leave. The last time I was able to get enough money to smuggle myself out to the states but the bout ended up in England instead. I was able to live in the attic of a piano store in Fowey, the people who owned it were kind enough to take care of me and teach me English. After a few years there I left to be onmy own so the people helping me wouldn’t get in trouble for hiding me … but I quickly was caught and sent back.”
“But about my question? How did you just leave, how did you take a stand for yourself?”
“I just did it. I just did it without thinking of those things you said before.”
“Without thinking?” this idea was new to Jacob, but he knew that might be sign that it was on the right track. He could imagine bursting into his father’s study and just blurting out his dreams. The idea was as frightening as it was hopeful.
That was the first time Jacob thought about actually standing up for himself. More than that, it was the first time he thought standing up for himself was possible. To do what he wanted and not just be a tool for others or to be some robot that could be programmed. It was all because of this woman he had found. This woman over a few short days had given him the confidence to do things that were only wishful thinking before. After the sixth day on the voyage Jacob did the unthinkable to him, he was able to decline a job offer he didn’t want.
“Mueller! Get in here,” the captain of the ship yelled out as Jacob passed by his room.
Jacob began sweating and growing nervous, wondering just what could the captain could want of him. Did someone see him taking food or did he find out about Carina?
“Yes, sir?” Jacob said timidly, though this wasn’t out of the normal.
“Still spineless as ever, I see. Now, I brought you in here because your contract will be up by the time we pull in to Fowey. Here’s the next contract,” the captain said as he handed Jacob a stack of papers.
“It seems larger than the normal one.”
“That’s because it is. You work hard and you don’t ask for more money than you’re given, so the company wants to get you on long term. This is a ten-year contract. We’re expecting you to sign the entire thing before we get in port, so get to it,” the captain ordered before getting back to work.
Jacob just stood there frozen with dread, he never wanted to be tied down for ten more years. Had Jacob been thinking like he had seven days earlier he would have sulked back to his bunk and signed each and every paper that sealed his fate for the next ten years. But Jacob wasn’t the same Jacob he was, and this time he did things differently. This time Jacob dropped the contract back on the captain’s desk.
“No,” Jacob said full heartedly, not giving a damn about how anyone would feel about his choice.
“No? Did you just say no?” the captain asked as he stood up. His imposing height normally made Jacob’s knees shake, but not this time.
“Yes… I said no,” Jacob answered now a bit more sober from the initial shock of his decision.
“That’s not like you, you’re a spineless worm who does whatever people tell you to. Just two weeks ago you agreed to stay on deck when everyone else took leave when it was supposed to be Johnson’s job. What happened to that guy?”
“I just don’t want the contract; I don’t want to be on ships for ten more years.”
“Is that so? Very well, I can’t make you sign it, but just know, you’re turning down a great thing,” the captain said as he sat back down clearly not happy about the turn of events.
Jacob quickly left the room not wanting to be there with an unhappy boss.
But that was three days ago. Today was the day the ship would pull in to the port of Fowey. All Jacob could wonder about now was if Carina wasn’t around anymore would he return to his old self. For the first time in his life he had confidence even if it still was just a small amount. He hated in his soul the idea of returning to the way he was. So as he sat on his last bunk ever he made up his mind to ask Carina if he could go with her. He worked on a speech in his mind to ask her with, going over every tiny detail of a plan for them after, trying to remember just how much money he had in his bank account. Although he felt that he was still a little under prepared, he stood up confident that it could be done. But as he began moving towards the door out of the bunk room, a terrifyingly familiar figure stood in the door way.
“Father?” Jacob said with shock at the sight of his father that stood before him.
“Jacob, what is this about you declining the contract I got for you?” his father said he walked through the door.
“How did you know about that, and more importantly, how did you get here?”
“I took a helicopter; I would have waited until the ship came in but this was too urgent. And for your first question, it’s my company, I worked hard to convince the board to give you that contract, and you say no to it?”
“Captain never said you had a hand in it.”
“Well, of course it was me. You think you could have gotten it on your own merit? I’m sorry, Jacob, but that could never happen.”
Jacob knew he wasn’t that sorry. His father rarely ever felt remorse.
“Now you’re going to do the right thing and sign it,” Jacob’s father held out the mass of papers in front of Jacob.
Jacob could feel his father’s eyes stare him down even though his own were stuck firmly on the wet metal floor. Every cell in his body screamed to just give in to his father’s wishes, but Jacob knew that this was the most important moment in his life. If he were to give in now it would certainly mean a hard life on the sea with no chance at doing anything good for the world.
“No,” Jacob said
Giving no extra thought while walking past his father without even a glance, Jacob headed towards the stairs down to the lower reaches of the ship, though he expected his father to stop him at some point. That didn’t happen. When Jacob reached the stairs he looked back the hallway and saw no one. He ran down the stairs knowing that he made the right choice. He couldn’t wait to tell Carina. But his heart began to sink as he walked down the corridor to the boilers when he saw Bill, the guy who cleaned this floor, right by where Carina was supposed to be.
“Bill?” Jacob said as he walked up to him, “what are you doing here?”
“Cleaning, it’s my job you know,” the old man said, not too happy with the pointless question.
“I know it just that I haven’t seen you in this part of the ship before.”
“Strange, because I see you here all the time.”
“Yes, you come down here every day and went in there,” Bill pointed to the small space where Carina was supposed to be. “Thing is, I don’t know what you do in there. The place is empty when you leave.”
“You went in there?”
“Of course I’ve been in there! I’m the guy who’s got to clean it.”
“And you didn’t find anything in there?”
“Not a crumb, what’s it to you?”
But Jacob had stopped listening, he stumbled back with this information. Did this mean that Carina wasn’t really there, that the whole thing was a creation of his own mind, some hallucination built by his mind to give himself more confidence? Jacob fell back, catching himself on some piping. He went through each and every memory that he had of Carina and knew in his heart that she was real, she had to be. And there was one way to know for sure. Later that day after Jacob packed up what belongings he had, he left the last ship he would ever set foot on. As he looked on the Almack he felt slightly bad to leave it, it was the place where he gained the spirt to stand on his own. Jacob walked through the docks to the town of Fowey, and he loved the fact he no longer would have to feel the constant vertigo that he felt at sea. He soon stood in front of the only piano store in town. Jacob reached out to open the door but found himself frozen by fear. What if he didn’t find her here and what would that mean? But Jacob continued, he had learned to just do what he knew he needed to do and not to let fear control him. A small ring greeted him as he entered the small store.
“Excuse me, miss?” Jacob said to the elderly lady at the counter, “Is Carina living here?”
The old lady smiled before answering.
|Autism in My Eyes||