It was a large, unending ocean. And in that ocean was a single boat, small and weak, with a lone girl in it. Her hair was matted, her eyes sunken, and her arms and legs covered in scars. The waves would toss the boat dangerously and sometimes, the water would splash onto her, causing the salt to sting her wounds. She spent most of her days curled up into a ball, wanting either to die or to be found by somebody else in the desolate ocean.
The boat had been stuck in this ocean for months. She didn’t know where exactly she was. She didn’t know which way land was or how far she was from it. She didn’t even know how she’d landed up here. Everything before her life on the boat felt like a hazy dream.
It was just another day. There was still no sign of help. She wasn’t sure if anybody missed her and was worried enough to actually look for her. She looked out into the never-ending grey sky and sea and suddenly, spotted a speck in the distance. She couldn’t believe her eyes. All these days, she had let the water toss her around. Upon seeing the speck, she got rowing. She had to get to the speck in the distance because for the first time in many months, she felt a flicker of hope.
She rowed furiously and as she got closer, she realised that, after what seemed like a lifetime, she was not alone. There was another boat in the ocean, with another person in it.
He was exhausted when she found him. His hair was dishevelled, his eyes barely open, and his clothes hung loosely from this thin frame. When she extended her hand to hold his hand to remember what it felt like to touch another person, he recoiled. Confused, she retreated to her own boat but she was determined to not let this boat out of her sight. She wasn’t going to be alone again. Most importantly, she wasn’t going to let somebody else be as alone as she had been.
“I’m tying your boat to mine,” she said. He looked up and watched as she tied their boats together so that they could not drift away from each other. She couldn’t have been happier. She still didn’t know which way land was or how far it was but she knew now that there was somebody else who was with her and they could look for it together.
Every day, she talked to him, passed him snacks from the supplies she had, and sometimes she sang him her favourite songs to pass the time. As days went by, he began to sit up and take interest in what she was saying. Some days, he talked back. Some days he ate what she offered. Some other days, he even sang.
Sometimes, one of them would get seasick and cry. One would cry while the other would talk. But he never let her touch him. He never let her hold his hand. And so, she didn’t ask.
And then one day, her boat sprouted a leak. She woke up in the morning, her clothes wet, and she looked around and panicked. Quickly, she began to untie her boat from his. He woke up, confused. “What are you doing?” he asked. She gestured towards the water in her boat. “This boat won’t last. It’s too risky to stay together. You can find land on your own. I’ll give you my supplies.”
He stared at her. In the days that they had spent time together, it had never occurred to him that one day she might not be there and he would have to be alone again. They had never crossed into the boat of the other because they were afraid but now, there was no option. He would either have to call her over, or let her go.
She threw her supplies over to him. “When you find land,” she said, “write down what it’s like. Toss a bottle into the sea with a letter telling me all about it.”
“Are you insane?” he asked. “I am not letting you go. Let your boat go down. You don’t have to go down with it. What’s the point in finding land if I can’t find it with you?”
She looked at him. “Are you sure? You won’t even let me touch you. How will we live on the same boat?”
“I don’t know. It’ll be difficult. But all I know is I can live without finding land and living on this boat. But I can’t live with finding land if you aren’t with me to find it. Come over, come over, come this side.”
She looked at him for a few minutes. And then, in a quick motion, she jumped over to his boat. Without speaking a word, he untied her boat and they watched as it sank. Slowly, hesitantly, she took his hand in hers. And for the first time, he didn’t withdraw. They were on the same boat.