January 10, 1980
Bad news: that did not go according to plan. Good news: I am now in Massachusetts… in 1980.
We thought we had fixed the calculations adjusting for the rotation of the Earth, but we must have just got it closer, and didn’t notice the difference over a course of 20 minutes, however over the course of thirty years, the gap grew exponentially. One minute I’m looking at the dark metallic insides of the machine, and the next I’m nearly drowning almost a mile offshore of Provincetown.
The icy water surrounded me in an instant, and in the shock of it, I inhaled a big salty gulp. After a minute of struggling, which felt like an hour, I was able to at least orient myself towards land, although the salt stung in the base of my throat, and I didn’t stop coughing—I still haven’t a day later.
I consider myself a strong swimmer, but by the time I reached shallow enough water to stand, my exhausted limbs were burning and stinging in the frigid salt water. I pulled myself onto dry land and collapsed, the air made my burning turn to full on freezing, and my teeth began chattering. The sand had none of the wet give of the summer months, and was hard against my back.
Lucky I had the cash in my pocket, I had to get a room at an inn owned by two men, Ken and Hal, who told me they were cousins, but I was pretty sure were a couple. This was a bit of a shock to me. I knew that things evolved as far as gay-rights over the past three decades, but as far as I knew, Provincetown had always been gay-friendly.
Hal had run to get me a change of clothing the night before, while they dried my waterlogged clothes. Ken heated up some clam chowder that he had from lunch. I have never been a seafood eater, and it didn’t taste or smell good, but the warm goo flowed through my chest and into my stomach, and began the process of defrosting me.
After the chowder, I got changed into the clothes Hal had purchased for me, and sat with them in the lobby area near the fireplace. I drank hot chocolate which managed to replace the chowder taste in my mouth, and continue to warm me from the inside out.
“I’m surprised you could get this far out on a dingy,” Ken said, staring into the fire.
I had told them, I had taken a dingy that I bought for a joyride, and got lost before hitting a patch of sharp rocks and busting a hole in the hull. They both had looked in shock when I first told them, they probably had a better idea than I did of how ridiculous I must sound. I hadn’t thought up a better lie as I had staggered up the road from where I had been able to find land. My sole thought as I pulled each icy cinderblock leg forward, was my own shivering voice saying “so cold.” Despite telling one of the shittiest lies they’d probably heard, they were truly compassionate and kind.
This morning after breakfast, a couple of other men had come over, and it became clear to me that while they were comfortable among locals, I wasn’t local and they didn’t know if I was here to stir up trouble. I realized that must be why they told me they were cousins, but it was also why they didn’t question further my ludicrous story of how I arrived at their door.
After their friends left, Ken made a sandwich for me, housed in Reynold’s Wrap, and wished me luck. I headed out with Hal, who drove me to the nearest bus station. Hal was the less talkative ‘cousin’, I thanked him for all his help, and he nodded and told me to come back during the summer and get a real feel for the town.
I’m now sitting on the bus, heading to South Station in Boston. No one was on the bus when I got on, but now there are a couple. I’m going to try to go to sleep for a little while.