Attic Boxes Part III

I believe that I wrote about my friend Marc whose early and unexpected
death affected me greatly. While going through the box from the attic, I found
something that I wrote while still at work just after he passed away. It touched
me and I felt that it deserved a wider audience. It is reproduced as is. I don’t
think that it has been shared with anyone ever.

Every day I sit in front of the computer and enter data. The data has
been collected from our research vessel during field season, May through
October. A team of three, usually Marc, Rick and I along with our boat captain
Ben, would head to our boat docked in Hampton Bays. We would do eight trawls,
two times a week in the Peconic Bay system. A trawl consisted of letting out a
small meshed net from the stern with a winch system designed especially for us.
After the net was let out we would drag it along the bottom for ten minutes. Then
the winch would pull the cables in, to the base of the net, and two people
would pull the net up on board the boat. The bottom of the net tapered into a
lined bag which was tied in a knot. This is where all our data would end up.

All the fish and crabs, starfish and algae would be jumbled together in
this bag. Organisms which had never made acquaintances with one another were
suddenly side by side. The lady crabs responded by trying to eat anything they
could lay their claws on. The toadfish would try to swing around and grab your
hand in its gaping mouth. The puffers would blow up into little balloons
nestled in the mess while the smaller species couldn’t handle the stress and
were DOA.

All different species were identified, measured and counted. For each
netful, one of us would measure the fish, one would record lengths, and one
would count the lady crabs (sometime numbering in the thousands). The notebooks
we used were specially treated for use in the wet conditions in which we
worked. The process made each page have an odd chemical feel to it. Months
later sitting in front of the computer, flipping through those pages, they seem
to have lost their unnatural feeling, having become encrusted with salt and
smudged with dirt. While the books may look like all scientific recordings to
the casual observer, I know they tell a different story.

The first book starts out with week three, due to inclimate weather we
couldn’t get out on the first two scheduled weeks. This was my first full season
on the trawl. I was nervous and still shaky on the routine. My initial entries
in the data book were full of species entered in the wrong place. Marc was
always patient with me, even if I repeatedly asked the same question. He was
the kind of person that was always so full of life that he just drew you to
him. I remember feeling somewhat jealous if he spent any amount of time talking
to anyone but me.

By week six, I had fallen comfortably in to the trawling routine. From
the notebooks I can see that our intern Adam had joined our happy team. He was
with us for a few weeks working for experience and credit. Of course he
immediately took to Marc and I think considered him his mentor. Marc loved to
find odd and interesting things in the trawl and point them out to us. He was
younger than me but despite that I had a lot of respect for him personally and professionally. He was always happy and full of energy but never to the point of being
annoying.

Weeks seven through nine were the weeks of Marc’s wedding and
honeymoon. Our supervisor’s handwriting took over for Marc’s. Marc and I had
become close but I don’t think he was ready for me to make the transition from
work acquaintance to real friend. He had moved into a house which belonged to
his grandparents that he was planning on buying from them. He spent countless days
doing home improvements so the house would be in a livable condition. He and
his soon to be wife, Kate, moved all their belongings in before the wedding and
Marc moved in with his new Siamese cat, Monkey (originally named Anubis). If
the wedding hadn’t been in Massachusetts, I would have gone to the church. Rick
had been invited to the festivities and while I wanted to attend, I realized
that at the time of sending invitations we hadn’t been that close.

Marc’s handwriting picked up again in the second half of week nine.
Adam’s handwriting was only present for two more weeks and his time with us
ended. By week twelve it was the end of July and the weather was hot and humid.
Marc would keep the dead baitfish, anchovies mostly, for his flounder fishing.
He would take his little boat out on Moriches Bay and fish as long as he could.
Most of the time he would bring home more fish than he and Kate could eat so he
would give me some of it. We talked about going fishing together a lot. He said
we could go whenever I wanted but with my car problems it was difficult to find
a time convenient for both of us.

The weeks flew by like the summer. Rick, Marc and I worked well
together. Everyone knew what had to be done. Marc and Kate came over to our
apartment sometime during August. There was a carnival at the fire house close
to where we lived. We sat in my backyard for hours just drinking and talking.
Joel, my boyfriend, took quite a liking to Marc, saying that out of all of my friends
he liked Marc the most and felt the two of them could really become close. When
the fireworks started going off we ran out to the street in order to see them.

Between weeks sixteen and twenty there are a few days I was absent from
the trawl. One time Vinnie replaced me while Tammy took my place on another
occasion. All the pages seem to be the same during this stretch. We catch a lot
of fish and a lot of varied species. Week twenty begins September.  The weather was nice and cool though some days the wind seemed to rip right through whatever you had on. The last day Marc was on the trawl was September 26th – week 22. There are so
many things I remember from that day. We finished extremely early, heading back
by two o’clock. On the last trawl we caught two squid that actually lived
through the process. One was a regular sized one, about 5 inches, while the
other was about as long as the first digit on a finger. I actually had never
seen one that small alive. It was amazing. Marc and I put both into a bucket of
water. The small one zipped around with incredible quickness and speed. As the
boat slowed and we were pulling up to the dock we set them both free and
watched them swim away. Of course Marc belted out the first verse to “Born Free”
as usual.

Instead of calling from the dock like we were supposed to we decided to
call from Marc’s house. Somehow Rick thought Marc had wanted to call from the
diner and pulled in as Marc was telling him that he wouldn’t get out and call.
It had started raining and the phone was outside. Rick insisted on calling from
the diner and this extremely childish argument between the two of them ensued.
We ended up not calling from the diner and the ride was quieter than usual.
When we got to Marc’s house we didn’t come in, which we did frequently. We said
goodbye to Mark not knowing it would be the last time we’d see him.

Marc died that evening in a freak drowning accident while he was
fishing. I sometimes think, what if we had gone in the house that day? What if
that extra ten or fifteen minutes would have changed all the circumstances? What
if…….our office is quiet without him here. I think that I still don’t really
believe he died. I think that he’s just not here right now. I can’t bear to
think that he’s not here at all.

So I go through the data books everyday and relive the whole summer
every day and relive Marc’s death every day. And it’s not fair. And I miss him
and I love him. And then sometimes when I’m entering data I’ll find an entry
that reads

Kingfish                            232                         AKA-Elvisphish

And then I laugh until I cry. I miss you Marc.

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About nematomorph

Living like the rich and famous, splitting time between Hawaii and New York.
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