'Roger dearest, I must admit that you are taking my breath away. I cannot instantaneously respond in another way than with a confirmatory pat on your cheek. It's more than I could have hoped for. Meanwhile I'll think of a proper reaction in response. I love seeing you drive, I love hearing you talk, saying things in that peculiar English of yours. I love your awkward way of reasoning and doing things, as in driving off the road. Yes, this is all very new for me and I must say very tempting to be part of it.'
'Where are we?' I asked, 'I must have been dreaming. I had watched the traffic alertly, but lost track of our position in the road system.'
'I'm dead certain we must be exactly here,' Amber said. 'Look!'
She looked at the map, following the road with her slender and elegant forefinger.
'Yes, I'm right, we're here, on the dot.'
'If you had been a navigator on the new Titanic, and given me that kind of information, you'd be kicked overboard,' I said.
'I'm sure,' Amber said, 'they'd have given me other work.'
We were passing Andover, in Essex, all these well-known English names in this American setting.
'We're zooming in on Amesbury, to be followed by Portsmouth,' my navigator announced.
She looked at me and said 'When we're talking about one thing you sometimes come up with an observation in a totally different context. Are you aware of that?'
'Oh yes,' I said, 'I feel badly about confusing you, but I am sorry you will have to deal with me. Being a Gemini we're actually two characters in one mind. I do my thinking on a dual band, that's to say on the citizen's band and on my personal thinking band, no, it's more like a tri-band, like in my cell phone, like in different echelons in a company. But then I'm sure that's the way everybody is thinking while dealing with practical things in life and that of others. Sun's back again! Great!'
We only saw houses from a distance, but the atmosphere was filled with what I was familiar with, houses in streets that emit melancholic associations prompted by scenes in precious movies. There was so much to talk about with my precious Amber, Chevrolets from the fifties, the Saturday Evening Post, Life magazine, and Time-Life Books and Mustangs of course.
'Did you drive the DeLorean out of your mind?' Amber asked.
'Yes repeatedly,' I said, 'although I tend to thinking a lot of you as well. There was nothing more to be said to Porter. I've been thinking of phoning him to ask him whether he knows when the car will be ready to drive. Cars are pure business to him, and the DeLorean doesn't have any special value for him, like it does have for me. No, in fact, I can't get him out off my driveway. If only I could get enough work here, I then could drive in the DeLorean. How would that be for the rest of my life? It's a dream of course, but that's how one changes onto another track in life. What do you think?'
She looked puzzled and in wonderment.
'What day is today?' she asked, 'How long have we known each other? This is longer than a one-night stand, that's for sure, but then, how can I advise you at this point in time and your career, and in your life, to make decisions with such far fetching consequences?'
'Yes you're right,' I said, 'this is too grave a matter for a romantic outing such as this.'
'I love the outing side,' Amber said sternly, 'but then you're also planning to meet people with whom you hope to organize a business venture. I admire the creative and daring scope of it, but it's so unusual that I don't seem to be able to focus, yes, I mean on the consequences. Yet it sounds like a crystallized plan, who in the world could have dreamed this up?'
It was getting later by the mile. We would not reach Portland, but we were satisfied with the distance we covered.
'A different angle is,' I said, 'that many businesses were started that way, like a wild dream, but - I should add - in practically most cases based on insight in latent motivations and the lurking desires by the assumed target groups.'
'You really surprise me with all your strategic imagination,' Amber said, 'you surprise me more and more. Are you a romantic guy? Or are you a sentimental businessman?'
'Most fine businessmen,' I said, 'whom I've known, were spiritually well developed dreamers, as well as enlightened accountants. More and more I get the impression that we are a discussion group, while I'd love to hear more about you, about everything and anything.'
'To me we seem to be an energetic couple on the go,' she said. 'Your secret lies in your wide and deep interest in all that makes people tick, or businesses, or me. Though you are buzzing around I sit here close to you in a bubble of peace and quiet, and the pieces of the puzzle come together, and I'm dreading the moment we've come to the end of the trip, and the bubble will no longer exist'
'The time is now! Look at my watch,' I said, 'this watch was created by an American artist living in Amsterdam, a really inspiring artist.'
'But how can you make out what time it is?' Amber asked.
'The creator Victor Four lived on a raft,' I said. 'which was moored on the river Amstel, a canal that cuts through the city as The Thames flows through the City of London. Victor made paintings on driftwood that he found in the river, or wherever else he got them from. Living in Amsterdam he became a local legend with a national fame. His tragedy was that he died under his own raft where he got stuck and drowned.'
'But the watch?'
'A few years before his death he designed this watch,' I said. 'I immediately loved it, and I like to wear it as an artistic alternative to my Breitling Navitimer. Look, the brand he named the watch is Bulgar Time. Right now I forgot why. The time is now! That was his credo. This must not be forgotten! Over the years this has become my own credo. On one of the walls in my house I have a piece of driftwood on the wall with a word in an ancient script that I can't decipher. It probably says: 'The time is now!' If I tell you that the hands turn backwards, and you have to view them as if in a mirror, you'll see what time it is. Then you will discover that it's too late to push on much longer.'
'Yes,' Amber said as if jumping to a conclusion, 'let's jump overboard, and swim to an island. Let's look for a motel!'
'I hear you're definitely getting in the Titanic mood.'
We could and we would have gone on for a few more hours, but looking at my lovely travel companion I felt differently.
At a speed that had been modest to my taste we had covered a long stretch quickly that day. What day? Sunday, Monday, it would have to be Tuesday! While trying to find a motel that suited us Amber asked: 'Are you a typical Dutch driver, or not?'
'Well,' I said, 'my sense of economy often differs from my wish to stay within the boundaries of the law. So I am an alert spotter of radar traps. Most Dutch drivers are law-abiding drivers, whereas I'm an economic law-abiding citizen. No, that's not true, and I drive fast when I think I can.'
Halfway between Dover and Biddeford a motel came into view, a nice wooden, cabin sort of lodge.
'Wouldn't that be nice?' Amber asked. I thought it was. 'I wouldn't mind setting up camp here,' she pressed on. 'I'm sure it's far nicer here than in Portland, although I've never been there. I actually never have been further away from home I'd mean figuratively speaking, but this could feel like home, with you with me.'
The motel certainly was nice. We fell on the bed, tired. The drone of the tires was still ringing in my ears.
Amber undressed, and took a shower. She came back still dripping water all over the floor.
'How much have you seen of Europe?' I asked.
'I've actually been in the South of France, Saint Raphael, Saint Trop, up and down the coast, with my parents, but that was quite some time ago. Since my leaving on Sunday I've never been further from my roots emotionally, not measured in miles but more like distances between worlds, my world on the coast of Long Island and all your worlds, wherever I'll discover them.'
With a gigantic leap she landed close next to me, caressed me, looked deep into my eyes and moved her supple fingers at a snail's pace to where she could get hold of me.
'My world,' I said, 'this is my world, you are in the center of my world, this is where I want to be and dream about, with you, the other worlds are forgotten worlds, distant memories, places I'd say, that transformed me, that pulled me from my roots.'
'Mergers have been my life for the past few years,' she said, 'shops, large and small. Currently I am working on a deal with my brother a major merger between parties in the aircraft industry, very, very exciting for a kid who's being perceived as being in the modeling industry. In all probability that's why I like the work so much. Yeah, in all honesty I like both worlds, because in the family I was only appreciated for my grades at school. They were afraid my looks would get the better of me. I had great parents, but looking back they were quite distant emotionally, that is I had it all, a nice house, great place to be, but lacking the warmth I have been longing for. Only my brother's been really close to me. That's why his approval of my running off with you is so important to me. He trusts me in my judgment.'
Amber had been quiet, utterly pleased and attractive, and I had felt close, but couldn't quite make out what she's been feeling. But now she's fully opened to me, with her warmth and depth. She had unveiled her world of mergers and perceptibly and had recognized the metaphor in a touching way herself, as if she was working on another merger.
It had become as clear as the beautiful nose on her face that her look on her world had another dimension than mine.
The evening was glorious. We had a quick bite to eat and I enjoyed the sight of wonderful knees and supplementary food for thought.
'Law, as I understood it,' she said, 'and as I came to learn the hard way, is nothing more than politics in words, representations in semantics. Whereas I thought that I idealistically could find justice for my clients, which in fact does not exist in the real world. It's a veneer on a coffee table. In my youth, carelessly sailing on the Sound, yes the sound of seagulls, life was a holiday. Now life has become a bundle of nametags attached to misrepresentations and lies and illegal actions. Attached to a nametag I now see potential crime. All these friends of my parents, as well as my own sailing friends, they'll sell you to the highest bidder when turning up in the wrong corner.'
Amber's face more had taken on an admirable composure. All the while she brought up new thoughts she looked at me as if wishing to discover recognition or appreciation.
'That's how I've chosen to have fun and a lot of action and nothing more than an occasional book. To my knowledge it's not worthwhile to watch the movie of life go by, without catching the moments of perfection, when everything is at harmony. Like a photographer is looking for a moving appeal in a photograph. Or let's say Winslow Homer who painted the sun on a rock, a passing yacht, a kid that picks up something on the shore.'
'A cynic would say that,' I said, 'this is the Saturday Evening Post, in the days just after the war. And in a way it is. In those days the painter had to look hard to find the ideal subject, but then these appealing images of fulfillment, these icons of emotions, were shared by a wide body of readers, many of whom you will find in jail, then and now. All in all we're after legendary icons of consolation, naïve or sophisticated.'
'Let me try to say it in some other words,' Amber said, 'I've been longing to share my feelings, and myself, but there was nobody to share all this with, but I only met those who were looking for cool chills or flimsy foolishness.'
I laughed, laughed out loud.
'Let's go for some solid fleeting fun!' I exclaimed.
We grabbed each other tight and tenderly.
'Since my marriage,' I said. 'I've been very careful not to get involved, just like I avoided a slide off the road into another disaster, but I've waited patiently until someone precious would cross my path, and here we are, look at us, in a heap of bedding.'
'Aren't we here,' she asked, 'in this room and always on the go, to seek new experiences and preferably legends?'
I touched her gracefully rounded butt.
'Let's get this dream moving!' I whispered. '
Early next morning we ate our breakfast as hungry early birds. And around eight fifteen I kicked the loud pedal to the floor. I loved to be on the road again, letting the engine growl pursuing the Mustang. Sun in my back, hand tickling in my neck, good vibes in my head, feeling blessed and fortunate I look on the road leading us further north.
'Ballard,' was the first name that was said, 'did you think of phoning Ballard?'
'My direction is Iceberg.'
I was weary, not wanting to think of Ballard let alone phoning him.
'I'm waiting for the appropriate mood,' I said, 'and inspiration. Meanwhile I've got it all going for me! Love and wheels and a long road ahead, this has always been my dream.'
I felt the soft skin and she complied with my feeling and longing by slowly tightening her muscles and releasing the tension.
'Wouldn't it be nice to rent a bike up there, on Newfoundland?' Amber asked.
In high spirits she was looking at the map, reveling in the anticipated ride. I'd been thinking of the intensity of our togetherness. I felt pretty close to her.
'If we rented a bike,' she said, looking up from an illustrated guide, 'when we arrive on Newfoundland, just imagine, riding around on the island! From books I got the impression that the landscape is pretty much the same as in Scotland and Norway. Have you been ever there?'
She had the expression of a athletic debutante.
'That's a romantic dream,' I said straight away, 'so far from my practical dreams, that I haven't even dreamt of such an adventure! But yes, that's a great plan, we'll make our dream come true!'
Amber was beaming. Outside it was warm, even though we were moving higher up north every day. In our air-conditioned capsule it remained cool, but then Amber had taken off her jeans and put on some light hot pants, a rich sight.
'So odd,' she said, 'this family name of yours, hey Sparks, is it Dutch?'
'No, it's English,' I said, 'as in sparks, flashes; it's a well-known name around Southampton, I was told. I never went to check it out, although I've been in Southampton several times. Should do that sometime, get deeper into my genealogy.'
We passed Biddeford and had a quick coffee plus a doughnut in Portland. It was important to reach our destination on schedule we hastily went back to the car and to the 95, Waterville, and a quiet highway in a quiet landscape to Bangor. The early morning sun steadily rotated with us as we turned more to the East. Amber had tuned in to Chopin, elegantly supporting a very European mood. With Amber next to me I turned my dreams to the more practical sides of my life.
'What are you brooding about?'
'I can't dream of anything more pleasant than you,' I said. 'But that's no problem. I have been thinking of you all the while and tried to visualize what your life has been like on the peninsula.'
'Island to be correct,' she said with a broad smile. 'You may have a picture of a gang of partying and flirting young people, but I certainly wasn't in the center of it all. In summer Walter and I sailed on the Sound, seriously racing regattas. Then Walter drifted into biking, and I followed. We tour around the island and into Jersey or into the Adirondacks Mountains and stay there for a long weekend. Or we hang around the café, for longer than it is nice. On the days that I stay away from my wheels and I would sit in the back of the house, overlooking the Sound, packed with books and a writing pad. Then I am the ideal attractive bunny, with reading glasses, reading the classics and practicing law. But I also can remain quiet, sitting and looking at the waves and the other side of the Sound.'
There were songs on the radio. Now and then Amber joined the singing, free and easy with an engaging voice.
'Did you sing at home when you were a kid,' I asked.
'Yes, all my friends liked my singing,' she said. 'I once asked my parents what they thought of me singing in a band and they said, oh you have a nice enough voice, you should be happy with it, but you should be happier that you are to study law. And that was that.'
The Mustang's ride was comfortable, not much of a sports car though, but her sheer weight made her a comfortable enough carrier for such a long trip.
'She was young, wild, and full of desire. Long days and even longer nights. Those were The Days and those were the Nights,' Amber recited as if from an iconic well known text.
'Law,' I said, 'I still can't believe that practicing law would make you happy.'
The skin of her thighs felt warm, exciting and inviting.
'As I went deeper into the matter of law,' she said, 'the reality of law in everyday life, I discovered the schemes, and the actions with which the laws were broken. That was the interesting part of it. Instead of the rules I became more interested in the fantasies with which they were avoided. I met people that were on the dark side of life and I had to defend them, well, in cooperation with Walter. Gradually it became clearer to me that the mind is a living organism, feeding on opportunities. A character, as I see it, is an amalgam of simple reflexes and also a large body of beastly and heavenly visions and emotions, from which we people are created. Born with an inherited and given bandwidth we don't have much room to play with the intrinsic odds, but when we become emotional, driven by love, lust and loot, all our discipline is overruled.'
'My God,' I asked, 'where did you get these ideas from?'
'From watching the sun on the clouds,' she said, 'and behind the clouds, and the clouds reflected in waves of the Sound.'
'And the sound of the cries of the seagulls. Where are we, in all this?' I asked.
I stopped the car.
'Which laws prevent us from falling in love?' I asked.
'And staying in love for life?' Amber whispered, 'Almost too many. Let's go deeper into this and study the exhilaration and the drawbacks.'
Looking through some papers in my HOG attaché folder I hit upon a picture of Jan van Scorel, Gina and me at a big Harley meet, and I showed it to Amber, telling her who the people in the picture were.
'Oh that's a neat folder for documents,' she said, 'Strong man, and who's she?'
'That's Jan, my American Dutch friend. I met him in Bloomfield and now lives in Holland. And the bunny is Gina, Miss Harley, taken some years ago. Let's discuss love later, when I can look you in the eye. Isn't this road out of this world, the quiet tough nature, unaffected by man, it's magic.'
The landscape had lost its urbane appearance.
'I love this landscape,' I said, 'I first got this feeling of being somewhere where I belong, when driving through Scotland, after I left the last town behind me, on a trip across the highlands. It looks a bit similar. I felt very close to God! Now I feel close to you.'
'This Liberator in the picture,' said Amber, pointing at an old army Harley along in front of a general store, 'whose bike could that be?'
'It must belong to an old grandpa,' I said, 'who is doing errands. Some time ago I saw a Liberator in a photo taken by a friend of mine while he was watching a parade of liberators who ended the war liberating us from the Germans. He shook hands with one of the military men probably a Canadian. It was the Canadians who actually liberated us. Contrary to what is generally believed they used Indians and not Harleys. The liberator warmly took my friend's hand and squeezed it emphatically, who then seemingly had emotional problems returning his hand. In my computer I've got a photograph that he once mailed me; I'll show you. The liberators in the picture are dressed like Scots, so reality is even more complicated than I thought.
We didn't stop to check the bike or the rider out. We went on swiftly.
'Slight change of plan,' Amber announced, breaking the silence that had lasted half an hour, looking up from the guide that she had been reading. 'If we can spare the time, that is, if you can spare the time, we should make the tiniest of detours on Nova Scotia, to see the Titanic Museum in Halifax.'
'Good idea,' I said, 'the museum actually was one of my notes. I should have mentioned it in time. I've already seen its website. It's the museum on the subject. But not ever having been here before I should enjoy the landscape to the full and not just look at you all the time.'
'Keep an eye on the road man!' Amber yelled.
'After all these years, after having seen The Trouble with Harry, with Shirley MacLaine, I've been longing to see the Indian Summer, and now we're driving here and it's spring. Again I'll have to wait indefinitely. I'd love to be here with you when the leaves turn gold and red and orange.'
'Aside from the fact that being in the correct area you'll have to wait for the right meteorological conditions, for they are the secret behind it all; fine weather and a slight overnight frost or something like that. The name Indian Summer is typically used by Europeans. We call it fall foliage, or just fall. Nowadays we check out the reddening of the leafs on the internet: www.massvacation.com.'
'Let's keep in touch,' I suggested. I smiled and emphatically hugged her.
'Is that your way of telling me,' Amber asked, 'that you're going back to Holland?'
'On what conditions could we keep rolling around forever?' I retorted, expressing feelings of love and sadness.
We found an ideal elegant log motel just before entering Woodstock, New Brunswick, surrounded by pine trees, quiet, and nice. In a small dining room we had something simple to eat, which was quite good in spite of it being simple. We turned in early with the hum of the tires still buzzing in our ears.
'Have you always wanted to be a world traveler?' Amber asked.
'Since I was a kid,' I said, 'always watched the sunset from the bow window of our house, daydreaming about North America. Always wanted to cross the ocean, always had a deep-felt craving to leave home, to go west. West it was, not east, or south. West it still is. I don't feel inclined to go east, but I'd love to go to Australia, and even more so New Zealand. Over the years my heart developed a deep longing to see the Americas from south to north, starting with the Isla Grande, south of the Street of Magellan, which are amongst the most solitary places on earth.'
I stroked the big toe of her right foot and then put him into my mouth, and said, 'This dream sucks.' Her ankle followed. 'Buenos Aires, to visit the national library, where Jorge Luis Borges was the director, and read his collected books right there in the library.'
She started to comfort me, encouraging me to continue.
'Straight up this slender calf I dearly want to go and see the plains of Chile, somberly dressed people, with accents of fiercely beautiful colors. Undressed I prefer your bare calves more than in dark colored thick trousers. Higher up I've been in Ecuador, seen the monument on the Equator. I could stay there for weeks, if you could spare the time, and wander around in the Andes, to see the condors sail overhead.'
'I'd love to join you,' Amber said.
'We're here,' I said, 'to survey the end of this part of our trip, before we're off to Alaska, via the Rockies in the west. And from there we'll drive north on the Alaskan highway. No, we'll start all over again, in the south, to enjoy Columbia and find high spirits in the green mountains before we enter Panama. We shan't waste much time on your waist, but we'll start on the backbone of the two continents, the Rockies. We'll linger around the belly button, a rich jewel, which name you may guess, halfway to Florida. For the sake of the metaphor we will avoid the Californian rocky coastline and the wild, sometimes misty ocean threshold, and look at the dilapidated silly surf rolling onto the Miami shore. Once more I'd like to review the rich Carolinas. Too ticklish, this?'
'Love it, please go on!'
'I loved riding across the foggy ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Feel them? I love your ribs, nice view, and breathtaking scenic route. Via Franklin Mint Museum, where I'd love to choose the purchase of my next Harley model. We'll call on Allen and Katherine in Montclair, long time no see. We'll buy film for the cameras at Cullen, my local photographic supplies store, and we'll enjoy marvelously delicious ice cream at Carvel. With Allen we'll discuss our trip at length and afterwards we'll go and ask your brother whether you may continue on our trip to the north. Then Newfoundland is your right ear, Cap Cod a marvelous hanger. I like the hanger!'
Amber was pleasantly pleased with the trip. We would have loved to linger on the porch of our cabin, and we did. In utter silence we listened to the birds in the pine trees. We both were in a honeymoon mood, we conversed, made fun, fantasized, plotted, and we laughed a lot, and we both felt a deep significance underneath our teasing quirks. Our destination the next day was Halifax, the Titanic museum and the graves of the passengers who were found and brought ashore.
'Do you have an idea what kind of man the director of Iceberg is?' Amber asked.
'Yes,' I said, 'Ron Stamp came to visit us in Amsterdam. We organized an interview with the largest newspaper and we also had an interview with the largest magazine in the country. If you fetch the HOG briefcase you'll find the press release we sent to Reuters.'
She fetched the papers and found the release that we wrote for France, and read aloud the press release: ' Ron Stamp, Water Maker in France. In the coming decades the world will have to cope with a gigantic shortage of drinking water. For France this problem is less acute than in many other countries, as it already in fact is a problem in many other parts of the world. Ron Stamp from Newfoundland tows icebergs to his factory where they are then pulverized and melted into the purest of drinking water in the world. With his Iceberg Industries Stamp is the pioneer who will turn Canada, Russia and Brazil, into the largest suppliers of drinking water. In the meantime Stamp started to sell his bottled iceberg water to a limited market. It's his strategy to build a leading industry on Newfoundland, to create employment and profits with which he will finance further research. It's generally recognized that it is of critical importance to develop economic methods to change water in the oceans to drinking water. During his visit to Europe Stamp had several meetings, amongst others TiTANiC Publishing in Amsterdam, to draw attention to his Iceberg Industries. In his view this campaign has to be organized in a smart way, as Stamp does not have at his disposal the funds for an expensive publicity campaigns.
'We got on very well,' I told her. 'There are dramatic as well as nutty sounding sides to the plans we both made, for events on either side of the Atlantic. The press release says it all. We were drinking water that indeed was one hundred and fifty years old, unimaginably fresh, and without a trace of sodium or anything else, the purest water one could possibly imagine. The composer and his producer of the new Titanic musical came to talk to Ron. We listened to the demos of the songs. We brainstormed about the lyrics. We got on very well, as two enthused teams in one company. It was one of the most unique experiences in my entire career. We discussed the marketing opportunities, the possibilities of the expansion of the distribution of the Iceberg water, the Iceberg Vodka and the Beer. With a professor of the University of Amsterdam we discussed a ten-year plan to follow and analyze all the communication we had dreamt up and were going to realize. Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing Ron again. This is contrary to what we call a cold call.'
'Next stop is Sussex,' Amber said. 'Shall we hold on somewhat longer, till Moncton, which is one and a half centimeter on the map? It seems to be a large place.'
On this trip I again had been confronted with my conflict of interests seeing the landscape that was wholly new to me, and taking pictures of the sights that I wanted to take home on film. I almost never stop to make pictures when I am not alone on such a trip as this, as I would be afraid that this might be too annoying for my travel companion. Amber surely left me plenty of time to stop and wait a couple of minutes or longer whenever I got the impulse to take any pictures. Some pictures I took from behind the wheel, mostly of the green trees that would turn red and orange in the autumn.
We stopped for coffee in the center of town, with old characteristic facades, with names of the shops in beautiful lettering on and above the show windows. Coffee, no apple pie with ice cream, but the solid salad sandwich that we had for lunch. The architecture was of a more intimate scale, with an elegance that differed from what we had seen in New England or in Maine. Once out of town it was becoming more and more obvious that we were approaching the ocean. Nature was becoming rockier.
Amber's skin looked more delicate, with little spots of rust, that I almost could not resist touching. She read aloud from a guide about Halifax that appeared to be a university city of some importance. Aside from the close link with the Titanic tragedy the city seemed to be becoming a promising visit. To digest all the places worth checking out we would need more than a couple of days.
'What day's today?' I asked.
'After our surprise meeting at the café we reached Mystic still on Sunday,' she memorized, 'On Monday we did not stay at the Tara Hotel. On Tuesday we drove up north. On Wednesday we passed Dover. On Thursday Halifax was planned, so it must be Thursday today. On Friday we'll take the ferry to Newfoundland, that is, if you would not want to hang around longer than this afternoon and tomorrow morning. So we shan't make it earlier than Saturday afternoon to St. John's. Consequently we'd better not hurry too much. Besides Halifax is worth seeing.'
Helped by the map in the guidebook Amber directed us efficiently to Lower Water Street. We spotted a parking place not far from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. But first we walked to the waterfront. An eastern wind from the ocean carried the salty air into the city. Above the surf seagulls in loosely organized squadrons accompanied a fishing boat. Flying in steep one-minute turns the sun's rays flashing on their wings, very white graphics in the blue sky. The horizon was distant but clear and very global.
Today it's too peaceful for a disaster,' Amber whispered. Apart from the nondescript modern offices on the skyline, the far older, legendary brownstones brought about an ancient European feeling.
'Us walking here,' I said, 'it's so unbelievable, the fact that you went back to the place where the people from Europe came ashore, and than me on this very same spot, where I always wanted to be since I was a young boy. And now we both are here. That certainly is a miracle. But then I always felt attracted to the other side of the ocean; nothing is holding me back but some practicalities.'
'You're welcome,' she said, grabbing my hand. 'And for clarity's sake I should add that I've never said that before.'
We were almost too late to get into the museum, but there was still was enough time for a quick visit. Instantaneously I was overwhelmed by a mood, a feeling of tragic events that had taken place when I sat down on a chair that had been retrieved from the wreck. With a cracking sigh the chair seemed to move. Amber seized me under my armpit, keeping me from falling. The chair had broken into an irretrievable pile of wood. Too late a custodian ran over to rescue the chair. Looking up at him, a little shaken and perplexed kept looking at him for a long time.
'It's a replica,' he stated, 'but still...'
I had to settle the damage, and that's what I did. Meanwhile the museum was closing. After attempts to excuse myself I said we would be back the next day.
'You don't ever stop to amaze me,' Amber said.
Less baffled than myself she threw an arm around me and suggested that we should start looking for a hotel. We toured around in the waterfront area and found a hotel on Summer Street. It overlooked the park, and was not far from the museum. Along the park, taking Sackville Street, we could easily walk to the museum the next morning.
That evening we found a cozy restaurant on Brunswick Street, on the other side of the park, where we had a yummy dinner and a moving tête-à-tête.
'What's holding you in Holland?' Amber asked.
'Forty-three years of remembrances is what is holding me back,' I said. 'In fact I believe that nothing is holding me back, come to think of it. But I realize that I should come up with a well-contemplated reply. I'll have to ask my lawyer what his expectations are in the legal fight with my ex-business partners, who own me a great deal of money. The outcome is will set me free, or not.'
We walked back. There was an intimate silence. The moment we entered the hotel Walter called on my cell phone and asked when Amber would be coming back to work.
Being alienated from our offices the past few days had been a dream for Amber as well as me.
'When a breakthrough has been attained,' I said, 'I indeed may settle down, and that maybe on Long Island, that's the place to be when in the center of a storm, a breakthrough in our attempts to set up a business in print-on-demand, and the associated activities. I am certain that it would be out of this world to be near you. I'll phone my lawyer on Monday. That's practical side. How about you dear?'
'I've lived in another world this past week, and I have the irreversible feeling that I shan't go back, whatever happens to us.'
'And I've got the feeling that we are sailing on an unsinkable ship,' I said.
We had breakfast, and smiled more than we talked, warmhearted, and content, and walked hand in hand through the park to the museum. Walter called. After he asked me what we were up to I handed the phone to Amber. She trailed behind and stood still and talked, couldn't hear what she said.
'He finds it very difficult,' she said, 'that I took an advance on my free days, and earlier than planned. Yes, it's all a bit sudden, for me as well.'
We drank coffee on Lower Water Street and ambled to the museum. Amber had lost somewhat of her free holiday spirit.
The custodian we dealt with the day before was busy, but didn't make any objections to us visiting his museum again.
'Last year I went to see a Titanic exhibit in Belgium, in the city of Gent,' I said, 'well worth the long trip. The focus was on the Belgian citizens, who were to try their luck in America. It was very interesting to see the background they came from, and to what their motives were to emigrate.'
'Aren't we on the verge of migrating ourselves?' Amber asked.
'Yes,' I said, 'we're seriously considering that.' I kissed her.
A large sign said: 'The Unsinkable Ship.'
I whispered the words to Amber so she might correct my pronunciation: 'Three Halifax ships were involved in the grim task of recovering victims - many of whom were laid to rest in one of the three city's cemeteries. Rows of black granite headstones, each inscribed with the same date, April 15, 1912, that was a stark reminder of the disaster.'
And there we saw the wooden objects that were brought up from the deep, like one of the only real deck chairs known to exist.
'No,' I said, 'I shan't sit down.'
The awe-inspiring chair was made of mahogany and hardwood, and the cane seat had been redone. Dozens of photographs were put on display, as well as explanatory texts.
'Hey Sparks!' Amber said, 'here's a log from your colleague Robert Hunston, the wireless operator at Cape Race, on Newfoundland. It's a condensed log of the Titanic's distress calls on that horrendous night.'
A bit shaky we left the museum and took a taxi to the main cemetery to see the graves. I took some pictures.
'There's nothing to keep us from driving to the ferry,' I said.
That's what we did after we had checked out of the hotel. We then had a light lunch on the corner of the park. Again it was sunny, and so was Amber's mood.
All of a sudden Amber asked, 'What is it in a woman that attracts you?'
'That may surprise you, if you haven't already guessed,' I said, 'it's not your perfect complexion or your appealing curves and muscles, or your laugh, or your smile, but what appeals to me most are your eyes and even more so what they seem to see, how they observe live, your look at live, the way you experience the world and most of all how you react to the world, in other words your unique and wonderful world they reflect. I immediately loved all this in a glimpse. I hope this doesn't sound too strange.'
She giggled, 'Oh no, that's alright!'
There were more clouds this Friday, a grayish packs of clouds. There was a somber and dark cloud-cover in the distance. Outside the car the temperature was fine.
'What more could I tell?' I asked. 'Aside from my work in the office with all its set-backs, I've looked upon my work as a continuous discovery of life, of mankind and of the world, with all its inspiring encounters, oases as well as the appalling black sides of it, as well as the dangerous crevices and deadly abysses.'
Then Walter called again. He was closing shop and hoped that we could tell him more about our plans. I told him that we repeatedly had thought about Amber's absence from work, and that we hoped he would see this as a spontaneous holiday. We would appreciate it, I said, if he would improvise one more week. He said he hoped that we would reconsider our plans.
'Walter,' I said, 'Amber's not my hostage. Like she already told me she discovered that she badly needed the break.'
He seemed to hesitate.
He seemed not to be satisfied with the outcome of the confronting conversation. I persevered,
'Walter, look at it this way, soon she'll be back, and she'll be able to catch with the backlog of work. We both hope you'll have a nice weekend.'
'Who could have been a better advocate,' Amber said, 'in this non-exemplary case of sisterly abandonment.'
She kissed me and affectionately snuggled up to me. It all felt incredibly familiar, but it also felt as a never-ending bad dream.
The landscape of Nova Scotia, and the infinite space around it, had the same effect on me as when I first arrived on the upland plains in Norway. The cold still air felt heartwarming, and I had a strong urge to hail the new territory with cheers. We got out.
'This is thrilling,' I said, 'this landscape reflects everything I've seen and found in you, the clarity and vastness, and something like heaven. Need I say more?'
'It's difficult to put my feelings into words,' Amber responded. 'I'm glad to be far away from the small-minded societies of this world. So far from our daily surroundings we have a clearer view on the drama of life. Although we are at a distance of let's say three or four hundred miles from the Titanic, I feel that I'm relatively close.'
Her tone of voice was grave. She leaned against the car, changing her focus from the clouds towards me, she bent over with a subdued smile. The air was a bit chilly, but I felt a glow of warmth coming from Amber. Her lips opened slightly. I saw the stillness in her blue green eyes. In the background I also saw the headlights of a truck approaching. I kissed her. The truck-driver waved and honked his horn. The sound of the truck died down and then was replaced by the throbbing sound of blood rushing in my ears. In my imagination I sailed over The Spot where the Titanic had sunk, and then over to Greenland and further east to Norway where Amber was born.
'Here,' she whispered, 'I'm here.'
'I didn't really leave you dear,' I said, 'I was with you all along. Ever since Sunday morning.'
The road went through rolling hills with an occasional, solitary birch tree with larger groups of rocks, in many varieties, varying in shapes and sizes and some of them pretty titanic.
'I feel an intimate love for birch trees,' I said. 'Long ago I had planted five, young birch trees in our garden and looked at them until they withered to death, a sad very experience. I also feel a great love for pine trees. So apart from driving along this coast I also love the American West Coast.'
This set off a silence that lasted at least a quarter of an hour, while I took in nature around us.
'But even with this overwhelming nature I prefer to be here with you by far.'
'You're a social guy,' she said.
After a four-hour drive we arrived in North Sydney. First we passed through an industrial area with dirty steel mills and factories, and then stopped at the ferry, where we arrived more than half an hour before departure, so we had time for a drink and a snack in a little cafe. The institute called. Mr. Ballard was due to arrive in half an hour. I said that I was about to leave for Newfoundland and that I'd call back on Monday. Walter called and wished us a fine weekend and hoped to see us on Monday. A short call.
'It took me a long time to gear up for this trip,' I said, 'and now I seem to be all set. With that I don't mean the logistics, but the emotional side.'
With a lot of turbulence the ferry left the harbor.
'You should not live through time in length, but in width,' Amber commented.
'Or depth,' I said. 'This week is the equivalent of hundred years in my life.'
She looked slender, strong, and dreamy and strong willed, susceptible though persistent. With her face in the wind she looked like a dyed-in-the-wool nature lover, but this seemed to make her vulnerable. It was quiet on the water in the Cabot Street between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In the east we saw several fishing boats, further away, more towards the horizon a cruise ship, probably heading for Halifax. We heard no other sounds than the sound of the ferry's engine and the cries of the seagulls, which accompanied us on this trip. The sun was getting lower, but did not seem in a hurry to disappear behind the horizon. Huddled close we stood on the forecastle, soaring north for an hour or so, lower then an antique bi-plane, at a relatively slow spotter's pace, the cold ocean wind made us go inside, with tears in our eyes from the wind.
'Love, in my view, tends to merge each other's experiences,' I said. 'The deeper I get behind your amazing appearance, the better off I feel with your inner world, or is it the wind that makes my face glow? At last I found the words that describes you, cute, yes cute is what you are, a cute charisma, a cute appeal, and you often look cutely dreamy. The often dreamy and mischievous look in your eyes makes you the most endearing creature I have ever seen. What do you prefer to be called?'
'With you I prefer to be dreamy. I am not mischievous and it's you who's endearing.'
She looked dreamier than ever.
'The deckchair!' Amber cried out.
Along the railing stood a deckchair that looked the same as in the museum. Amber sat down prudently.
'No problems,' she said, 'see!'
We stayed on the lookout for an iceberg for a long time before we went inside, to return to the cabin we had booked. We undressed and in a tender embrace fell down on the bed.
'I've got the impression,' she said, 'that you're extremely busy being the Webmaster of the company, how did you manage to get away from it all to freewheel around over here? How can you deal with your work on the ship?'
'We have another Sparks standing by,' I said, 'but then I've got a laptop with me, so I can communicate via the web, and answer questions which are submitted in my absence. So you can also read my ongoing report on this trip on the website.'
'You really are insane!' she said, suddenly infuriated. 'I don't like this at all.'
She stared unfocused in the distance and slipped into silence. From then on she was aloof, although tender, but distant. The rocking motion of the ship and the thought of an approaching iceberg kept us up for most of the night. Being awake off and on we rolled back and forth with the rocking motion of the boat, and we loved it.
In the morning we slept through the alarm of my Breitling Navitimer. We hurried to get dressed to spot an iceberg. But there was no iceberg in sight as far as the horizon. We didn't stay on deck longer than a few minutes, and being quite hungry we first had breakfast.
'I propose to discuss this insanity and not leave it in midair,' I said after I had peeled my second hardboiled egg.
I didn't roll it on the table to break the shell.
'Did I tell you,' I asked, 'about my egg rolling demonstration? I didn't, she said. She looked good-natured, so I postponed discussing the insanity.
'Once upon a time, on my way from Long Island to South Carolina I had stayed the night at a motel near the flyovers south of Baltimore. I had Corn Flakes for breakfast pursuing the American Dream. After a long night of playing poker Paul Newman opened the curtains and rolled his egg on the table, he then peeled off the broken shell, and took a big bite, while he gazed intently at his mates. I looked the same way at the lady who was watching me do the same with my egg when it was brought. I let out a scream of alarm the lady and the other guests looked up and saw the yellow splotches on my jacket and shirt and tie. I was wearing a tie on that trip, and for a good reason too, as I wanted to make a good impression on the people I was going to see in Charlotte. This was insanity in its most spontaneous form.'
A wide smile revitalized her glum expression.
'Let's call it a reckless folly, instead of insanity,' she said, 'probably it's what you would call absurd.'
'That was the effect,' I said, 'an absurd effect, but not the effect I was after.'
Amber again had that misty look in her eyes and took my hands in hers.
'After we get off the boat,' Amber said, 'we shan't have much of a chance to talk about my theory, or about our personal future, for we shall mostly discuss the Titanic. I must admit that I still haven't the faintest idea about any marketing strategy.'
'The main idea behind this giant marketing operation is that we live on the threshold,' I said, 'of the disappearance of the printed media.'
'First, in future, young people will have to get accustomed to reading from a monitor. When they'll get older, fewer and fewer books will be sold. The last book to be printed will be the book about the vanishing of the Mohicans. This may sound like a joke, but then we're in touch with various cyber prophets, and I'm dead certain about the way this will develop. We'll concentrate on legends and personal dramas as the first writings to be printed as books. We will possibly offer writing courses as well.'
'But why do you still want to print books,' Amber asked, 'if that's not something for the future.'
'Marketing a product takes time and money, huge amounts of money, and you need confidence of the money providers. Therefore one needs a well thought out plan with a couple of golden goals. This is a plan with longevity. We won't see this happen in our lifetime anymore. But first we'll see this adventure of ours in print. This I've put it on the website. That'll be a fantastic document for our children.'
'Our children?' Amber asked.
We stood on deck, at portside, with a longing to spot land. We watched the sea gulls sail and dive and turn.
'Listening to your mission statement,' she said, 'and reading the press release, and if I put our children aside, I understand it's a long process in building a brand name, provided you don't have the money to take a shortcut, and I also understand that the value is established a long time afterwards. And that the gigantic - we'd say titanic - carrier, is legends, any legends.'
'That's it,' I said, 'and it's the same carrier for Iceberg Industries. Icebergs are icons known all over the world. These gulls, they have a hobby, which is also, their job; it's also their life's vocation. Long ago, when I was a young kid and could hardly read English, I bought an instruction book on how to fly light aircraft, like a Piper Cub. This book was written by Richard Bach. Later, when I actually had learned to fly and read the magazines, I came across his name in 'Flying', the leading magazine for pilots, for which he was the principal editor did. I particularly loved the column 'How I learned flying from that'. In that period I hit upon the book called 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Did you read that book?'
'Naturally!' she said, 'Looking out over the Sound I always watched the seagulls, and I devoured that book. It's been high on my Top Ten List of Books ever since. Jonathan has been an inspiring legend for me. 'The gull sees farthest who flies highest'. It's not my motto, but a simple line that takes me away from the small scale of sordid life on the ground.'
'Good heavens,' I said, 'how is that possible that we ever got together? Let's go inside and drink a coffee. And why not have a bite of pastry too?'
We did, and we kept an eye out on what happened outside.
'Then I read all the other books Bach wrote,' I said, 'like 'Stranger to the Ground', and more philosophical books, like 'Out of my Mind'. I love the man. He made me see life and the world. His vision always has been in the back of my mind.'
'You haven't forgotten the Harley ride on the island, have you?' she asked. 'In the afternoon we'll be in St. John's and what do you have in mind for the coming days?'
'I've made up my mind,' I said, 'with regard of the hurry in my initial plan, I skipped the urgency.'
'So did I,' Amber brought in, 'without consulting you I decided not to return to my island next week. I know what's cooking at the office, and I also know that I can be missed if the others take a little more effort. And I'll tell Walter on Monday morning. So, we don't have to worry that this heavenly trip will come to a too early end. So we now can seriously plan the ride around the island. But how about Stamp, is he expecting you? Needn't you make arrangements to meet him, to see the factory and to do all you had in mind?'
'Well,' I hesitated. 'I made the appointment months ago, when he visited Amsterdam, and we kept in touch about all that needed to be done, but I left the definite date open. I forgot to phone him after I had met you, everything slipped from my mind, but it's all gonna work out fine. Stamp won't be surprised when I announce myself on Monday morning. Besides, I know where he lives, so we could knock on his door tomorrow. When discussing my idea of making this trip and keeping a diary I mentioned that it would be ideal if I could bring a model along, so I could make some nice pictures.'
'So,' Amber said, 'although you seemed to be improvising, did you plan on meeting me and then kidnapping me as a model?'
'No,' I said, 'spotting you it was pure luck and coincidence. And at once I then seemed to have forgotten about all my plans. It all just happened that way. From then on everything developed like I could only have dreamed it.'
'And you want me to believe that? That my falling in love with you wasn't part of your strategy?'
'Yes,' I said, 'I desperately hope you'll believe that.'
'You shocked me,' Amber said. 'This is too bizarre for words. Do you want to say that this has all been down to luck and coincidence?'
A long impasse followed.
'That happens to be the title of another book written by Richard Bach, 'Nothing by Chance' that is if I'm correct,' I said. 'We might call our own book 'Serendipity'.'
'Our own book?' she asked.
'Yes, and I'll print it in a circulation of five, and sign your copy personally, if you sign mine.'
We sat down on a bench, and remained silent and just quietly watched the seagulls.
'Roger,' she said, 'dear quaint old boy, your thoughts are spinning faster than these gulls, let them go. Try and observe them without any further thoughts.'
Studying the map Amber found a landmark of interest, Cape Ballard. She pointed it out to me.
'Did you ever establish some sort of contact?' Amber asked.
'No,' I said, 'as a matter of fact I haven't. I wrote him a letter that was not answered. I really didn't have the plan to see anybody of the institute or talk over plans. It all has been an impulsive plan to revisit Long Island, to see Allen and Katherine and drive by Mystic and maybe see Ballard as well. It turned out that the only one I really got to see was you. And that was worth a trip to the moon.'
She hugged me, and suggested that we'd move to the starboard side where we found a bench to sit on, and as soon as we were seated Amber cried out she had spotted an iceberg, and there it was, at thirteen hundred hours, pinkish orange, and in a distance. We sat and watched the iceberg coming closer.
'Imagine,' Amber said, 'sitting on that berg, drifting to the Bahamas. The day preceding that tragic night the passengers of the Titanic would have been sitting on deck the same way we are sitting here now, except that they were probably dressed warmer. They would have been chatting and thinking of their future, as we now are thinking of ours and what would happen with us after this trip.'
After a pause she asked, 'What kind of future do you envision for our relationship?'
'Yes I am dead certain we have a bright future together,' I said, 'in the near future my course will already indeed have changed into your direction. By the way, imagine one more night together and we've known each other one whole week! That calls for a celebration!'
We watched the iceberg until it disappeared out of sight.
'On all my other trips,' I said, 'I had prepared my itinerary as if it were a military operation. A certain make and model of car was hired. Appointments were made with property managers. Preparations were made on location. Hotels were booked well in advance. In case it was needed a helicopter was hired. Far in advance I would check if Allen would be home. But this time I don't care less. I wanted to be away, be here, where I feel comfortable, see Long Island and I wanted to drive to St. John's. You may have the impression that this trip hasn't been prepared at all, and in fact that's the case. I felt very disappointed that Allen wasn't home, but even if I had known it would not have changed my plans.'
'I happened to know that Stamp would just have returned from France, so he'll be able to assist me in making the photos of the plant. But that would not really be necessary. We'll then also find the locations worth shooting. I hope to fly with the iceberg spotter plane, and in the meantime I have some subjects to discuss with him. I'm sure that all that will be possible.'
'I had the impression,' Amber said, 'that you were very careful improvising this trip, so it's bound to be successful.'
She smiled in a mischievous way, as always pulled up the left side of her mouth.
'I was dead sure that I could improvise and do what seemed to be possible,' I said, 'and I didn't go as far as writing or phoning all concerned in advance since it would not be necessary to render an account of what I would be doing. And besides, Jan knows what I am after. I've taken forty rolls of film with me. I'll shoot them all if I have the chance, so this trip will certainly be a success.'
'I trust you,' Amber said, 'but since I don't know all the odds it sometimes seems that you are surprised that the film doesn't unroll the way you had foreseen it.