Moving up from waiter to manager in Carnival Cruise Lines was literal: I ascended six decks above the crew who dwell below the waterline. As a junior officer I still had a cabin-mate, but things were looking up. This was the officer’s deck, after all, and I would no longer be subjected to the crew’s competing music (usually Indian vs. hip hop) long after the quiet-hours (which begin at 10PM). For the previous several months I had tried to sleep with my head and feet pressed against walls thumping with bass and plugging my ears over lyrics such as, “Yo, yo, I hate cops and bit*hes, but cops and bit*hes both want me.” Now the music had moved to the other end of the spectrum: “Let your light shine through me, oh Lord, my shepherd.”
You see, my new cabin-mate, from northern India, was a Reborn Christian. When Bogo wasn’t praying out loud (while showering, shaving, dressing, or really just breathing) he was preaching to me. He had so many Bibles to give away that I had to relinquish the shelf in my bunk for the overflow. This was not a big deal, though I’m no longer Christian. Bogo was a good guy. He was probably forty-something, with a graying Persian-style mustache and shaved head. A strange series of indentations marred the back of his skull, not unlike someone pressing their fingers into a wet ball of clay. How he shaved in those grooves I never found out. How he got the horrendous purple circles beneath his eyes I found out all too well.
More trying than the continual reminders that I was going to Hell were the photos of his baby plastered all over the walls. Bogo had been denied leave to see the birth of his son—no reason given—so photos were all the poor guy had. I know he wanted to experience that magical, monumental moment of birth, but honestly, I didn’t. Couldn’t he have shown photos of a two-minute baby, carefully cleaned and warmly wrapped in a blanket with Mom? Instead I was barraged with Junior’s first terrifying seconds in this world: discolored, slimy, and screaming. Bogo displayed no less than fifteen full-sized glossy photos by his bunk. They scared me so much I leapt into the top bunk like a child avoiding the monster under his bed.
What really bothered me was that Bogo was an insomniac. I discovered this in dramatic fashion.
In the afternoon just two days before I had left the charming Transylvanian town where I had vacationed (I carefully omitted any mention of this Pagan location to Bogo), and drove four hours to Brasov. At midnight I drove five more hours to Bucharest, followed by a pre-dawn flight to Frankfurt. Then came the eleven hour flight to Chicago (with screaming kids beside me), followed by another five hours flight to New Orleans. Then came the final hour-plus taxi to Gulfport, Mississippi. I was exhausted, but immediately put to work on the ship for fifteen straight hours, literally without even a fifteen minute break. I knew that low-level management always got the worst of it, but ships are insane.
Sometime about 3:30AM I finally got off work and shuffled to my cabin. I had not slept a wink in fifty hours and countless time zones. My eyes burned, my head pounded, and my muscles barely worked. Too tired to even undress, I pulled my heavy body onto the bunk for a glorious six hours of sleep before the next shift. Ecstasy was closing my eyes, soothing the itch, watching the redness melt lovingly into cool blackness. I drifted gratefully into slumber… until a voice commanded, “Admit your sins and I will lead you in prayer!”