Ambrose taught me how to sail, giving me the joy of competence. I was happy sailing. When the boat was heeled over, with her rails about to dip into the bay, I soared; high on elemental freedom and free hash. I was at least ten years younger than his friends, who tolerated my presence in the same way that they did Noah’s golden retriever, Numbnuts. Noah was the optimistic owner of an old brigantine hull that he was rebuilding and intended to christen Free Love. His real name was Ed. He’d been to a boatbuilding school and learned fundamental marine carpentry but that was the extent of his knowledge. His dream was to create a floating utopia of unlimited sexual gratification. In the time that I knew him his dream was never realized. Noah wasn’t creepy as much as he was pathetic.
The sailing community was extensive. It was common for people to arrive without notice and to depart under a dark cloud of melodrama. Ambrose was not without female companionship. He was very handsome. Eventually, the unions would disintegrate for want of more conventional living arrangements. There were women who were not very fond of me; typically, prima donnas lounging on deck in their bikinis expecting someone else to do the work. Ambrose was solicitous of them but quickly lost interest when they treated Alice as a prop.
There were some adult situations that I didn’t fully understand. A couple of times Ambrose became romantically involved with other men’s wives. The men minded, very much. They sulked and scowled, getting drunk and making nuisances of themselves while they waited for their wives to return from the marital hiatus. There were few things I couldn’t discuss with him. I didn’t discuss those relationships because I wasn’t ready to know what precipitated them. I felt sorry for the husbands.
I was growing up and mismanaging my own affairs of the heart. Ambrose was constant. He met the boys in my life; keeping watch. None of my boyfriends ever thought it strange that I spent an inordinate amount of time with him. They viewed Alice as an extension of my home. Sometimes it felt a little bit like they were more interested in Ambrose than they were in me. He was fascinating. He taught me the I Ching and lent me his Edgar Cayce book on Atlantis. He encouraged political discussion and disruption. He was never unhappy to see me.