Hearing Forever Young on the radio brought back a vivid memory from a summer many years ago when my sister was still alive. We were returning by boat from a drink and a dance in a rather shabby joint on a nearby island, and hitched a ride with one of the local heroes. He had a quite powerful daycruiser, and we piled in, having to sit on the rear deck directly above the engine, literally on the engine hatch. It was windless night, with a full moon hanging over the black waters between the pine-tree covered islands that line the coast. The scene was really beautiful, but what made it stick in my memory wasn’t just the display of the beauty of nature.
We cruised slowly out of the harbour, and then the driver opened the throttle wide; the engine roared and strained below us to lift the boat out of the water’s wet grip in order to be able to skim along the surface at speed. Slowly, inexorably, the engine won the struggle, gaining speed which lifted the boat and lessened the water’s resistance, thus allowing the boat to gather more speed, further lessening the water’s hold on the hull, and then we were flying along the water, leaving a wide band of boiling foam intersected by the broad beam of the moon. On the powerful stereo, clearly audible above the roar of the engine, Alphaville’s “Forever Young” was playing, as an ironic counterpoint to the whole scene; its romantic longing for eternal life or youthful death (“let us die young or let us live forever”) a fitting comment to the spectacle of a powerboat blasting through the night, as if its cargo of humans were trying to overcome the natural limitations on man, defiantly displaying their mastery of technology that for a brief moment allowed them to overcome their physical limitations, the inherent weakness of their mortal coils.
The whole experience gave me an immense thrill. I felt thoroughly alive and relished the intense flow of physical energy from the engine below that hurled us along. For me, it might have gone on forever, like those moments in sexual intercourse when you want time to stop. You don’t want to go back, you don’t want to move forward, because that means the end of the state you’re in. Such was the elation of that boat ride.
Little did we know then that my sister would indeed die young, as she sat beside me on the aft deck, and I held an arm around her shoulder to shelter her from the cool, humid air of the night.