He was just a man.
“Crispin, can you hear me?”
Crispin ignored her voice. She always called to him when he was working. Her voice rose to a trill, shrill echo.
“Crispin, I’m talking to you.”
He ignored her. He always ignored her. He built model ships in bottles. They were a world all their own. His favorite was inside a Mello Yellow bottle, a version of the titanic moments before hitting the iceberg.
Crispin remembered something: a sunny day and clouds. Within those drifting masses of vaporous hydrogen dioxide, he saw an armada of boats riding in bottles, and the work consumed him from that day forth.
She lay next to him, touching him, but he couldn’t feel her. He couldn’t feel the grass beneath the two of them on this afternoon picnic during the first day of their honeymoon. He could only see the cloud ships sailing across a never-ending expanse of blue sky.
“Crispin, I’m here. I’m real. Touch me.”
Crispin swore under his breath. With long metal skewers, he had just put up a mainsail inside a discarded Mickey’s malt liquor bottle he had found that morning on his daily walk beneath the interstate overpass. He paused but did not stop.
Her voice was unreal. The ship in his bottle was all that was real.
He ignored her.
One day she left him, and he finally looked around.
The room was full of bottles: Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Arizona Tea, Frappucino, Budweiser, Sam Adams, and countless others. Each glass and plastic bottle held a replica. He looked at his feet and saw the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.
He looked for his sweetheart, but she was gone.
He looked around and tried to talk to the bottles, to get their opinions on things, but they never spoke back. His voice echoed in the empty, lonesome house.
He looked at an empty bottle he had collected that morning, a glass Bud Light Platinum bottle, and could not see the point of building another ship. He sighed and threw the glass bottle against a wall.
Glass shattered, and the wall crumbled.
Crispin found himself adrift on a roiling black sea. He floated on a dingy made up his bottled ships. Salty mist sprayed from white-capped waves and stung his eyes. He turned in circles, looked for someone or something, anything, but only saw clouds in every direction. The clouds crashed against one another and dissolved, taking on shape after shape, dream after dream. Without her, he realized, they didn’t mean a thing.