The Coast Guard just rescued four living, breathing fishermen, found floating belly-up in the Bering Sea. Later, another vessel named The Courageous found one of seven dead bodies—the crew was made up of eleven men total–drifting away.

I once met a man who spent winters on fishing boats in Alaska. He would work in wild, harsh places in the coldest months to earn enough to paint and travel in the summer. He’d come back to Seattle in the spring with longer hair and new lines around his eyes. I always imagined that the skin around his palms was especially rough but was afraid to touch them.

On a day like this one in Seattle, high clouds passing from visible to invisible, it’s hard to think of it. You’ve fallen off a wrecked ship near Sitka, life vest bobbing up and into ice water. You think about how, in the vest, the water is a mattress. How you’d do anything to be dry and held together in a thick featherbed. How crab season is coming up after cod season. How you are famished.

Now you understand how hunger works. It’s an itch that spreads from back to torso. Your appetite grows when it’s fed, and as much as food feeds you, so does water. You decide then that, if you survive, you’ll fish through crab season. Because the weakness you feel when you’re away from the water–the thing that’s nearly taken you–only doubles the need.

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