top of page

Ship in a Bottle

By Amy Zaranek

Military spouses—all of us, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Air Force, Space Force—have heard the stories of divorce, separation, one or both spouses cheating on deployment, moving alone, moving while pregnant, moving while pregnant and alone, and of course, there’s the PTSD, he or she waking at night yelling or sweating, bolt upright with wild eyes and hands balled into fists and you, unsure if you should whisper or soothe or if this is like sleepwalking and waking them from combat will only make it worse, and then there’s the addiction, this life itself—that ship in a bottle floating in its own stagnation no matter how high the waves rise, how much the world shakes, how many jets and helos take off or how many missiles launch into conflict from sea-sprayed decks, all of them encased by glass with only one way to come back down—and sometimes there’s a community to lean on through it all, a revolving door of other spouses and partners dealing with the same things, but sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes there’s not even a base at all, not even a net to cast into the few inches of liquid holding the ship when either of you goes overboard, and that’s when, with shaking hands, both of you need to still the bottle (before the ship capsizes), to dust off the mantel or bookshelf or TV stand, to put it back on its pedestal, to keep it from shattering.

Amy Zaranek is a Navy wife and MFA graduate living in Detroit, Michigan.

Art by Jason Gaidis.

bottom of page