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Homecoming

But then something strange happens: as soon as you make the turn for home, this sense of dread will come over you. It’s a strange emotion, but an explainable one: at sea, even with all the battle preparations and heavily regimented merriment, your day is more or less ordered, and you have a pretty clear idea of what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow; in port, on the other hand, you can’t even say what you’ll be doing later tonight or where you’ll be a few minutes from now. Hence the apprehension that tempers the joy of returning home.

But the joy does win out. Especially as you’re traveling the last few meters.

“Stations! Prepare to surface!” the command rings out, and you can already feel the bitter sea air wafting through the compartments.

At the pier the sub moors with the aid of the linehandlers. They hold it by the elbow like grandchildren escorting an old blind woman. On the pier you can see an orchestra, the brass, and, on the other side of the fence, a whole crowd of wives.

Before we have even fully moored, the orchestra finishes playing, packs up their instruments and leaves - as if they had been playing for the boat as a whole and not, as one might think, for the members of its crew.

When they’re gone, the only people left on the pier are the brass.

“Well,” they say to us when we’ve assembled on the pier. “While you guys were out there having fun, we were back here hard at work...so now you’re in for it....” And here would begin a long description of what exactly we were in for: loading stores, transporting rockets, returning to sea for torpedo trials....in short, today we won’t be dismissed - instead we’ll go straight to the fixed pier to load rockets, etc. etc. etc.

The stupidest among us would ask: “But what about going home?” To which they received a spiteful laugh in response.

Still, everyone was permitted to kiss their wives by the fence.

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