As I survey my vast empire of beach glass, tiny shells, sand particles and weird hamburger nuts* before me, I realize I’m lucky to be alive in this time of plenty. I don’t remember if I told you, but we went on a tropical vacation for xmas. While I’m never opposed to vacationing on the beach it really didn’t seem like xmas. No cold, no chance, however slight, of snow, no xmas tree, no stockings, no presents at all because who’s gonna bring presents on the plane?
And yet, I couldn’t be happier with the whole situation. As much as chuck is the carrier of my xmas spirit, I am not that stoked about childrenless xmas. If there’s a child involved, that’s fun but when it’s only us? We’re all just like, happy xmas…. Um, yeah. Chuck, on the other hand is very pro-xmas. He’s super put out if I suggest anything less than an all out extravaganza, if his father’s house is any indication, that’s where he gets it from. A thirty three year old man getting as many presents as I got when I was seven, all along with rules and “no, you open your present now!” and “did you tell them thank you?”
We finally arrived on a Tuesday. I’d felt out of touch with reality ever since I had to send off phoney. It seems like it’d been weeks since I’d been online. This side of the trip I felt like I would go crazy without my constant contact to twitter, et al. I didn’t know how I would ever survive without… wait, a minute! We’re here??? Zomg! The beach! The sea! What’s an iphone? I hate iphones, I hate twitter, I hate the internet! And that was my werewolf like transformation from the becky you see before you, back into retro becky. The becky who’d LIVED!
After running around the beach, then immediately changing into our bathing suits (c’mon, c’mon hurry the fuck up, you lollygagger!) and dragging chuck to the end of the bay and making him touch the wall at the end of the bay and walking in the surf and then walking to the tide pools and making chuck say nice things about the tide pools and seeing my friend Henry and then introducing Henry to chuck and then introducing chuck to our other friends and then showing chuck the entire house… I took a deep breath. I was back and had brought chuck and now he had a background for all my many stories.
We swam and I remembered just how salty sea water is, for the millionth time, it’s really freaking salty. It’s like so salty that it almost can’t even be in the same category as water. We snorkeled and saw two small sting rays, a porcupine fish, tons of sea urchins, sand dollars and tiny flashy fish. Chuck has apparently researched and found that sea urchins eat coral and in most places destroy it, therefore, he feels justified in popping them open and letting all the small fish congregate and feast on the sea urchin insides.
It was cool and gross at the same time. One day we swam out to a small island while snorkeling. It had a little beach and cool trees and everything. When we got to the island, the water was very shallow so that our ears were out of the water. Chuck and I began speaking snorkel to each other about all the things we were seeing. “ook ah isss!” “ee hould awk ah isss ah uh eiym!” “eh! eh! ah ah oo isssng?” I thought it was hysterically funny, chuck decided, after 15 solid minutes that snorkel was not as funny as he had previously thought. I can make anything too much. We ate jerk chicken for lunch.
On xmas eve my friend MaryAnn, took us to check out the closest town. Apparently, their shops stay open way far into the night on xmas eve and we had to check it out. Our cab driver, David, had driven us the day before to go snorkeling and had driven at a reasonable speed to get us there and back but tonight, he drove like we might be escaping an assassination attempt.
The thing you have to understand about the roads, though, is that there are small stretches of smooth and then the rest of the road is comprised of potholes. We’d be barreling along at high speeds then David would slam on the brakes and come to a complete stop and traverse the pothole very slowly OR we’d be barreling along and David would swing the bus into oncoming traffic before swerving back into our lane moments before a head-on collision. It was a good thing the speakers of the bus were pumping out religious music at high volumes because blurting out, “JESUS CHRIST!” probably would have been frowned upon otherwise. The thing is, I would have gladly closed my eyes and come to grips with my immanent demise but I also get car sick on those bumpy roads and so I had to keep my eyes fixed on our route for fear of puking all over everything. Just as “my saucer runneth over because my cup is full,” came on, everyone began to sing along, me included even though I’d never heard it before.
When we arrived in town, we staggered out of the bus and were immediately set upon buy many people trying to sell us many things. Chuck is entirely too nice and I suppose, coming from a different place than I do (my place is the place where everyone is trying to pull me into cars and kill me. Repeatedly.) so, he was trying to explain to the man who was asking him to buy something that, in fact, he didn’t want to buy anything. I on the other hand knew that sometimes salesmen will take nothing short of a direct snub to release us from their clutches so MaryAnn and I walked right past saying “no, no, no…”
The town was packed. We could hardly move once we got to the market. People were selling on every available inch of horizontal property. They had food and shoes and clothes and shower curtains and artificial flower arrangements and “what do you want to buy, becky?” “um, I do need postcards!” So we made our way to the back of the inside market to a lonely purveyor of souvenirs. The people in town were locals, this guy was playing with his cell phone when we arrived because he had nothing much to do.
“How many postcards do you need?” he said lazily. “Um, like 20?” I replied. His eyes widened slightly, he gave me a small stack and said he’d track down more. We made our tourist purchases and then MaryAnn was back on the hunt. She showed us the entire market and when it was about midnight I could tell we were holding her back. I had asked her earlier when she was going into town and she said that if she were just going, she’d leave at midnight and come home at 5am but since we were coming, we could go in early and leave when we wanted. Even though I felt woefully inadequate, I decided to call it a night and let her get her party on. Never mind that she’s ten years older than me.
David arrived at the petrol station with his bus packed to the brim. Chuck got to sit up front and I squished beside four people on the front bench seat. We waved goodbye to MaryAnn and we were off at high velocity once again. We made about four stops before finally arriving home. The drive home was, I’m sure, at the same speed but felt a lot more manageable. Maybe the greater number of people in the car gave us a more solid footing.
My sister arrived the next day along with my brother’s wife. They didn’t arrive with the rest of us because of work or some sort of US thing. I never understood those silly Americans being so concerned about work. I mean, us Caribbean peoples need to relax and sun and swim in the ocean. They ruined everything. I always try to be cool with my sister but then she starts, like talking and stuff and I just… can’t. So, for the first ten minutes, we were bestest friends just as I’d planned but then she started saying literally five times in each sentence and I murdered her. She actually said literally twice in one sentence and that’s not even jokies. That’s the real, honest to goodness, truth. Twice in one sentence.
The next day she started talking about all her genius millionaire friends who were just “sooooo smart. Like, so smart that I haven’t even ever met anyone that smart. I mean, like they can play like two chess boards at one time. Like at the same time. I mean, they’re, like so smart!” In an effort to become smarter, she stole the trivial pursuit game we brought and was trying to memorize all the answers to the questions. She had learned that simply memorizing things was an excellent exercise for your brain. I told her that she was banned from playing where, “hey! Guess what? We actually ask each other the questions and you actually make guesses and have some sort of context and discussion about the answers and therefore have a reference in your head as opposed to trying to memorize them like a fucking weirdo.” I don’t think she caught that last part, however because she immediately asked me what meconium was instead of trying to defend herself. She now knows all about baby poop.
She also decided, based on a book she’d just begun reading that she would try to become ambidextrous. An ambitious goal indeed, she can go on and on about the benefits of switching hands and making your brain think and that she was the only one who had ever thought of this because she read this book that nobody had ever read. I didn’t point out to her that my right hand was out of commission while it was healing from going through a window and I had to do everything with my left hand for quite some time and that my brother used both hands in sports. I try not to correct her because she knows everything about everything and could probably refute any conflicting information I might have. I mainly stick with writing passive aggressive blog posts about her and then occasionally having large blow out fights with her. It’s working really well.
My brother’s wife’s mother was also quite the character. She decided on the second night that she hated her bed and would sleep on the couch which was right outside our bedroom. She went to bed early every night, which was fine until we wanted to hang out on the couch and there she was, sleeping. Or that one time that we were making strange/sexy noises that I remembered she was out there and got all blushy. She was obsessed with the street dogs and was always trying to get me to diagnose their maladies. I could rattle them all off by the time she got there already because… I… was not obsessed, it was professional interest. She also took the island men rather seriously. It’s not a day on the island without one of them asking to marry you. My friend Henry thinks of us as family but that didn’t stop him from asking her to marry him in a playful manner. after thinking about it for a few moments, while the conversation moved on without her, she said, “I would never marry you because my husband (who’s now deceased) had something you’ll never have, a J-O-B!” everyone fell silent. Henry has a beach side restaurant. we all sort of ignore her rude outburst and move on again. Henry turned to his other side to talk to somebody else. so that was awkward.
The Caribbean is the best. I would be happy to sit all day on the beach and read. I would be happy to walk on the sand every morning and let the waves crash around my head. I would be happy to listen to the waves lull me to sleep every night. The best part about the trip was that, for a brief moment, it seemed like my grandpa had maybe just left the room. My friend Henry knew him really well and his memories are clear and bright. For a moment, when he acted out my grandpa stretching before his daily beach walks I saw him. He was there with us. He had just left.
It was so hard to leave. But then again, my puppies were at home and I was very ready to get them back for extra super snuggles. I’m not gonna even go into the trip home because if I did, I’d have to reveal that chuck was super cranky and I almost had to knock him out and carry him home instead of listening to him, but I would never do that because I’m good at keeping secrets.
*they’re these little nut things that look like hamburgers. They do not taste like hamburgers. They’re from the mucuna vine, apparently. And I guess they’re not nuts but beans. Whatever, science, please don’t ruin my childhood.