Though the excursion to Dolittle Land was less than optimal, our morning conversations after that often landed on the topic of further exploration. Should we “do” something else?
To be truthful, it was I who would direct the conversational plane in that direction. L is satisfied with the relaxing life. I try to be, but I find myself worried about what I’m not doing. Much of my life is spent wanting to be invited to parties that I don’t want to attend. Is there something I’m not taking advantage of? Should I get out more? Should we snorkel? Is the advertising getting to me? I don’t want to “waste” my vacation which is designed to be a carefree waste of time. I like living the life of a house cat on vacation, but true house cats don’t suffer from such conflicts. I suspect their rest is authentic and pure, in-bastardized by worry of something else potentially better. They know that the warm snuggle spot they curl is as good as it gets.
We determine to enjoy what we’re paying for anyway–relaxing resort life. If we live our day in little shifts, integrating activity with rest, we might be better able to enjoy some night life as well–at least discover what it is. It cannot be as dismal as what we have witnessed up until 9 or 9:30. Certainly, a new group begins arrives and gets the party going after we have gone to sleep.
Phase one, eat. Phase two, workout. Phase three, enjoy the beach and pool. Phase four, relax. Phase five, late dinner. Then we party! I like having a plan.
Phase one is accomplished with only minor difficulties (see the blog on “finely dining” coming up soon), and we do stair-steppers on the path and sit-ups on our bed for exercise. We try the gym, but every time we start something, another orientation tour comes through with tired gawkers, people just wanting to sit down somewhere with a cocktail, no doubt, but people who make it impossible for us to thrust ourselves about in the awkward, sweaty way we like to when exercising.
Then we set about to enjoy the beach and pool. It is beautiful and relaxing at the beach, watching the waves, and enjoying the sand on our feet. But one must be mindful at all times to avoid an oncoming sales pitch. Sitting by the ocean is impossible to do for more than four minutes without interruption. Smiling boys with plastic coated menus ask if we would like to go on a tour. Older, scruffier, individuals would like us to buy an aloe plant. “Good in the sun,” is the message. There are purveyors of cigars, bananas, “handmade” jewelry, bird houses, carved this and thats, and of course marijuana. Imagine setting up a beach chair in the midway of a county fair.
We seek comfort and less interruption in the quiet pool, which at a resort as quiet as ours takes on a whole new meaning. We sit and hope for a cocktail. Many are being delivered to people sitting in chairs around us. Our Amazonian cloak of invisibility prevents us from being served. Without beverage I stare at a delightful scene playing out in front of me.
People sit in lawn chairs behind the hottub. One man sits with his legs remarkably wide–almost as if they were borrowed from a spider or crab. I fully expected the man to get up and scamper into a hole. An older couple (and here that means 80s), both resembling pears on sticks–round bellies, white hairless broomsticks for legs–make their way into the hot tub. They sit directly across from Wide Leg Crabman. They must be getting quite a view up the wide openings of his shorts.
“Why would they sit there?” I ask.
L takes in the scene and immediately understands. “People do that,” she says. “People are stupid.”
“Yea. They could sit anywhere, but they sit directly in front of the guy with his shorts open.”
“Maybe they want a free show.”
“Hmm,” I say and think about miles of empty highway and the cars that clump too closely together at random intervals along it and of restaurants where a loud-baby family chooses to sit directly behind me in an otherwise empty dining room.
We chat with a couple we call the Life Hacks, because they have tips on everything. A local woman approaches and begins some friendly interaction. We are excited to talk until we realize she is trying to sell us a massage appointment.
I try to muster up some sales resistance, but then realize that this might be our opportunity to do something different, something vacationy without leaving the compound. The worry of wasting a vacation never leaves me.
“Sure, that sounds like fun. Do you have couples massages?”
“Yes, of course. When would you like to schedule?” We say we’re free any time and offer up tomorrow morning or early afternoon as possibilities.
“No. I am all booked tomorrow. How about the next day?”
She thumbs through her appointment book. “No. I’m booked in the afternoon.”
We finally settle on 11:30 in two days. Her name is Mary, and we should meet her about fifteen minutes before our appointment at the massage office desk. L and I smile at each other. It will be a new adventure.
“OK. 11:15, the day after tomorrow,” I say.
L looks at me with a warning in her eyes, since she knows I am already thinking about walking by the main office to see where the massage office is. I should not only locate it, but time the walk from our room and backward plan the morning accordingly. Our showering, breakfasting, and even wake-up depend on it. “It’s not far,” L says. We’ve walked by it a dozen times. It’s the place where people always ask if we want a massage.”
I decide not to make a special trip to the massage office, but I do ensure we accidentally walk by it a few times later that day.
We continue to live our day as we had planned, walking and resting, eating and resting, so we can stay up late and experience the excitement of the bar. We arrive about a half hour later than normal. 7:30.
A few people sit around the bar, some more able than others to get a drink. We meet a couple from Chicago. Sean, the man, says his father is exactly like Frank on Shameless. We like Shameless and we like these people from Chicago. As soon as the conversation gets going, though, I begin to feel hot and a bit nauseated.
The feeling is getting worse and worse. “Do you think I have the Vika?” I ask our new pals after learning they are both in health care.
“No. You don’t have Zika.” Their diagnosis, delivered by Sean, but derived collaboratively through a quick conspiratorial glance, is as confident as it is quick. They run no tests, ask no questions. Maybe I should get into the doctoring business.
I am not convinced. I get hotter and hotter. My stomach tells me not to put a drink in it. I try to be a trooper, but when L asks “want to go home?” I give up on the major goal of the day, to stay up later and say “yes, please.”
“It’s dying out here anyway. They’ll probably close up in a half hour,” L says. She is probably right.
The illness hits me full force the next day. I hesitate to tell L that it is serious. I don’t want to ruin vacation. What kind of doctors do they have here? Are we covered? When I complained the evening before, I did so in a half humorous way. But I knew I was sick. I wasn’t just the normal tired I had been when waking up; I felt a heaviness as if the hand of god was pushing me back to bed. Our vacation life of housecattery–just lying about, walking about, eating, and looking at things, had made us pretty much tired all day. Now, though, it was not relaxed tiredness. This was something trying to coax me to accept my fate and die.
“Aren’t you going to make me a screwdriver?” L asks, since she has grown accustomed to this habit of island life.
“I’ll make you one. I don’t feel like drinking.”
That’s all that had to be said. She knew that must mean I was sick.
The rest of the day, I attempt to enjoy the same sorts of activities, or lack thereof, we had done before the deadly ZikaVika virus had entered my body. No wonder no one had waited on me during the stay so far; they could sense my contagion–sensed it in the way only those that live every day with serious mosquito-born illnesses can sense it.
Still, we lounge by the loud pool and avoid the bingo game being played by all but us. I fall asleep dreaming of letters and numbers. We wander down a path and find an outdoor bed that we quickly lie upon. What had seemed sort of unusual and a little unsanitary when we last had seen it, now seems to me, at least, as the perfect place to rest. We watch the water and the salty breeze blows over us.
I fall asleep again. L spends the time watching a man do all of his gardening chores with a single machete. He digs, chops, prunes–whatever the task–with the single tool and national symbol. If it happens in St. Lucia, it happens with a machete. They should use that.
Throughout the night I am restless, still exhausted, but plagued by repetitious dreams, the same scene starting over and over again, the same questions being asked over and over. “What is the binder clip on Y?” “What is the binder clip on Y?” The irritation of repetition, of being stuck in an endless loop awakes me often. At one point L touches my leg with her fingers. I jump out of bed, yelling, “There’s a crab in the bed.” I still think she had a crab in bed. And then the looping dreams and sweaty pillow keep me in an anxious purgatory between rest and wakefulness.
By morning, I feel the disease leaving me. I had been visited by a ghostly exorcist in the night.
“Should we cancel our massage,” L asks.
“No. I’m feeling better. I look forward to it.” Fake it till you make it, they say. And after repeating that I felt better a dozen or so times, I was ready for the massage.
We arrive at massage office at 11:10, five minutes ahead of schedule. “Yes?” Someone finally looks up from behind the desk. It is the first time we’ve been close to the office without being asked if we want a massage.
“We’re here for our 11:30 massage appointment,” I say.
After asking for our name and room number, the massage official looks through a book, licking her fingers and turning pages as if 11:30 today might exist on several different days and times. She stops. “Your appointment was for 11:00.”
“The woman said 11:30, I’m sure. She wrote it in her book.”
“The person who will give us the massage. Her name was Mary, I think. She said she would meet us here.”
“Appointments are made here. No wonder you don’t have an appointment.”
“I thought you said it was at 11:00.”
“Yes, but that is tomorrow.”
There was no arguing with the logic. Just as I was about to attempt to do so, as impossible as it might be, Mary the masseuse appeared like magic in front of us.”I waited for you yesterday, but you didn’t show up,” she said.
I wonder how long we had slept. Was it possible we slept for 32 hours instead of 8? Had we slipped into a new dimension where today is both yesterday and tomorrow? “I will massage you at 12:30,” said Mary, and the discussion ended. “I’m free today only in the afternoon.”
“Today, right?” I had to ask.
“Meet me back here,” she said. “There is paperwork.”
When we arrive back at the desk an hour later, we explain our situation all over again to the woman with the big book. Our 12:30 appointment is easy for her to find, though I am certain I never saw her write it down. That determination was made between us and Mary, no one else. At any rate, we were given clip boards with many papers attached–like a medical office. The same long lists of diseases I am embarrassed not to know and those I’m embarrassed that I’ve had require check marks. Emergency contacts, emails, surgeries. It is quite the ordeal. We will need massages after the stressful paperwork.
One question confused me: “Skin Type.” I approach the massage official. “Excuse me, I don’t know what to put for ‘skin type.’ Does it mean dry or soft or something like that? What should I put?”
She looks me dead in the eyes for the first time in our various exchanges and delivers a one-word response. “Mature.”
I’m not sure anyone ever wanted to be called mature, let alone have their skin called that. When young, it is embarrassing to be described by a parent or grandparent as being “mature.” Now, as an euphemism for “really old” it is nearly intolerable. The massage I need is getting deeper.
The massage itself is relaxing. L and I lie on adjacent beds as Mary and her friend massage us. White curtains hang from the top of the pergola and surround us. They flap softly in the breeze. Every oil has a relaxing fragrance. My muscles relax.
“Did you do something to your leg?” Mary accuses.
“We did a lot of step exercises the other day,” I explain.”
“You should stretch. You will need many more massages to fix this.”
Good sales pitch–fear–I think, just as the real sales pitch begins, mostly focused on L. She answers the innocent question about liking the fragrances in the affirmative, and so before we can go back to our room and relax further with a cocktail or two, we are sold a wide array of lotions–only available here at the resort. Not online. And discount for you. We are still too massage-drunk to refuse. Besides, something about the intimacy of a massage makes it hard to say no to the masseuse directly after the experience. Yes, here’s a tip. Yes, we will get another massage before we go. No, we will have to sign up at the office as soon as we check our schedule. Yes, we would like the essential oil along with the lotions. Yes!
The only thing not included at an all-inclusive resort is “all.”