THURSDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2016
During this entire trip, this is the only morning, besides the day I return home, that I had to be serious about obeying the alarm clock. This is also the only morning thus far that there was not a bagel somewhere in my hand with a coffee. Because of the time, and the fact that I would be fed on the ship, trying to run out for a breakfast sandwich seemed like a waste. When I purchased the ticket for the cruise, I was told that I was to go to Pelican Pier, which incidentally was the same pier from the must go to happy hour. Cruisers were to meet promptly at 9:00 am to check-in, and enjoy light pre-boarding refreshments. It was an all day cruise from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and the brochure stated that this experience would include pastries for breakfast, welcome mimosas, open bar, lunch grilled by an on-board chef, kayaking, snorkeling, and rope swing, all while it cruises up the South Coast. The money was already paid, and I was still in sticker shock, but I had a feeling it would be completely worth every last dime.
By now, this dressing routine was the easiest of my life. Times like this, I question where I am really supposed to have come from; am I truly an east coast gal or a west coast gal? The idea of having a closet full of bathing suits, and flip flops to go to the beach everyday, feels natural to me. I felt pretty excited while I was walking over to pier. Immediately once I arrived to the front of the pier, I surveyed the place. I didn’t know what kind of crowd it would be, or if there would be a lot of people. From my vantage point, I could people seated here and there, it was really only a handful. As soon as I could take any more steps further in, Alex greeted me. He introduced himself as the first mate, and was warmly welcoming giving me a kiss on the hand. At the large grouping of bar top tables sat a large group of African American women. This was a pleasant surprise. They all had animated faces, and a general excitable energy among them. I passed them to sit at an empty 2-seater bar top. Not even in the seat for a few minutes, and I was invited to sit with the ladies I just passed. You have to wonder if things are truly coincidences, or are meant to be. I almost felt that they could have been waiting for me...cue Carla stage right. Right now in my life, I am questioning it all, fate vs. coincidence. Everything. Mostly, I had been feeling that it was a gratuitous vacuum of torment.
When I sat down, we did a full round of introductions. The matriarchs of the group were two sisters. I was told that there was a third sister that they just lost this year to cancer. Apparently, the family makes this trip every other year, as part of timeshare that that sister owns. The two sisters have daughters, and they were at the table as well. They are all younger, maybe between their 20s and 30s. One of the daughters lives in San Francisco, and the other two (sisters) live in Atlanta and Waldorf (Maryland). They are successful young women with a lot of gusto, and I can tell that their success was in large part due their mothers. The sisters (mothers) live in DC, and one had practically just retired from the Federal Government. It is crazy that the only women of color that I have met have been from the DC area, and worked for the Feds. Now it was my time to explain myself, and what brought me here to this pier, to this cruise, to this island, by myself. I spilled the beans, explaining about the recent loss in my life with the death of my grandmother, and the end of the relationship. The response was the same as it had been from the other people, and strangers in my life; it was a congratulatory pat on the back for taking such a move, almost impressing them. But I quickly tell them all that I would have preferred a million and one other ways to get this point. Any other which way but this. But who am I to say which way and why? That is out of my hands.
The other sister had her luggage temporarily misplaced by the airlines on her arrival to Aruba, and was given money to purchase the items that she needed in the meantime. The shopping spree for replacement items temporarily became the new hot topic. While I sat there talking with them, and listening to them talk to each other, and watching them riff, and dote on each other, it reminded me of the importance of family and sisterhood. There was a moment that the one mother, and daughter were talking about relationships, and the daughter stated how her mother says that there *is someone out there for her. I chuckled, and told them what my mother wrote in her card to me - that there was someone out there for me too, and he was not in outer space. I told them it would be nice to know that these two men “out there” for us are walking around together or just meeting on a trip like us. We laughed. I was very thankful for them today, probably more than they will ever know. The genuine welcome into their family made an amazing day even more amazing, and poignant. I texted my sister later to tell her that she had to come with me next time. I would have loved to have her with me, to share in that moment, something similar.
Our pre-board time had passed, and it was time to take the taxi over to the Monforte III. I know me, and while we were at the pier, I made sure to drink as much water as possible. Open bar all day on the cruise could be a nightmare if I am not hydrated. I was going to try to get my dollars worth of everything. The taxi was not long at all; it was a little pontoon type of boat. We saddled up next to this sleek wooden schooner, and were helped on board. I couldn’t believe what a great decision I made. Made from Walnut, the ship oozed luxury - exquisite! Under the awning, freshly made, and waiting for us, were bubbly watermelon mimosas, fresh chunk of melon at the bottom. Garnished, and looking delightful, almost too pretty to drink. There was also a color spread of fresh fruits of all kind, and an assortment of oversized flaky pastries. All the passengers looked very pleased with their decision as well. I felt like the Queen of Sheba, or at least someone on, “The Real Housewives.” Everyone was still boarding, or commencing to eat, and or drink as the mimosas were handed out.
Most of us stayed close to bridge of the ship, since this was where there was covered seating, and the tables with delicious items. After we were all on board, Alex introduced us to the crew, Captain Nino hailing from Brazil, the home of the ship, Edwin the deck hand/bartender, and a new intern Joshua, who was literally learning the ropes. They were all ever so friendly, and appeared to really enjoy what they were doing. In the end, it may have around 20 guests, give or take. If I recall, the crew said that they take up to 100 guests. We suggested that they kept it small like our group, because it was just the right number for the kind of personal attention they provide, and the free space per person. It felt like you were on your own personal chartered cruise at this number, and that speaks to the luxury. I regret not taking any pictures of the spread, but I was doing something old fashioned - I was enjoying the moment.
After Alex spoke to us, I wanted to get out from the cover of the back of the boat, and headed to the open, padded seating in the full sun. The ladies joined me. I had more time to talk to the sister that recently retired, and we talked about our lives, and I told her about my documentary. Her daughter is a journalist, and writer. She thought that she would be interested in the project as well, since she had recently lamented on how she wanted to write more, non-journalistic stuff. The schooner skiffed along the water as we talked, mingled, and we were always asked if we needed anything. Meanwhile, it was a little hard to hear, but Alex was giving us information about Aruba, and the Spanish Coast as we cruised along. It was truly a working ship, as the crew, lowered, and raised sails. I had never felt this free or more me. There is no doubt that the water is my home - sand, salt and sea. I felt exhilarated as we skipped the waves. Between the company, weather, music, friendly crew, and the refreshing drinks at your beckon call, I made a decision that this was something I had to officially incorporate into my life. I don’t know how, but it will happen. The crazy thing, was that at one point, Edwin disappeared, and we saw him zip off on a jet skiing away from the ship. I don’t know if it is true, but I think the wild rumor was that he was went on a liquor run for the ship. He sped away so fast, and returned, before anyone could truly confirm it. It was never denied.
Keeping the ship afloat was water, an endless patchwork of blues, turquoise, and teals. We got to our anchor point, where we could venture on a guided snorkel trip, or stay on the ship to do as we may. We were told that the kayaking would be available after the snorkeling. This is right around the point that I remember having a conversation with my parents about snorkeling cruises, specifically how they couldn’t see how there could be an open bar before people snorkeled. They expressed concern about people being able to function properly, and safely after they had been drinking. Drinking afterwards, sure, but before, no. I poo pooed it at first. But they were spot on. I hadn’t had a crazy amount to drink, I mean I had a few, but I could tell after I donned all my snorkel gear, including a very awkward strap for a mandatory life vest, that this could be a struggle. With flippers put on last, I plunged into the water below. I am a pretty strong swimmer, but the choppy, relentless waves made a fairly easy task, a little more complicated. Swimming with any real gumption proved to be difficult. We all followed Edwin across the waves as best we could. I powered up for a while, and kicked in full throttle, looking up every few minutes to make sure I was still on course. On my wrist was the waterproof camera that I had purchased for this trip. I had every intention in using it. I did my best with it, but it was pretty difficult to keep still long enough to take pictures.
*Yes, that is me jumping ship
The group gathered, and splintered as the waves took its toll. Simply treading was a task. I made the decision with some of my adoptive family to leave the snorkel group to head back to the ship, once kayaking was offered as an option. I knew my arms were feeling stronger than my legs. One by one, we climbed back up onto the boat. Those that wanted to kayak were to head to the back end of the boat. Unfortunately, there were more people than kayaks, and I decided to forgo my seat in order for the family to stay together. I felt adopted, but I wasn’t going to intrude on their family fun. The remaining option was to try the third lung, or to try the rope swing. There was already a willing couple to try the third lung, and I watched, and we asked questions. They had both scuba dived before, and were explaining the sensation. They weren’t that comfortable with it. For me, that was all I needed to know. I also could see that the kayaking was turning into a bit of nightmare as the water had a mind of its own, taking the people where it wanted them to go, instead of the people making that decision. When I turned back, I saw that the rope swing was getting a little action at the bow of the ship. Looking at it, I thought that this could be fun. Let’s get to it. For all of my childhood, into early adulthood, I was apprehensive with my adventure seeking, but lately, I can’t get enough. I find myself wanting more. Almost as if I am trying to catch up for all the time I said no. Captain Nino was manning the rope swing. We watched the few folks lined up. I charged up the steps on a mission, and listened to the instructions while Captain Nino moved me into the proper position. Off I flew from the ship on the count. The swing itself is attached to the mast, and it is also attached to a rope that the Captain was holding. This way, I imagine, if need be, the Captain can prevent any mishaps, whatever that could be. Either way, it is well coordinated. I had never felt this much like a kid, since I was a kid. I flew until I could I fly no longer, in that second you can feel the momentum starting to pull you back, I released my grip, and dropped into the water. This was a for real Weeeeee moment. I climbed up the ladder, and wanted to do it again, and again, and again. And I did. I could not get enough. If I had enough time to master this, I could see all kinds of acrobatic tricks up my sleeve. The only thing that stopped my run was the call for lunch.
In that time, they managed to change over the breakfast to a full-fledged lunch banquet. That entire time, the on-board chef had been making magic happen below in the galley, as well as on the grill in the back. We were treated to kabobs of freshly grilled chicken, fish, and vegetables. There were salads, and pastas. Now that everyone was back on board, we all circled, and eventually broke bread. Each dish was outstanding. Another thing about me is that I love grilled food. The more lines the better. While we were eating, one of my favorite songs was played, Bob Marley’s, “Waiting in Vain.” Actually, that is perhaps my all time favorite song of his. Music had been playing the entire time, but it was starting to crank up. You can feel the transition from chill cruise time, to party ship. Some point during the course of the trip, I found myself salsa dancing with Captain Nino right at the wheel of the ship. I was so pumped that I stuck my turn. My sister would have been so proud. Many nights over the years have been spontaneously spent working out or salsa, and merengue moves. Our meal was finished, and the anchor was lifted. It was time to turn back in. I took this time to join one of the daughters (the one whose future someone could be walking with my non intergalactic someone) for a drink in the netting of the bow. We helped each other get up, and settled in, one holding the other’s drink while we got comfortable. Our conversation was long, and personal. She was a free spirit, and had lived in Switzerland for years before she moved to San Francisco. I felt that we had a lot in common, and we talked very freely, and openly. Her mother, and aunt came to grab us for the dancing. I opted out, not because I don’t love to dance, but I knew I could do that anytime, being here, sailing above the water was not. She excused herself, and joined the crowd. Funny enough, they soon started playing, “The Wobble.” The humor in this is that if you know me, you would know that I am not a fan of choreographed dancing. If my suppressed ballet dreams were to happen, sure I would dance with 30 people. Otherwise, I don’t know if it the nonconformist in me, but I have never been interested in doing the same exact dance with a bunch of people. My friends think it is the silliest thing, but I have yet to budge from this stand. I would have felt pretty aggravated had I gotten off of my perch, only to have to feel forced to Wobble with everyone. I really do love to party, but this just never made sense to me. There you have it. That is one more interesting fact about me, I don’t Wobble, Superman, Cupid Shuffle, and I love food with grill lines.
On the way back, we glided past all the jet skiers, the small boats, and eventually, the people on the beach. The cruise was over, and it was going to easily get logged as one of my best days ever. The cruise goers collected their belongings as we prepared to take the taxi back to the pier. We were all delighted from an unforgettable day. When we set foot back on the pier, there was a moment my adopted family, and I had already subconsciously continued to think of us as a unit, and we were ready to discuss the next part of our day together. But we reminded ourselves that this was where it would end, right where it started. I had my Everyone But Two business cards on me, and happily handed them out. We were to stay in touch with each other. I also had pressing business with one of the daughters, who so brilliantly captured my swing time for me on her phone. It was time for hugs, and goodbyes. I wished them a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. They would be leaving later in the weekend. Off I went.
The day was far from over. I wanted to go back to the room to regroup so I could head to the beach, one last time. Today was going to be a last man standing day. My flight didn’t leave crazy early the next day, but it wasn’t enough time for me to feel comfortable going to the beach, getting ready, and then leave. I almost didn’t trust myself. On my way to and from my room, I saw my Shakespearean named friend. It was a much earlier spotting because I was coming back from the day cruise. Normally, I had been set up in one area for a while, and had only seen him until much later in the day. He told me that he would send me a message in an hour. The night before, he asked to exchange “What’s app,” info so we can be in touch. I headed to my spot, where all the beach air, and water was soaked up, and floated in. Time was no longer on my side, and I was starting to feel glum. Each cloud in the sky had come, and gone by the time I finally called it a day at the beach. For my last dinner in Aruba, I ate at the Seabreeze, and treated myself one more time, to what I loved most. At the bar, they played Human League’s, "Don't You Want Me Baby." This was another personal joke to me because some time ago, I had changed the words to the song to, “Don't You Worry About Me,” and had sang it around most people that knew, and loved me. If only I could slow time down to its smallest increment because I hate knowing that this would soon be over.
I headed back to my room to shower. My plan was to take one last stroll on the main drag, and take a walk along the beach. I received a message from my Shakespearean named friend, inquiring what my plans were for the evening. He invited me to go dancing later, but I had no intention of leaving the property with him. Had I been with other people, I would have given the invitation serious consideration, but I heard enough friends mention the unfortunate incident with Natalee Holloway, and their point was crystal clear. While I was getting ready, he had asked me to come out to my balcony. Did he have any idea how funny that was to me, that he was asking me to be his Juliet? I could see myself now, standing on the balcony, in the light of the moon, saying, “O Not Romeo, Not Romeo! Wherefore art thou Not Romeo? It cracks me up. I could have never imagined the irony, or the absurdity that I found myself in lately. Who would believe me when I tell them that I met someone, whose name is not Romeo, but another Shakespearean character, that asked me to come out on my balcony?
Eventually we would meet later, as I was told where he would be. When I found him, we stole away a few moments together. In our best effort, we tried to speak as much as we could to each other, but we ultimately had to rely on Google translate again. He told me he wanted a kiss, and I felt shy, but finally I obliged. I was attracted to him. His eyes were still an open, and deep pool of hazels, and greens. I got caught up. I got caught up in the depth of his eyes, and the idea of living in the moment, and I was ready to feel alive again. I didn’t need much convincing. I learned from this experience that I do in fact love to kiss. Pretty risky for me to kiss a strange man. It was risky of him kissing a guest when he could get in trouble fraternizing. We are both not using our best judgement. His translation was to do what our heart says. Which I did. The adrenaline was energizing. I let him know that I was going to go shopping across the street, and I would find him when I returned. There were some last minute purchases for myself, and others. Before I headed back, I finally got some gelato at a stand that I passed each night. I got the chocolate snickers. I savored each spoon, and tried to replace the taste of his kiss because now realty had settled back in. It was nice. I could still smell his heady cologne on my dress. It was a pleasant reminder. It ended up that we missed each other when I returned, and I was ready to get myself together for the night. He would be off work soon, and would have to leave the premise to entertain me. I had my fun for the night, and I would message him later.