The day began much like all the other days this week. I awoke to sunny skies, cool gentle breezes,
a few puffy pink clouds, and the aroma of strong, dark coffee in the air. Heaven.
Or it was supposed to be. This is
what I had come for, come to this isolated island with no cell service, no
Wi-Fi, no TV, only a landline telephone in the manager’s office in the dining
hall, several hundred feet away past the other cottages that make up this small
resort. On the other hand, there is
sailing, snorkeling, swimming, shelling along the wide beach, and all the
sunbathing you could ever want to do.
So what is wrong with me?
The first day I was in love with the place. Likewise, Day 2 and 3. By Day 4 the novelty was beginning to wear
off. I’d been sailing, snorkeling,
shelling, swimming, and as I’m not a sunbather, I’d skipped that part and
located myself in a hammock with one of the several books I’d brought
along. On Day 5 I did little more than
read all day in the hammock. Day 6, yesterday,
was Saturday, and we guests made an
excursion into the nearby small town to buy souvenirs or stock up on
provisions. I bought some dark
chocolate, several mangos and limes, club soda, and “still” water, as they call
bottled water. There were a few ladies
with crafts to sell, sitting on blankets on the wide porches of the small
stores. But I had enough knick-knacks in
my apartment back at home so I looked for some used books to fill out my tiny
reading library. Unfortunately, none of
the books were in English and my mastery of the local language was not good
enough to plow through anything more difficult than newspaper headlines.
Day 7, today, is Sunday, and I suppose all the year-round
inhabitants of this lovely spot go to church, or at least they don’t go to
work, so nothing is open, not even our dining hall. Perhaps I should have read the fine print in
the brochure advertising this “Vacation for the Tired Overworked City Dweller.” Then I might have more in my larder than the
fixing for a vodka tonic….minus the vodka….and a bar of chocolate and some
mangoes. This may force me to make the acquaintance of my neighbors, whom I’ve
only waved at on the way to the dining hall.
They seem to be a family that cooks its own food. I’ve smelled meat grilling from their place
on a couple of evenings. I wonder if
they’d be up to a barter—dark chocolate for a sandwich, say, or a couple of
mangoes for a muffin and a cup of coffee.
Dang it, though, this is the very thing I came here to get away
from. The constant rubbing up against
other people. The “making nice” when
you’d really like to ask them to lower the volume in their apartment from which
sounds emanate that could only be created by a birthday party of 3-year-old
squealers overridden by someone’s uncle practicing the clarinet. God, I don’t miss that. Nor do I miss the rush, rush, rush to the
subway, waiting for the elevator at work, listening to cell phones and their
individual songs/tunes/sounds that go off all day. Why couldn’t we have stuck to Ma Bell’s
universal ring tone? OK, I am such a
grump. But this vacation is supposed to cure
that. So why couldn’t I have known to
have some food in the cottage for Sunday?
OK, here goes. I’ll
just go over and politely ask about trading some food and get through this day.
Oh, a guy’s outside at the grill. “Hello, there. I’m your neighbor next door.”
“I know,” he says to me. “We see you walking
by here to dining hall. You no have food
with you? You should tell us. We have plenty. Here, come here, have a seat.” He calls
inside “Honey, lady is here.”
comes to the porch. “Hello” she says to
me. Her husband says (in his limited English, for my benefit, I know) “lady no
has food in house. Make her plate,
OK?” His wife disappears inside.
you like some of my dark chocolate and some mangoes?” I ask.
“No, no, no, you keep,” he replies. “You need food. You too small, you know? Not fat.”
His wife appears again with a large platter laden with all
manner of things, covered with plastic wrap.
It looks like fruit salad and some rolls, a fried chicken breast,
something mysterious with onions in it, and a large piece of some kind of berry
pie. “This is too much,” I protest.
“No, no” he says again. “You be here next week? Come eat with
us. It just Mama and me and we get
lonesome. You by your own self? No
husband? No man?”
“No man,” I say.
“Just me. I like it that way. Well, thanks for everything. You’re too kind. I’ll bring the dishes back tomorrow.” I walk back the short distance to my cottage, carefully
balancing the platter so that nothing spills.
Just me, I like it that way, I think to myself. Maybe I’ve been a little inflexible about
that. Maybe a vacation isn’t for getting
away from everything. Perhaps
there’s something to be said for meeting new people.
Well, now, next week may
go a lot better.