After one night of perfect safety and peace I felt stronger and optimistic that I could salvage this well-deserved tropical vacation. The ship was to sail to another island that day and I planned to go ashore. Of course I was freaked out about the possibility of a Dave Encounter but I figured there’d be lots of witnesses so I should be safe. Besides, I could not spend another day in my poo poo dungeon.
I wanted to play in the blue waves and get a tan on the white sandy beach. There were loads of local Caribbean women there shouting at me to buy this or buy that. One woman wanted to braid my hair for $10. I said all I had was $3 and she said sternly “I’ll do half. Sit here!” Obedient and stupid, I handed her my $3 allowance for the day and sat on the burning hot sand. Her thick black hands worked fast and strong, pulling little tiny strands of my blond hair into intricate rows. It looked like I had a little farm growing on my scalp. She finished the right side of my head and walked away. I felt stupid but I tried to play it off anyway. I spent the day on the beach and felt self-conscious the whole time. I met some nice people on the ship and small talked for a while. Then I told them the whole story and all about Dave. The asked if I’d like to join them for dinner that night. I was so happy to have someone to talk to, especially since they were going to pay for dinner. I was planning on leaving with Carlos, this ship waiter, later that night for some clubbing, but I’d have dinner with my new friends first.
I returned to my shit room for a shower and to dress for dinner and dancing. I noticed how warm I’d become. Really hot, actually. I stood in front of the little steamy mirror in the bathroom and beheld the scorching site of me. I was hot pink from head to toe, save the bikini lines. But worst of all was my scalp. Between each row was a raw strip of skin that resembled half cooked bacon. It felt like thumbtacks dipped in salt had been hammered into my head. But only on the one side. I slid on my black leather dress and four inch heals and left for the evening anyway.
After dinner I caught up with Carlos. He asked if I’d like to go have some fun with him on shore. Maybe go to a club and dance. I was ecstatic and I eagerly agreed. He was suave and polite. He looked pretty nice in a pair of white slacks and silk shirt. I’d be fine with him, I thought.
As we walked to a local club, I could sense a complete change in his demeanor. He dropped the suave routine as soon as we were away from the ship. Instead of small talk and polite questions, he was silent and fast moving. I was unsettled. We entered a small club with live reggae. He told me where to go and sit while he talked to his friends. Pretty soon he came over to the table to see what I wanted to drink. “A coke, please” I replied quite kindly. He looked shocked. “You can have some rum too, okay?” he said. “No, I don’t drink alcohol” I replied. He went to the bar and returned with a coke. He sat next to me and told me that I was being boring. I needed to learn to have fun. He seemed more and more impatient as the night wore on. We did not dance or talk. He just drank and pouted.
Carlos on the ship was different than Carlos off the ship. I had been such a sucker! Why had I thought Carlos would be any different than Dave? He just kept getting angrier and drunker. I kept getting hotter and more frightened. I got up the nerve to ask him if we could go back to the ship. He shot me a daring look and said “Go ahead, I’m staying!”
Oh shit, now I had to walk through the streets of a Caribbean town in my black leather dress, four inch heals, and half braided head. I’m sure anyone who saw me knew I was looking for a cruise ship. I was frightened and lost. I started to get a sick feeling and then I saw my ship. Thank God.
I returned to my shit hole and started to sob from relief and self-pity. I liked to watch myself cry really hard because there’s just something about the out of control contortions my face makes that normally I don’t get to see. So I sat in front of the mirror and watched myself cry while I tried to take out my tiny braids. It took over an hour and when I was done I checked for bleeding. My hair frizzed out like Rosanna Rosanna Danna on one side. I was too tired and depressed to take a shower, so I just laid down and cried myself to sleep.
I had managed to completely avoid Dave until we offloaded the ship. We were all standing around with our luggage waiting for our bus to the airport. That’s when the Purser Bitch asked us for our bus tickets. Oh my God! I don’t have any tickets!!! I told her that I didn’t have them. She stopped short, put on her very nicest grin, and said “That’s not my problem, ma’am.” Wow, what a twat. I pleaded with her “He took the tickets. I don’t have any money or credit cards, please just let me on the bus so that I can get to the airport!” She was pleased with my dilemma, you could tell by just looking at her. “Please, you can’t just leave me here!” and she gave me her favorite line “There’s nothing we can do.”
Dave had everything. I spotted him up ahead in the swarm of sunburned cruisers. He was standing there with his stupid square camera case strapped across his chest like a … well a tourist, I guess. By now I was no longer afraid of him, I was pissed. I stomped over to him and demanded my bus ticket and plane ticket. I stood there with my hand outstretched, palm up, waiting. He rummaged through his suitcase and made this puppy dog face and said “I thought you had them.” “What the Hell would I be doing with the tickets? Look in your stupid camera case, I saw you putting them in there a few days ago.” I said disgustingly. Sheepishly he pulled them out and handed them to me. Relief. “Here they are! I have a limo waiting for us at the airport if you need a ride back home?” he said in a most pathetic tone. “Fuck You! I never, ever want to see your face again!” I shouted and damn it felt so good. Then he asked for his jewelry back. Looking back I wish I would have kept it and then sold it for some new tires. But I took the high road and threw it at him instead.
As it was the very last day in the United States of America to fly on an airplane and smoke, I was quite happy to find myself in the smoking section. Not only that, but I had the last smoking seat, on the last day, with an empty seat next to me. I took the last $3.00 out of my purse and ordered a headset so that I could watch the movie and relax. I was grateful to be alive and going home to my little boy. I was happy not to have to spend another night in my shit hole eating turkey and mayo sandwiches and reading the same book over and over again. I was pleased with myself for telling off Dave, too.
Halfway through the flight, a big drunk guy stands over my seat and asks if he can sit down and have a smoke, as he was mistaken for a non-smoker when seat assignments were made. I said “sure”, being very careful to not give the impression that I was interested in chit-chat. I pointed to the headset stuck in my ears and ignored him. But it didn’t work. As soon as I’d begin to the movie he’d say something again. I tried to just ignore him but he was too drunk to get the message. He’d finish his cigarette and go back to his seat only to return a few minutes later for another one. Argh!!
“Hey, can I buy you a drink?” he slurred. “No, I don’t drink” I said in a monotone, irritated response. He replied “Neither do I!” He had a surprised look on his face, like we just found out we were distant cousins or something. “Oh really? Then why are you holding a vodka and slurring your words?” I snipped. He replied sadly “Well, I hadn’t had drink for a couple of years, but I’m afraid of flying and I slipped today.” I was stunned. His atonement slapped me in the face. He suddenly looked frail and helpless. I told him that I hadn’t had a drink for a couple of years either. I told him he could sit next to me if he wanted to. He slumped next to me and all his former bullshit just slipped away. He was so humble and grateful that I let him sit next to me. When the stewardess passed by he handed her the vodka and asked for coffee. He kept drinking the coffee and we talked about drinking and talked about being sober for hours.
After at least a pot of coffee (and zero movies) we heard the captain make his announcement “We will be landing soon ….” The man next to me tensed up and fell silent. He asked me if I would hold his hand while we landed. Now I know you think I’m a sucker, but I had to hold his hand. I was so brave and he was so scared. I was so sober and he was just sober. I remember the feeling of the wheels touching down and his big hand squeezing my skinny little hand. I thought that maybe this was why I had to go on the trip, just to sit next to this guy and help him get on his feet on the ground.
When we got off the plane, he gave me a big bear hug and thanked me for helping him get sober. In the corner of my eye, I spotted my mom and my little son. I said goodbye to the man and headed over to my family. Little Sean had been staying with his father and caught pneumonia. This sweet little pale face looked gaunt and tired. He had dark circles under his beautiful blue eyes. My heart aches today just as much as it did then, when I think about him being sick without me. I was so grateful to be home, with Sean.
When I returned to the law office the next day, I told my boss, Steve, about the horrible ordeal. He was much older and had a reputation for being a hot-head. After hearing my story, he shook his head in a disapproving way and said “Sharon, there are only two kinds of guys in this world, guys who want to get you in bed, and gay ones. And if they say they’re neither, they’re lying.” I hoped he was one of the gay ones. Yuk.
I hung onto the key from my shit hole and the postcard from Dave for many years. I wanted to always remember that in this world, you just can’t get something for nothing. But I had to learn the hard way, didn’t I.