I was going on a seven day cruise to the Caribbean with Dave, my platonic friend. We’d fly from California to Florida where our ship would launch the following day. All expenses were paid; I just needed souvenir and cigarette money. It was really hard, but I scratched up $100. This meant that an essential bill would not be paid, but it simply had to be. Fall out be damned!
We arrived at our hotel in Florida. It was a tall tacky looking white building with turquoise chairs and faded pink flowers made out of crinkly fabric stuck in white pots. At the heavily lacquered front desk they handed us our keys … to the same room. I felt very uncomfortable about sharing a room with Dave my platonic friend but he seemed super happy. When we opened the room door and walked past the fluorescently lit bathroom I saw the bed. One king bed. I had a horrible feeling that he requested it this way but I didn’t have the nerve to ask or argue. He assured me that he was sorry we had to share a bed but he would be a perfect gentleman.
That night, who knows what time, I was lost in deep sleep. I was half conscious but aware of some cuddling. Not wanting to wake up and not knowing who it was, I just enjoyed the body heat. But it went further and then too far. Before I had a chance to fully wake-up and resist, it was over. I felt sick and scared. I questioned myself and my motives. Did I bring this on? Did I try and stop him? Finally, I resolved to believe the easiest thing for me to handle and still go on my cruise. I talked myself into believing that I liked him more than I thought I did. I sucked it up and said to myself “Well, I guess we aren’t just friends anymore” and I went on with the voyage as planned.
Deep down, but not very deep, I was humiliated and really angry at him and myself. But if I allowed myself to feel those feelings I would have to do something about them and I just couldn’t bare it.
Boarding the cruise ship was more dramatic than I’d dreamed. The massive entryway with inside/outside carpeting being inundated with tourists of every kind was overwhelming. I’ve never liked being in a giant crowd of people because I believe they are all looking at me. This is an indicator of an ego large enough to necessitate a massive entryway. Dave knew many of our fellow shipmates because Union 76, the gas station that he owned, had given away hundreds of these incentive vacations. He would introduce me as his “friend, Sharon” but I could not mistake a certain twinkle in his eye. I wished he would just spell it out for them “This is Sharon; she’s willing to do ANYTHING for a vacation!”
We each had a key to the room, but he used his to enter the cabin. It was a teeny tiny room with one little round window like the ones you see in the old ship movies. There was a bathroom that looked exactly like the one on the plane and there were two thin beds against opposite walls about three feet apart from each other. This meant I was safe while I was sleeping in my catatonic state.
He was so impressed with everything – like a 13-year old on her first limo ride. I just wanted to slap him to knock some of the enthusiasm out of him. It was only a cruise ship, for God’s sake, not exactly the Plaza Hotel! We dressed for dinner as if we were going to a fine restaurant. I wore one of my work dresses from my law firm job as a legal secretary, and he wore grey slacks that his mother must have picked out for him in junior high. His short sleeve blue shirt was tucked in sloppy and his tie was wide enough for Ed McMahon. Astonishingly, he blended in nicely with the rest of the winners from Union 76.
I could tell this mess hall really wanted to be a fine restaurant what with the massive chandeliers hanging down and all, but it felt more like the Titanic (there, I just couldn’t write another word without making that connection). The poly-blend table linens, that’s an oxymoron by the way, were the same pale pink as the fake flowers from the hotel. I loath this color, especially when it’s mixed with turquoise and fake crystals. We were sitting with a large table of gas station owners with bad table manners.
When we returned to our, what would you call it, State Room, he opened the lid on top of his head and let all of his crazy thought bubbles out to float around the room. “Pop – I love being with you, you’re so beautiful – Pop – This is an amazing time in my life with you – Pop - I would like to have children – Pop – with you – Pop Pop – We could adopt if you don’t want to have any more – POP!” Oh shit.
I heard my heart beating in my stomach where all the rice pilaf and chicken Cordon bleu was sitting. I wanted to go home to my money problems, my mundane job, and my sweet little son, but I was stuck on a ship with this crazy guy. I couldn’t sleep that night for fear that he’d make his away across the 36 inches that separated us. It's not that he was large, muscular, or tough in any way, but crazy carries a lot of weight on the danger scale.
The next day we stopped at some island designed just for cruise ship tourists but I couldn’t get off the ship with him. I told him to go without me, that I wanted to rest. After some soul searching and a nap, I went to the Ship’s Purser to explain my situation and ask for help. “I went on this cruise with a man claiming to be a ‘friend’ but he’s taken advantage of me in my sleep and now he’s talking crazy talk. I’m really afraid to find out what he’s going to do next! I need to get out of that room this afternoon while he’s on the island, please.”
Her expression was flat. Her chin dropped and she peered at me over her glasses so that she resembled a stereotypical school teacher and replied “I’m sorry miss, there’s nothing we can do.” We? Who the hell was she referring to and why couldn’t “they” understand that I had an unstable roommate. She had no empathy no matter how much I pleaded, so I resorted to frantic threats. “Listen, if he rapes me in the middle of the night, I will sue you. Personally. You are ignoring an imminent threat on board. Isn’t it your responsibility to keep your passengers safe? I’m writing all of this down for the Complaint which I shall file as soon as I return to my law firm. She sighed as if to say “I give up” and said they did have one room available. She gave me a key.
During my bitch exchange, I had hoped Dave had not returned to the room. It seemed that admitting my predicament out loud served to snap me into quite a state of terror, the kind where I was running down hallways as if someone was chasing me. But I didn’t make it in time. He had returned to the room and left again. I knew because he left a box and a card addressed to me.
To be continued