I only had a few minutes before I knew he’d return to the ship’s cabin to either find me packing or discover me gone. I spotted a postcard and a small box on the desk. Dave the Platonic Friend had spent a short afternoon on the tiny tourist trap island in the Caribbean and apparently brought back a gift for me. The card was rich with oblivious remarks about his love for me. He wanted me to spend the evening with him at the casino on the island. I opened the small box and there was a diamond and topaz pendant necklace. The gemstone was the size of two mini marshmallows and hung from a delicate gold chain. I was horrified.
I threw all my clothes and cosmetics in my cheap little suitcase that I borrowed from my mom. I took the necklace and the postcard. The whole episode took less than five minutes and I was out the cabin door and running down the hallways. My heart was pounding, terrified that he’d see me and flip-out. He was obviously unbalanced and potentially dangerous. He had tricked me into coming on this stupid cruise and taken advantage of me in my sleep. I hated him even more because of the necklace and the postcard.
I had to keep going lower and lower in the ship before I finally reached my little cabin. The Purser Bitch who obviously thought I was a harlot gave me a cabin that nobody else wanted. She said there was a prior plumbing problem but it was “all they had.” I opened the little oval door with my key on a little red oval key ring. Instantly I was kicked back with the strong smell of the Bowels of Hell. The stench made me gag. The ship’s doors are all the same, you have to step over the bottom to get in or out. This apparently served as a kind of reservoir for shit water that spilled from the bathroom and into the cabin during the prior plumbing problem. It had soaked into the freshly shampooed carpet, but the reek was still there.
As fast as I could, I lugged my suitcase over the door ledge, turned on the little light, and locked the door behind me. I was a safe prisoner. I had four nights left on this free vacation, but my measly $100 had already been depleted by half. This was an all-inclusive cruise; all the booze, food, and gas station owners you wanted, but I only wanted the food. By now Dave probably realized that the cabin was vacated and he must be falling apart, surely crying into a pillow and planning his hunt for me. There was no way to leave the the cabin. I pictured him in my frightened imagination creeping through the hallways and waiting to pounce. I found there was an in-room menu but the only items that were complimentary were cold sandwiches. “Good enough” I said and dialed the number.
The room was much like my previous one, but only had one small bed. There was no window because it was so far down in the ship. My sentence was all too quiet with no television or radio, this allowed my mind to conjure up the very worst scenarios and feel completely hateful for him and me. When my pathetic dinner was delivered the knock on the door made me jump. I wouldn’t answer until they said “room service!”
That night the ship was on the move and the weather was rough. I was awakened with the violent rocking of the ship and overwhelming nausea. I stumbled toward the bathroom and threw up my turkey and mayo on white sandwich in the little silver airplane toilet. Alas, the rejection of my stomach’s contents did not relieve my sickness and the smell of the room was fierce. I had no choice, I had to open the door and let some air in. It seems that every other poor fool on the cheap deck had the same idea. For as far as I could see down the hall, doors were opened and the sound and smell of retching was thunderous.
The need for fresh air was absolutely necessary, Dave could go to hell. Besides he was probably still wallowing with his broken heart and planning our murder/suicide. I threw on a summer dress, grabbed my key and my smokes, and headed for the deck.
The ship was rocking back and forth but the night clubs and dining rooms were still lively. There were about 50 of us on the deck in front of the wheel house. The night was wicked and beautiful. The waves crashed against the ship and sent curtains of water splinters over me, then the warm wind would take its turn and blow them off. The bright moonlight lit the wave caps and outlined the clouds drifting quickly past. It made me feel powerful to leave the cabin, like I had just given Dave the finger and said “Go ahead, what are you going to do about it Skinny?” and I fantasized about throwing him overboard.
One of the ship’s waiters came up to me to ask if I needed anything and inquired about my trip. I spilled my guts in a very dramatic way. He was very tall, dark, and sort of handsome. He apologized for my bad luck and invited me to go to shore with him the following night – his night off. I instantly agreed and was happy that some nice man had taken pity on me and offered to take me out on the town. Because, after all, didn’t I deserve something nice? If I had scrutinized the situation, I would have appreciated the similarities, but again, I was too involved with the prize to consider the price.
To be continued …