A palpable wave of hatred is surging over me as I sit on this Jamaican beach. My friends are hurling that wave at me from a thousand miles away while they look out their windows at snow. I may not be welcome in their homes when I return. They certainly will not allow me near their children. I might infect them with my contempt for the spirit of everyone suffering together.
As I sip my rum and coke I’ll attempt to explain myself. I’ve had a hard six months. Nobody likes a whiner, so let’s leave it at that. I decided to get out of town before I began rising in the dark of night to slaughter unsuspecting wayfarers. And before my wife had to impale me in my sleep to protect the innocent. A toasty resort seemed like just the thing. Some of my friends mocked me for choosing a resort for which you pay a huge, heaving chunk of money up front and then don’t pay for anything else while you’re there. My friends prefer to experience the genuine Jamaica—the Jamaica of the people. I prefer a vacation that requires me to make as few decisions as possible. I’ve been here three days, and the only decision I’ve made is whether or not I want ice in my drink.
That’s an exaggeration of course, but almost accurate. We have a refrigerator/mini-bar in our room, and I had to decide what beverages to ask for. We were limited to one mini-bar bottle of each type of liquor, which I thought a bit stingy, but what the hell. I ordered rum and forgot about it.
After breakfast yesterday we waddled like geese down to the beach. A red flag lies beside every beach chair, and when you lift the flag a nice gentleman hustles over to bring you whatever you want to drink. A ragged-voice fellow moved down the beach singing Bob Marley and Sam Cooke, and he staged himself with as much virtuosity as any Shakespearian actor I’ve ever seen. A friendly fellow wandered the beach selling jet-ski rides, parasailing, and marijuana.
I began to feel embarrassed to lie there like a veal calf, so I walked up to a shack that housed a fountain soda station, just so I could say that I foraged for myself at least once. Attached to the side of the shack was what I could only call a bubble gum machine of booze. Four liquor bottles hung upside down in a glass-front box—gin, vodka, whiskey, and of course rum. A spigot tapped each bottle so that any passerby could take all he wanted. Now I’m not much of a drinker. But at that point I realized that not drinking rum would be an insult to the people of Jamaica. By now the people of Jamaica should like me a lot.
By noon we were bored with swimming, drinking, and laying on the beach. So we spent the afternoon swimming, drinking, and laying by the pool, which is more of a change of pace than you might expect. We dragged back to our room and were greeted by an entire fifth of Appleton Jamaican rum. I realized that in Jamaica “mini-bar” means no more than half a dozen full bottles of liquor at a time.
We wandered to one of the restaurants and were told there’d be a short wait. They couldn’t say exactly how long. An hour later, still waiting at the bar, we laughed at the German couple next to us who’d given up and huffed away. We’d never wait an hour for dinner at home, but it seemed fine here even though we could have walked 90 seconds to another restaurant and be seated right away. We didn’t have anywhere else to be.
This morning we decided to do something different, so we signed up for a massage. I’ve never had a massage, so I found the menu of massage types a fascinating read. The ones involving bamboo and hot stones didn’t sound like too much fun. My wife let me decide, and I picked the basic massage. Then I saw there was a “deep tissue” option. I figured that if a massage is good, then deep tissue must be better. I sprang for the 90 minute version. Our masseuses, Diane and Doreen, directed us to our room, where we disrobed and flopped on the tables like halibut.
I knew that “deep tissue” had been a mistake when Diane placed her thumb under my shoulder blade and pressed it through my body into the table. From the whimpers and rapid, shallow breathing at the next table, I assumed my wife was coming to the same realization. I can best describe the event as two nice women dropping a fire hydrant on you in slow motion for an hour and a half. After pulling my spine out like a licorice whip, Diane moved south, eventually reaching my feet. She crushed my feet, and I now understand why that was such a popular medieval torture. I’m not sure what she did to the soles of my feet, but I think she may have brought in a rhino to gore me a few times.
But the most interesting part of the experience was Diane’s discretion. I lay under a sheet to protect my modesty, but during this procedure modesty was a fuzzy concept. While moving about to assault various parts of my body, Diane manipulated that sheet with the skill of a fan dancer. At one point she stopped and placed a cloth over my eyes, and I found that a bit ominous. But I then realized that it was another attempt at modesty as Diane went to work on areas uncomfortably close to very private places. The cloth over my eyes was apparently an appeal to the “ostrich effect”—if I couldn’t see Diane then I would assume that she couldn’t see me either.
Diane and Doreen at last relented and left us with polite words and smiles. My wife and I stared at one another for a while, as if we were spies amazed to have survived a KGB interrogation. We rolled off the tables and dressed. My wife was so crippled that she couldn’t lift her arms high enough to tie her bathing suit. We staggered back to our room, our plans for the beach now destroyed. My wife refused to talk to me, or even look at me.
That’s what I get for trying to make a decision. From now on, ice/no ice is the only question for me.