On the third day of the cruise, after calmly and intently spending some time in the ship’s café area with my journal and inner reflections, I went to the buffet for a late breakfast. I was finally enjoying my own company and my own state of “aloneness” so much that there was a smile on my face. After eating a plate of pancakes, bacon and pineapple, I decided to go back for an herbal tea, but the cup tray was empty.
I enquired with the Filipino buffet attendant with braces, who told me that someone was bringing them. And so, in my calm contentedness, I found myself standing by the coffee cup station letting everyone know that “they’re bringing them.” It was one of those rare moments in life where I actually liked people and emanated pleasantness toward them, without waiting if they were nice to me first.
While standing there deliberating over whether I would later put on my red bikini or turquoise one-piece, and would I choose SPF 6 or 8 for poolside tanning, I absentmindedly shot out a “They’re bringing some more” to some guy, but he remained standing there, looking at me. He was the kind of man who dressed for breakfast. He wore a light, summery, pastel suit. He was slightly overweight. In case you haven’t guessed what I’ve secretly named him, I’ll tell you. Pudgy Don Johnson. I want to ask him if it’s celebrity look-a-like day on the cruise, but that would be mean. At this juncture. He asks if he can join me for breakfast. I’m flabbergasted, simply because I didn’t know there were any single guys on this cruise.
Here is where I go un-grammatically correct and switch to the present tense…
His name is Brian and he actually has a dry sense of humor. We immediately get into a deep conversation. I don’t know how, but the French toast on my plate is still uneaten. I find out he’s been divorced for eight years, he’s a fan of yoga, and he feels somewhat like an outcast on this cruise. He mentions Jesus Christ and seeing my reaction, he quickly changes the subject. He’s not bad. Not hot. But not bad. Kind of a new-age Christian Fundamentalist, but whatever. I hope to God my parents don’t see us interacting, because they’ll start asking me when the wedding is.
I suddenly tell him I have to go to the library to escape my parents, who I see with my Bionic Woman vision, are loading up on Eggs Benedict deep within the Weeble Wobble conflagration at the buffet. He says he’s walking that way, but has to pick up his brother at the Nickelodeon event in the kids’ area. I’m thinking it’s kind of weird for a man his age to have that young a brother, but again, whatever. I’m not here on this cruise to think about other people deeply. I’m here for good vibes and alone time.
We walk out together, through the back entrance for my sake, and he asks me to meet him for dinner later. Sure, I think, it’s better than eating alone. Or with my parents.
We walk past the Nickelodeon event: Sponge Bob surrounded by a seething crowd of youngsters…and then…Brian’s brother – the 40-year-old mildly retarded one playing along like he’s an eight year old. His name is Craig. I wave hello. He waves back. I agree to meet Brian at seven, like everything’s normal and I’m really looking forward to dinner.
By the time I enter my stateroom I’m feeling like an idiot for ever complaining about the flab on my stomach, lack of real romance or even living with my bat-shit crazy parents…I wasn’t born with Down’s Syndrome. And I’m not one of these people on the cruise in a walker or motorized wheelchair. I start to feel grateful for being me, when I notice the note under the door from my father: THEY’RE CHARGING YOU $5 FOR EACH CAPPUCCINO. DON’T BUY ANTHING YOU CAN’T GET FOR FREE.
Following an afternoon spent by the pool ogling the sporadic hot guy who walked by (with of course a wedding ring on) and wondering why I couldn’t be with one of those and ignoring my mother’s requests to join her for Bingo…I get ready for dinner.
As I’m walking down Deck 7, I try to avert the aggressive Filipino photographer who wants to take my picture in front of the fake ocean backdrop, but in so doing, run smack into my parents.
My Dad: “Oh, look who it is.”
My Mom kisses me. “You look so nice.”
My Dad: “Stop it, Linda. You’re embarrassing me. Myra, did you get my note?”
My Dad: “Do you know how much your bill is already?”
My Mom: “Stop it, please, Ivan, enough. (To me) Where are you going, honey?”
Me: “I have a date for dinner.”
Their attention is perked like two dogs who just heard a squeaky toy.
Mom: “Oh my god. Really?”
Dad: “Does he have money?”
Mom: “Oh my god. Myra.”
Me: “Yeah, I met him today at breakfast.”
Dad: “What does he do?”
Me: “I don’t know, I just met him, can you stop?”
Dad: “Can you stay in his cabin so I can get my money back for yours?”
I put my head in my hands.
Mom: “He’s just joking. Stop it, Ivan, that’s not funny.”
Dad: “Who’s joking? I’m serious. Tell me something, Linda, have you noticed the lipstick all over your face? Don’t you know anything about painting within the lines?”
Me: “Okay, well I’m going to go have dinner with him. Please don’t follow me and look for me there.”
Mom: “No, no. We just came from there. Your father ordered three dinners.”
Dad: “Why do you have to go and tell people my business?”
The photographer way too eagerly encourages our family to take a picture together.
Dad: “You two take a picture together. I’m having a bad hair day.”
(He’s bald, FYI)
So as my mother and I smile for the camera, my mother squeezes my arm so tight it hurts. “I’m SO happy for you, Myra. Oh my god. I hope. I hope. I hope.”
Me: “You hope what, Mom? He’s just a guy I’m having dinner with.”
Mom: “But, you never know. Don’t be a pessimistic.”
Me: “You mean pessimist.”
Mom: “Okay, whatever. He could be your husband.”
Mom: “You’re not getting any younger, honey.”
Photographer: “Okay, one more, smile.”
You should see my smile. I look like I have gas pains.
Me: “Ok, Mom, I’ll work on it.”
She beams with happiness at this. I walk off. I must avoid them at all costs.
At dinner, his hair is slicked back, and he doesn’t look bad for a pudgy Christian Don Johnson in pastel. When he orders us a bottle of white wine, I start to like his classiness; his savoir-faire.
We later walk on the deck and yes, it’s like Love Boat, but with a very real big scary dark ocean surrounding us. The thought crosses my mind that I’d rather be sweating it out in the discotheque, when suddenly he stops me. Mid-ship. And kisses me. A tingling permeates my entire body. Whether it’s the Sauvignon Blanc or the electricity of being kissed for the first time, I decide that what’s to come is better than any ordinary disco dancing…even if his stomach hangs over his belt a little bit. Okay, he’s not hot. But I love to be touched and I love to feel wanted after a night of swimming, sunning, and sipping overpriced Mai Tais by a man who sees something in me. It’s what makes a girl feel beautiful.
When he says, “Let’s go back to your cabin,” I say, “You know, I’m not going to sleep with you. We just met. I don’t do that.”
He agrees cordially. A true gentleman.
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