Sunday, October 5th, 2008, 2:05 pm
Checkout from my hotel was at noon and I planned on going for a walk on the beach, maybe take a dip. But I felt so bloody awful when I woke up that I almost reset my alarm for eleven. Colds are always worst in the mornings and I was sweating and shivering under the sheets, so I slithered out of bed and lost five pounds blowing my nose. Looked at myself in the mirror, with my red-raw nose, rheumy eyes, and blotchy skin, and said “Who the hell are you?”
I took a long, hot shower to unclog my pipes and forced myself to go to the beach. Just wanted to walk on the sand one last time, see the ocean. I brought my little camera along and as I stood just short of the water I squinted through the tiny viewfinder to make sure the horizon line was straight. I spent a good part of this trip with a camera up to my face, and as I tried to fit a sailboat into a shot a little voice said, “Stop. Put the camera away.”
I did. “Just look,” the voice said, and I just looked. Out into the expanse of the Caribbean Sea, overlapping bands of emerald and aqua stretching out to the horizon. I gave myself five minutes to just stand there, and look. And feel the breeze in my face, the sun on my neck. I enjoy taking pictures to show other people what it’s like to be in the fantastic places I’ve visited, but what’s the point if I don’t take the time to appreciate it?
I closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun. “Mommy, I’m going swimming in the ocean!” a little boy said behind me. A dickens-cute 3-year-old wearing bright yellow water wings waddled into the lazy surf. There’s a bit of a dropoff a few yards past the waterline and he toppled over and did a little doggy-paddle. “I know how to swim!” he said to me as he kicked and flailed a few yards away from me.
“You’re a good swimmer,” I agreed, and he said, “Yeah,” as if that was the most obvious fact in the world. An ominous black powerboat cruised by just 100 yards offshore, obviously some kind of police on board, and the little boy saw it and said, “Is that a pirate ship?”
I could see his train of thought, for Aruba the boat was a menacing sight. “Just the police, making sure everyone’s OK,” I said. He struggled to his feet on the shifting sand and pointed to a sailboat beached not far away. It’s mainsail was striped like a rainbow and he said, “I like that boat, that’s the boat I’d like to have”.
“Yup, that’s a nice one.”
“Where do you think it goes?”
I said they probably took people for rides around the island, and he thought that would be fun to try. As we were talking the tide carried him from a few yards to my left to a few yards to my right, and his mother came down and told him to come back so he was in front of them.
“But…I want to keep swimming,” he said, suddenly very upset.
“You can, just swim back this way,” she said, but he was convinced that she wanted him to get out. He was near tears, and I said, “You’re lucky, you get to keep swimming, but I have to go home.”
“You have to go home?” he said, as if that concept was beyond understanding. “Right now?”
“Right now,” I said. “You have fun swimming.” I waved and said, “Bye-bye.” He said bye-bye too, then threw himself back into the water. I took one last look, and then I turned my back on the water. Time to go home.
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