You know how it is when you try to cheat winter and grab a few days in warmer climes. You stay up late and get up early every day for weeks, to shoehorn in just a few days when your ears won’t feel like a couple of frozen shrimp pinned to the sides of your head.
That’s what I did, fretting ceaselessly over the question of how life would go on without me. ‘Who will do all the driving?’ I obsessed. ‘Who will collect our papers and our mail? Never mind that, who will make sure the moon comes up with me gone?’
David and I were to leave before dawn and a mere five hours before that, as Jimmy Kimmel Live rolled its final credits, I was still throwing things in a suitcase. Then the big day arrived, and brought with it many vivid hours of the blur-and-turbulence that is winter air travel.
Then – finally – we were in the Caribbean.
Waiting for the ferry to take us to our hotel across the bay, I watched a promotional video about the place. It was playing in an endless loop on an immense super-hi-def TV.
You know how it is: you can’t look away from these big TV’s, even if you want to.
Ten times I must have seen this video. First, it showed old footage from the 1950s, the people moving jerkily in that old home-movie way, waving sweetly and self-consciously at the camera. (“Oh the past!” I always think, seeing such footage. “Are my parents there? Where are MY parents?”) But then this nostalgia bath gave way to the wordless ‘story’ of a modern couple – two actors really – riding bicycles and smooching and getting up out of the hotel bed that floated not near but actually IN those blue ocean waters. (They can do anything with film editing these days.)
The fourth time it looped, I noted a chickenpox scar on the female actor’s face. The sixth, time I saw three small pimples on her neck. The tenth time, watching the actor boyfriend in his filmy harem-pants tumble from the bed and swim off like the Little Mermaid, I laughed out loud.
That next morning, I saw that I’d forgotten to pack my comb, my sunglasses and my hat, my frantic planning notwithstanding, and sure, you could buy all these things at the gift shop for a small fortune, but I thought ‘Eh’ and just bought the comb, deciding to squint for four days and let the sun have its way with my dye job.
And that was the start of my letting go. By degrees I went from noticing everything in that sharp 21st century way to noticing very little, except the lapping of the waves.
The ocean was almost body temperature. Sitting at its edge, I watched pelicans swoop down to feed and suddenly I WAS a pelican. I watched a cloud billow across the sky and suddenly I WAS a cloud.
I looked over at David sleeping in a lounge chair that stood perpendicular to my own chair, so that I looked upon him not from the side, as usual, but as if from above.
I saw his still-muscular arm thrown up over his face. I saw his hair, no longer black as in days of old, but as white now as a seagull’s wing.
And suddenly I too was in a video, along with every living thing on this island, all of us in our own home movie, captured for those few seconds, all moving and breathing and as delightedly alive as the folks in this old reel.