~Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ugly American, Part II

The next morning, Katie actually woke up before me. The boat shuddered loudly as its engines shut down and pulled into port in Cozumel, Mexico. I knew we were scheduled to get there at 7 a.m.; I noted the time and rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour.

I quite liked sleeping on the boat when I actually shut my eyes for the few hours I did every night. The boat rocked ever so slightly and I could feel it occasionally as I laid down. It felt like being cradled. It was comforting.

At 8 a.m. I rolled over. Katie was laying in her bed with her reading light on. She'd read and snooze, then read and snooze.

I adjusted the pillow under my head. "I have a story to tell you," I said.

"Oh yeah?" She marked her place in her Kindle and set it down.

I told her the entire story about the Boston Brother's wife the previous night. The paging the entire boat looking for us. The thong. The crazy eyes.

She paused and looked at me. "You know, if I had to bet on who that would have happened to, I would have bet on you or me," she said in all seriousness.

"What, drunk and crying on a boat?"

"Yeah," she sighed.

I thought about what Katie said.

"Yeah," I sighed.


The group stayed together in Cozumel. (The Boston Brother tagged along; his wife stayed on the boat.) Our plan was to disembark and find a taxi and tell him to take us to the beach. We weren't ones for guided tours or planned excursions.

Cozumel's entire economy is catering to tourists. Trinkets and souvenirs were decorated with college logos from the Southeastern U.S. where students could travel there cheaply. I was surprised by the number of items in a foreign country that had my alma mater stamped on it. I bought a bracelet for gameday for $3.

So they had our numbers as we looked for a taxi. A man corralled the 7 of us and asked where we wanted to go.

"To the beach!" said Harvey's Husband.

The taxi driver went to his stand and pulled out a laminated map of different places. He pointed to one place in the corner.

"This beach is on the end of the island. It's at an exclusive resort that includes beach chairs, umbrellas, a beach bar, changing rooms and snorkeling. I will take you there and wait until you're ready to leave. Then I will drop the girls off for shopping and I will take the boys to a free tequila tasting. And when you're done, I'll take you back to port."

"How much?" asked Harvey's Husband.

"$25 a person, for everything."

This seemed high to me, comparing the prices to Progresso and Merida.

"How much are the cerveza at that beach bar?" I asked, knowing my priorities.

"Six cerveza for $17, senora," he responded.

I scrunched my nose. That was $10 more than my lone trip in the previous city. But everyone else nodded and thought the price was reasonable and forked over the cash. I did as well.

He delivered us to the upscale resort as promised. We couldn't have asked for anything nicer and we were completely catered to during our stay. The beaches were white. The snorkeling was free. We sat under giant grass umbrellas that were shaped like palm trees. Waiters would come out to the beach and bring us our buckets of beer.

It was all so very nice. It was all so very... American. I wanted more local color. I wanted to be exploring a dark bar in an alley. I wanted the adventure. The story.

When everyone else went to the tequila tasting, I waved goodbye and said I'd be around the corner and that I would try to stay close. Besides, I can't really drink tequila either since an incident in college involving quarter tequila night, a $5 bill and the only time I've ever hitchhiked.

The first thing I did was leave the main road and walk down a side street. There were peddlers with carts and smaller stores with true Mexican wares as opposed to university t-shirts.

A young boy ran up to me. "You want to hold a Mexican chicken?" he asked.

I looked behind him. Sitting on a perch on his cart was a giant parrot. Why yes, I do want to hold a Mexican chicken! I've never held a giant parrot.

He gestured to me to hold my hands flat. I did. Then he laid the parrot on its back in my hands. The parrot didn't move, obviously used to the routine.

I smiled. "Like a baby," I said.

The boy snatched up the parrot and gestured for me to extend my index finger. I did and he hung the parrot from my finger. The parrot gently gripped my finger with its beak and hung.

"You want a picture?" the boy asked.

Now he was going to ask for money. "No thanks," I said. "I have beach hair." I fished out a dollar and handed it to him and went on my way.

The further away I got from the main road, the less the people spoke English. It was difficult for me because I now knew exactly two phrases in Spanish: "That's what she said," and "Your foot is dead." Every time I tried to speak it, Italian would come fumbling out. Someone bumped into me when I wasn't looking.

"Scusi! Mi dispiace," I replied automatically. Then a look of disgust would cross my face as I realized what I was doing.

I found a side shop and entered. I looked at the shop keeper. I had practiced the word.

"Luchadore?" I said as I waved my hand in circles in front of my face. I told a friend I would find him a Mexican wrestling mask and I was on a mission.

She looked at me puzzled. Then her face lit up. "Ah! Nacho Libre!" she said proudly in her thick accent.

I had never seen the movie and it took me a minute to place her reference. "Si! Nacho Libre!" I laughed. It was the most charming moment I spent in Mexico. Me trying to speak Spanish and her trying to speak in English, neither one of us quite understanding the other.

She led me to a corner of the store that had them hanging on a chain. I found what I wanted and then bartered a good price.

"Gracias!" she called after me.

"Grazie!" I called back. I shook my head in shame.

As I exited the store, I heard my friends calling down the street after me. I quickly returned to them. They got to tell me about the coffee-flavored tequila they just had.

"It was good, but it was in the back of this silver store and I had the feeling they lured us in there with free tequila in order to get us to buy jewelry," said Swayze.

"I got to hold a Mexican chicken like a baby," I said.

"Man, I want to hold a Mexican chicken," sighed Swayze.

But we didn't have time to return to the boy's cart. It was time to get back on the boat. And I wanted to see how Tallahassee spent his day.

~Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good People/Bad People

I really didn't get any better on the cruise. Every morning I'd get up, tiptoe into the bathroom, turn on the shower to hot water to get a good steam and hack and spit for the first half hour of every day. I had such a violent, horrible cough that lining of my throat would tear until I would bleed. And then my throat would be irritated from the tear and I would continue to hack. I would have been the worst roommate ever to Katie, but she slept with earplugs to block me out.

Eating also exacerbated my cough. Not just dairy, but eating any food. So these glorious, fancy sit-down dinners were interrupted by me throwing a lung into my napkin every night. People would stare. The conversation at our table would stop, "Jesus, Sarah. That sounds awful," Harvey proclaimed.

The Boston Brother sat next to me at this dinner. He laid his arm across the back of my chair and faced me.

"How long have you had this cough?"

"Two weeks."

"Is it getting any better?"

"No, and I did a round of antibiotics."

The Boston Brother was asking me these questions because he was a doctor. "You know, if you go see the ship's doctor and he deems you contagious, he could make you wear a mask for the rest of the trip. Or worse, he could confine you."

"Then I'm not going to see the ship's doctor."

"I travel with drugs. I brought an extra z-pack (short course of antibiotics) that was prescribed to me just in case anything happened. If you are okay with taking drugs that aren't prescribed to you, then you're welcome to them."

"I am absolutely okay with taking your drugs. And thank you."

"Let's go get them then." We got up in the middle of dinner and walked back to his room. He gave me the antibiotics and gave me the typical warnings of excessive exposure to sunlight (too late) and excess exposure to drinking (too late).


I had never met the Boston Brother before this trip. He seemed geeky (He corrected my pronunciation of Merida and taught me the phrase, Your foot is dead, in Spanish), but he also had a kind heart for giving me his drugs and he was a good sport in keeping up with Harvey's Husband and me at the club.

I had never met his wife either, but I had heard stories. And actually, it was the reason the Boston Brother was sitting next to me in the first place. Everyone else had taken his/her turn sitting near her and they dubbed it my turn. During dinner she announced what her stripper name was, what incurable STDs she had and how many times she threw up before dinner. The rest of the table exchanged glances. Growing up where we did, we didn't know these people existed in real life. We thought they were characters meant to balance a TV show.

After dinner Jenna and Harvey wanted to gamble, so half of the group walked upstairs to the casino. Only just standing in the smokey haze of the casino was enough to activate my cough. I'm allergic to cigarette smoke on even the good days. I wandered around to the penny slot machines on the periphery of the casino to try to find some fresh air. I noticed that the Boston's Brother wife also wandered off and found the casino bar, aptly named the Drama Room.

When I couldn't stand the air anymore, I found Jenna and Harvey seated by the roulette table. I was going to say my goodbyes and perhaps see if I could find Tallahassee and his roommate. Only when I opened my mouth to speak, I felt a presence behind me. I turned around.

It was the wife, and she was pissed.

She angrily jabbed her finger in the Boston Brother's chest. Her voice was cold and began low, but soon she began screeching. Scared, I met Harvey's Husband's glance. Screaming still puts me in an anxious panic from my days spent with S. "Don't make eye contact," he whispered to me. "Look down."

I looked down. In front of me was a pack of Winston Salems someone had left next to the slot machine. It was the green label. The green on the pack was more of a green-yellow in my opinion. A friendly green, appropriate for marketing a cigarette company. The lid of the pack was ajar and I could see the crumpled foil peeking out. I remember this. I stared at that pack of cigarettes and tried to remain calm as she screamed.

He embarrassed her, she hollered. She raised on her tiptoes and tried to scream in his face.

We were that group. We were the group of people who created a scene in a casino. We were the drama in the Drama Room. The poetry of the situation was not lost on me.

The Boston Brother did exactly what he should have done, which only angered her more. The louder she got, the quieter he spoke. He whispered while she screamed. He used his body language as his force, leaning into her personal space and standing powerfully. He responded in whispers, but he seemed to grow two feet.

By the reaction of the Boston Brother and Harvey's Husband, I knew this wasn't the first time she created a scene. Eventually she bored of screaming at her husband and fled the casino. He didn't chase her. I raised an eyebrow at him.

"She's drunk and nothing I say will reason with her. It's best to just let her go and talk to her in the morning," he shrugged.

I asked him what happened. Apparently she was upset that she wandered the casino alone and that the Boston Brother didn't follow her. Instead of asking for his company, she went to the bar and got wasted. What people didn't know was that she didn't want to disembark the boat in Mexico, so she stayed aboard. And he stayed with her. Even at the casino, he was still in the same room with her.

I scrunched up my face. I had done the exact same thing: wandered off alone. I was one of two single people on a cruise with 7 other couples, including a threesome. I knew what it was like to be alone. But there was so much to do and so many people and I make friends easily so it didn't bother me.

The Boston Brother, Harvey's Husband and I returned to my room so I could mix a drink before we went to the discotheque for the evening. I had pulled the bladder of contraband rum out of my dresser and was mid-pour when I felt the presence again.

She was standing in my doorway.

She looked crazed. Her hair was frazzled and hung away from her face. Her skin was paler than it normally was. It was like looking at someone who was possessed.

"What's up?" The Boston Brother asked nonchalantly, as if the first scene never happened.

I knew the drill now. I stared at my rum and slowly poured as if a spilled drop would burn a hole in the dresser.

She drew each word out in an exaggerated breath. "Do.. you... know... what... I've... been... through... the... last... two... hours?!?!" Then she screamed and ran down the hallway towards their cabin.

No one dared move in case she came back. I took my rum and poured a shot into a shot glass and handed it to the Boston Brother without making eye contact.


He took the shot glass and swallowed without a sound. Harvey's Husband laughed. The spell was broken.

We found Tallahassee and his roommate pretty quickly. With practice, I was getting much better at dancing with a person as opposed to dancing alone.

"I really like Tallahassee," remarked Harvey's Husband every drink or so. "He's good people."

Really it was Harvey's Husband that made me warm up to Tallahassee. Harvey's Husband has never approved of anyone I brought around the group, notably S and Christopher. He was a good judge of character.

I out-danced Tallahassee, forcing him to retreat to the bar to sit with a drink. So I turned around and danced with Harvey's Husband and his Boston Brother.

Tallahassee's roommate came up to us and tapped Harvey's Husband on the shoulder.

"Y'all have the same last name as Tallahassee, right?"

"Yeah," he confirmed.

"They are paging someone on the intercom with that name."

We stopped dancing and listened. The announcer was asking for the Boston Brother by name, even including his cabin number.

He stepped outside the discotheque and was surrounded by three security guards who escorted him away.

The next morning, I asked Harvey for her version of what happened:

She was standing in the bathroom brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. There was a knock on the door. She closed her bathrobe and peered in the peephole. It was the Boston Brother.

She opened the door. Just as he had leaned over his wife earlier in the casino, he leaned in the door frame towards Harvey. His eyes stung with hot, angry tears. Behind him were three security guards.

"I need you," he whispered.

She still had her toothbrush in her mouth. She spoke garbled, "Hold on, let me spit."

She followed him to his room next door. Sitting on the bed wide-eyed and scared was his wife. She was loosely wearing a $7 cotton print dress. Apparently she took all the drugs the good doctor kept in his room ("I travel with drugs," he had said to me at dinner when he provided me with the antibiotics) and she was so strung out that she took off all her clothes with exception of her thong and wandered in the crew's section of the cruise ship. The crew's section was several floors below us. She claimed she had an allergic reaction and blacked out.

"And you know there are cameras everywhere so that moment is on video somewhere," Tallahassee later explained to me.

"They didn't just page the discotheque; they paged the entire boat looking for y'all," said his roommate.

"She was totally faking," Harvey had said. "She knew what she was doing."

Obviously this wasn't the image the cruise line wanted to portray. They were pissed. Her options were either to be locked up in some padded drunk tank (seriously what else is on this boat?) or she had to be escorted for the rest of the trip by a member of our group. She was not allowed to be unattended.

The Boston Brother was angry and embarrassed over his wife's behavior that had slowly escalated throughout the night. He couldn't do it. He couldn't be alone with her. He asked Harvey if she could stay with her.

Harvey put her sister-in-law in her room. She got the side of the bed furthest from the door so she would have to crawl over Harvey if she wanted to leave the room. The brothers would bunk together.

He met us back at the discotheque, that champ. He danced with a short curly-haired brunette and Harvey's Husband brought him shots of tequila. We made a pretty good night of it, once again shutting down the discotheque and moving the party to the 24-hour pizza restaurant. I made Harvey's Husband stand up and tell the room an entirely inappropriate joke.

At second dinner, the Boston Brother explained that school was different. He went to the same undergrad university as the rest of us, but he moved once for medical school and again to Boston for his residency. His circle of friends shrank with every move.

"I don't have this," he said, gesturing to the group of us. "I don't have 17 friends to go with on a cruise. I don't have the strong support system that y'all do. If I had, I wouldn't have gotten married so quickly," he said.

My heart bled for him. The married man envied my life. I guess I really am lucky.

And then there were five. Harvey's Husband, me, Tallahassee, the Boston Brother, and the short curly-haired girl. We headed back to our cabins. The Boston Brother quickly ducked away to walk her to her room. And then Harvey's Husband quickly disappeared down the corridor. It was just Tallahassee and me.

He walked me to my door. I stuck my card in and unlocked it. He leaned in and gave me an appropriate kiss. It was much better than the last one we shared the first night on the boat.

"See you tomorrow," he said as he turned on his heel and walked the 100 rooms that separated us on the floor.

"Have a good night," I waved.

Harvey's Husband was right. He's good people.

~Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Ugly American

The next morning I disembarked the ship in Mexico. Ole!

Things I learned in Progreso, Mexico:

  • Progreso is home to the world's largest pier. It's 4 miles long.
  • The first song I heard in Mexico was Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire" which was being blasted by a local bar.
  • Coronas taste 84% better when consumed in Mexico.
  • They are sold for $1 a bottle there, or 7 bottles for $6.
  • This part of Mexico is home to the NEW 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza.
  • If you drink enough, you will call it Chicken Pizza and this will be acceptable.
  • It's a Mayan temple.
  • Did you know that there are people there who are Mayan and they still speak Mayan? I DID NOT KNOW THIS. I thought Mayan was a dead language. It's very abrupt sounding.
  • The Mayans make it very clear that they are not Mexican.
  • Seriously, don't call it Mexican even though you are in Mexico.
  • You can call it Chicken Pizza, just not Mexican.
The group split up in Progreso. Katie, Swayze and Jenna took a cab to some other Mayan ruin and took pictures planking on it. I have no idea what Harvey and her husband did. I ended up taking a bus to Merida because it was a larger city and less tourist-y than Progreso, which felt like a bazaar set up in the middle of a very poor town. Also I liked the guide who sold me the bus ticket and he said his bus had air conditioning and I could take my 7 Coronas with me. Sold.

Regarding the violent crime in Mexico, I felt very safe. I did not feel at any time that I was at risk of being beheaded and dumped into a mass grave like CNN likes to report. The Mexican government is heavily invested in protecting the Americans. If something were to happen to an American, the resounding backlash of tourism bans would cripple the economy. There was a Mexican naval ship that escorted our boat in and out of port. There were armed guards lining the 4-mile pier that we took into Progreso. And when I got off the bus in Merida, there was a police car waiting to escort the Americans. We were taken care of.

Merida is the capital of Yucatan. It's an old city established back in the 1500's by Spanish conquistadors, resulting in heavily European-influenced architecture. I got to rub my hands along the limestone walls of the main church that was built in the 1500's. I was encouraged to take flash photography.

When the Coronas had worked through me, I was escorted (past heavily armed guards) into the governor's office to use the restroom. Before I could think of myself as a hot-shit American though, I was handed my allotted squares of toilet paper and shown to a toilet that had no toilet seat. No problem! Drinking as often as I do in the places I do has made me an excellent hover-er. Only when I closed the stall door, there was less than 6 inches of space from the lip of the toilet to the stall door. There was no room for my body to go. That was uncomfortable. And acrobatic.

I took the recommendation from my friendly bus driver and found a real Mexican restaurant at which to eat. And this is where I learned my first rule of international travel: Don't order anything white. When I was in Sicily years ago, I tried to order pasta alfredo. When I was in Merida, I tried to order queso dip. Both times they were like "LOLz! That's an American thing!" The Mexican (or Mayan, I dunno) was a lot nicer about it than the Sicilian. That man went on to insult me for 10 minutes and I didn't do anything about it because I was hungry and vulnerable.

I drank sugar-cane rum because I was told that was the real drink of the Yucatan, not tequila. The older lady at the table next to me also had it. Matter of fact, she had two. I left the restaurant after her and watched her stumble down the narrow sidewalk. Later when she boarded the bus, she began loudly asking me questions and then she began crying. Her husband changed seats. I snorted and fished out another Corona from my bag. Ole!

~Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I was the exact opposite of Katie. Whereas she maximized her sleeping on vacation, I slept as little as possible. I was dressed and in the restaurant for breakfast every morning before she woke, and I was stumbling around the cabin looking for my flask and my bed long after she retired every night.

The second night, I quietly opened the cabin door and let as little light as possible into the room. I did the Zombie Walk—arms extended in front of me with my feet shuffling across the floor—so as not to trip over anything as I fumbled towards bed.

Katie sat up and turned her phone on. "It's 3:30 a.m.," she whispered to me.

"I shut down the boat!" I giggled.

I had my accountabilibuddies: people who made sure I got back to my room at the end of the night. They happened to be Harvey's husband and his older brother from Boston. It was the two married dudes who would party it up with me every night and dance with me in the discotheque and eat pizza with me at 2:30 every morning to soak up some of the alcohol.

And may I just say that having No Beer August seemed like a horrible disaster leading up to the trip, but really it built up my tolerance for liquor. Because when I drank on the boat and in Mexico, it was an easy, fun drunk. I had appeared to have overcome my difficulties with liquor. That and I drank rum and gin and definitely not vodka.

We were at the discotheque. I had a rum and Diet Coke in my hand. I'd get a Diet Coke from the bar and return to my room to add my rum. Harvey's Husband was ordering shot after shot of tequila. The Boston Brother was drinking beer. We surveyed the dance floor. It became Cougar Night when 10 women in their 40's and 50's started dancing.

"You know what we should do?" I asked the boys. "We should find you a stepmom tonight."

I giggled. There's a long backstory there, but they agreed.

The boys picked out the prettiest woman dancing. Of course. Of course! I picked out the woman who seemed to be having the most fun and was the most outgoing.

"Her," I pointed. "I want her."

"But what do we do?" asked Harvey's Husband. "It would be too weird to say, 'Hey, I think you should date my dad.'"

"Y'all have been married too long," I snorted. "You say, 'Dad, I think we should have breakfast together tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.,' and then you go up to her and say, 'It was fun hanging with you tonight. We should have breakfast together tomorrow. 9 a.m.' Voila!"

Tallahassee and his roommate approached us. We filled them in on the plan. Sure enough, Tallahassee walked straight to the woman (the pretty one, not the fun one—stupid boys) and tried to set the plan in motion. But the woman fled because she had no previous interaction with Tallahassee. Harvey's Husband had the in: he already danced with her.

Tallahassee pulled me aside and scolded me for not getting to the discotheque earlier in the evening. "Where have you been? I didn't think you were coming!"

"We found this lovely piano bar that had a sing along to the Beatles and Elton John and Billy Joel. It was awesome! We came here when that bar closed. This is our closer bar."

On key, Harvey's Husband tapped the inside of his left wrist with his first two fingers. "Closer bar," he confirmed. In baseball, the manager signs wild gestures to the players to convey strategy, one such being when to bring out the closing pitcher to finish the game. We had adopted the signal to convey to each other when to go to the discotheque to end the night.

After we had closed the second bar of the night, we headed to the 24-hour pizza restaurant. The rest of the partiers at the discotheque followed suit. The 20 or so of us laughed and made inappropriate jokes while we tried to lower our BACs with greasy dough. Harvey's Husband juggled the silverware to the cheers of the partiers. I dropped my pizza, screamed, "Man down!" and proceeded to eat the Boston Brother's leftovers.

After pizza the brothers, Tallahassee and I walked the boat in search for something else to do. We ran into a break dancer and his hookup for the evening and joined them. The six of us scoured everything, but the boat was shut down. The custodians were in full swing vacuuming and waxing the floors, getting the boat ready for the next morning. In defeat, we headed back to our rooms. Tallahassee walked with us. My supposed accountabilibuddies made excuses and left Tallahassee to walk me to my door, where he gave me a kiss goodnight. This time it was much better. I may have told him so.

I creaked the door to the cabin open, letting in as little light as possible and began the Zombie Walk.

"It's 3:30 in the morning."

"I shut down the boat! And I had the best time!"

~Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Musical Men

After dinner and karaoke, I tiptoed in the room and woke Katie up.

"There's a singles event at midnight at the dance club. We're all going."

She yawned and rubbed her eyes. "Who's single?"

Katie had met someone two weeks ago at one of Harvey's parties and they haven't left each other's side until this trip. This is the reason I think Katie's been sleeping and our relationship has been much easier. Still, I was glad the room was darkened and she couldn't see the look I shot her.

"Me," I said flatly. "I'm single. And so is Swayze."

But she had a point. Of the 17 people on the cruise, Swayze and I were the only single people. Katie's new boyfriend isn't with us, which is why we roomed together. Government Mule paid but backed out at the last minute, so Jenna roomed with Swayze.

"I'm single tonight, bitches!" shouted Harvey from my doorway. She took off her wedding ring and handed it to her husband. He laughed. They were coming with me and Swayze to the singles event as well as Jenna and Harvey's Husband's married older brother. Katie ultimately decided to stay behind.

The singles event was hosted by a duo of break dancers from some famous break-dancing team that the boys had heard of. I dunno, we were on a cruise ship in our own little world. Just go with it. The hosts asked for male volunteers and then made them get down on the ground on all fours. Then they asked for female volunteers. No one stepped forward.

"If you volunteer, you'll get a free drink," they encouraged.

Harvey appeared up front so quickly, there was no time for a cloud of dust to form behind her.

Instead of musical chairs, it was musical men. The women had to walk in a circle around the men who were on the ground on all fours. When the music stopped, the women had to find a back to ride. The woman who couldn't find a man to ride was out. She then selected a man from the floor to go buy her a drink, thus removing the man from the game. Repeat.

Our girl Harvey made it to the final round. The hosts instructed the remaining man, who happened to be very large, to lay on his back. The two women were instructed to walk around the man. When the music stopped, the women with the most amount of her body covering the man was the winner.

Harvey looked at us in the crowd and laughed. She was married. And she was wearing a very tight black leather skirt that didn't allow for modest game play. The music stopped. Harvery sat down on the man's belt, pinched her knees together and laid her back down the man's legs. The other woman had sat on the man's chest facing Harvey. Then she slipped forward so her denim skirt was over the man's face with her legs on the dance floor. She literally sat on his face. I could no longer see the man's head, but he lifted his arms and cheered. So did the crowd. Even though Harvey technically had most of her body on the man, I suspect it wasn't the right parts of her body. She came in second and was awarded a medal.

The game ended and the music came back on the dance floor. Harvey's husband quickly handed back Harvery her wedding rings. She was drunk and elated with her medal and showed everyone while we were dancing. She slipped it over her husband's head and danced with the medal around both of their necks, bringing them close together.

Several men seeing Harvey in the tight leather skirt at the singles event flocked to her, not knowing she played the game under false pretenses. This has bothered me in the past: Harvey taking off her wedding rings and getting male attention. But that night I didn't care. I was in international waters heading to Mexico and I was with my friends and I was dancing. And Harvey who is hot on a bad day had gone on a no-carb diet and had the best body of anyone I know in real life. I didn't blame the men for approaching her. She was smoking. Harvey and I are two different leagues.

So I danced with Harvey as the men tried to dance with her. I didn't even look at anyone else. Then she pointed behind me and spun me around. "That guy behind you wants you," she shouted over the music.

I turned around, not believing her. Clearly this was someone just getting in line for her. But sure enough there was a guy behind me trying to dance with me. Of the crowd, he was one of the better looking people: taller than me in heels, brown facial hair and crows feet in the corners of his grinning face. I faced him and he grabbed ahold of my waist and pulled me in. I stumbled. He leveled me. I am a good dancer, but I am a good dancer only when I dance alone and have my space. I am a terrible booty dancer. I lose my balance because I'm in heels and my weight is precariously distributed onto somebody else's hip. And I was on a boat for good measure.

"I'm sorry," I mumbled.

"Don't worry. I got you," he laughed.

I lost my balance again. He held me again.

After a couple of songs, I had gone from feeling sexy while dancing alone to feeling like a retarded monkey while I continually stumbled over this guy's boner. At one point he leaned in for the kiss and I thought, no harm, so I accepted. But he approached me too abruptly. I could feel his tongue pry apart my lips before I even felt his lips. I was turned off and I quickly turned a cheek to him. I begged off and went to the bar for a beer. The guy had followed me and bought it for me. Instead of taking a sip, I twisted my hair and pulled it up and rested the aluminum bottle against the nape of my neck. There were a lot of people out and I was hot and sweaty. He brushed my hand away and held his beer against my shoulder blades. Despite the awful kiss, he was tender.

He was from Tallahassee and he had the same surname that our group was registered under. Harvey's husband instantly called him an honorary member of our group. Swayze nudged Jenna and said they were going to have to move Katie out of my room for the night. Tallahassee's friend came over and introduced himself to me and offered to buy me another beer. I declined. They were kind and polite South Georgia boys, but they also had ADD as they quickly ran off to dance with other people as I cooled down. I realized I was babysitting their bucket of beer while they danced, so I moved three stools down where my friends were. The boys got confused as to my whereabouts and disappeared on the dance floor. I ducked out to avoid an awkward goodbye.

As we walked back to our rooms, I drunkenly described the bad kiss to Harvey and Swayze. And in case they didn't understand the kiss, I used hand gestures. They fell on each other laughing, dubbing us Tongue and Groove, the name of a popular dance club here in the city. And then I took my first trip falling down the stairs. I grabbed the railing for dear life and caught myself from going all the way down, laughing in relief. Then as I stood up and tried to descend the next step, I tripped again and wiped out. Swayze and Harvey's husband laughed so hard that they couldn't be bothered to come help pick me up. I just laid at the bottom of the staircase, legs splayed and laughing.

And that was the first night.


I woke up... sometime. The cabin had no clock, my phone was turned off to avoid any roaming fees and my interior room had no window. It was pitch black. I woke up cold, wet and hungry and I had no capacity as to the time. I whimpered. I had never felt more vulnerable and scared upon waking. This is what it must feel like to go crazy, I thought. (Several people asked why I was wet. I don't know. I was still sweaty from dancing when I crashed into bed; that's the only guess I have.)

I got up and picked up my beer from last night and poured it down the drain. It was flat. So at least I knew I slept long enough for the beer to go bad.

I opened the door and peered down the hallway. There were the Indonesians with the cart bringing towels to the rooms. The room-service breakfast order I had drunkenly hung on the door before passing out had been picked up. I started walking down the hallway until I saw a door that was cracked open, just like I had done in the dorms at the university. I knocked.

It was Harvey's Husband's mother and boyfriend.

"Do you have the time?" I squeaked.

She looked at her watch. "It's 9 a.m. We're heading to breakfast if you'd like to come with."

I was hungry. I looked down. I was in my pajamas: a 5k t-shirt, no bra and short flannel shorts. I had run a comb through my hair, but I had not washed off last night's makeup. I was not dressed for going to a sit-down restaurant.

It was like she read my thoughts. "We're leaving right now," she said.

"Um, okay." I padded down the hallway, arms crossed in front of me to hide the fact I wasn't wearing a bra. As we got to the restaurant, the waiter picked my napkin off the table, shook it and laid it over my pajamas. I was shamed.

But I felt better after an order of Belgian waffles. And I got to tell Harvey's mother-in-law about Harvey's performance in musical men.

~Monday, September 12, 2011


As we approached security to get on our cruise ship, I was instructed to stop coughing. Someone found an old cough drop in their glove box and handed it to me. "If they hear that cough, they aren't going to let you on the boat."

"Oh! I was just going to say, 'It's the TB, but I cough into my hands so it's okay!'"

Luckily I did not cough until I got on the boat.

When our luggage arrived to our cabins, we tore them open like Christmas morning to see if our liquor contraband had made it through. I brought a fifth of gin and a fifth of rum along with the permitted bottle of wine. Jenna brought vodka. Harvey's husband smuggled his vodka inside old sunscreen bottles. Harvey's bottle of wine, of all things, was confiscated.

We got such a good deal on the cruise that it was the cheapest way to go to Mexico. When I told people I was going on a cruise, they reacted strongly. People are either really in favor of then or really against them. Turns out I am really in favor of them.

We got on the boat and our responsibility was done. Our luggage was brought to us. Our beds were turned down at night. We were instructed to leave our wet towels on the floor. We had to do nothing for a day and a half until we arrived on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula.

The ship was so big, it was like a small city that allowed open containers. We'd order a drink in the casino and take it to trivia. There were nine floors of available activities. We logged a lot of time by the pool and hot tubs (and going down the slide), we took dance classes (I am now a pro at "Thriller"), we went to karaoke and we found a sing-along piano bar and a discotheque.

There were 17 of us in our party, which meant we largely hung out in groups of four or five as everyone wanted to do different things. Katie, my roommate, spent the entire first day sleeping. I avoided day drinking. Swayze ate. He'd have room-service breakfast, lunch, second lunch, first dinner and then our group dinner. Jenna often joined him. Harvey and her husband were poolside every morning.

The dinners were special. Every night the entire group would come together. We'd shower and dress and meet at our table. Because food was all inclusive, we'd just point to our chosen courses on the menu. I often ordered 2 appetizers just to try something new. One night, Swayze and I ordered 2 entrees. The dinners would last for hours and we were often the last people to leave the restaurant after coffee and dessert. Then the group would divide again for our chosen nightly activities.

I'd always go dancing. It's how I met the cruise boyfriend.

~Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bit of fun

Ed note: The more I witness the relationship between Schmoozer and his BF, the more I realize there is a competition that exists between them.

Ed note: Schmoozer's BF is 6'2". Schmoozer is not.

-----Original Message-----
From: Schmoozer's BF
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 11:48 AM
To: Sarah; Schmoozer
Subject: lunch today

Sarah, can you call ahead and reserve the booster seat for Schmoozer?


-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 11:59 AM
To: Schmoozer's BF; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

They are all out of booster seats, but they said they do have two copies of the Yellow Pages they can stack so he can look out the window!

-----Original Message-----
From: Schmoozer's BF
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:01 PM
To: Sarah; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

Does the high chair have a strap…don’t want him to fall out b/c those Yellow Pages might be slick

-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:14 PM
To: Schmoozer's BF; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

I was just thinking Schmoozer could stand on the phone books stacked on the high chair. So he can see the table.

-----Original Message-----
From: Schmoozer's BF
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:15 PM
To: Sarah; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

He might be able to if he is wearing those new orthopedic large sole shoes

-----Original Message-----
From: Sarah
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:27 PM
To: Schmoozer's BF; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

And maybe a very large red balloon to hoist him up?

-----Original Message-----
From: Schmoozer's BF
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:40 PM
To: Sarah; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

Hello, Schmoozer…are you out there? Tell me can you hear me. Is there anyone at home? Now, I hear that you’re feeling down. Orthopedic shoes will ease your pain. Get you on your feet again.

-----Original Message-----
From: Schmoozer
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:41 PM
To: Schmoozer's BF; Sarah
Subject: RE: lunch today

I bet each of you rise up from the toilet seat whenever you use the restroom. Both of you are full of crap.

-----Original Message-----
From: Schmoozer's BF
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2011 12:44 PM
To: Sarah; Schmoozer
Subject: RE: lunch today

I do with number 1.

~Friday, September 09, 2011

Mexico by the Numbers

The number of:

  • Men in Speedos spied: 1
  • Butt cracks seen: 1
  • Obvious cases of malignant melanoma: 1
  • Men in the swimming pool with an obvious toupee: 1
  • Times I heard the theme song to Titanic WHILE ON A BOAT: 3
  • Times I thought this was incredibly inappropriate: 100%
  • Flasks of liquor smuggled into international waters: 25
  • Times I fell down the stairs while holding a drink: 3
  • Times I fell down the stairs while holding a drink stone sober: 1
  • Times I fell down the stairs and spilled my drink on the exact stair the custodian was currently cleaning: 1
  • Times I opened my mouth to speak Spanish and Italian came out instead: 97%
  • Crew members who fit into my cabin: 3
  • People in my party who were at one point escorted by security: 2
  • People in my party who were found naked in the crew section of the cruise ship: 1
  • People I slept with: 1
Stories to come.

~Thursday, September 08, 2011

Ugly Duckling

Schmoozer's best friend dropped by my office to hand me some much needed pain medicine on my last day at work before leaving the country. Only he wouldn't touch me because I'm sick. As we sat outside at the picnic table, he put the pills on a napkin and slid them toward me. I was only allowed to touch the napkin after he let go. I am one step closer in realizing my destiny alone.

(Ed note: I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and two rounds of antibiotics later, I still have a dragging cough. It's been a bit like 28 Days Later regarding the number of people I have infected. I'm a bit proud of that statistic, taking down everyone in my path.)

"Promise you won't tell Schmoozer?" he begins.

I shrug.

And then he tells me a story. The story itself is not worth recapping, but what I learned from it is that Schmoozer lied about this. And to be honest, I was beginning to question the truth to that. In one of the best friend's pep talks to me, he called me "a pretty girl" which directly contradicts what Schmoozer led me to believe.

Schmoozer has been cock blocking me for months. And every time he cock blocks me, he makes me think that the problem is me because I'm not pretty enough. It was all barefaced lies.

When he was with Katie, we had discussed me being set up with the best friend. I had repeated what I thought was the truth—that I wasn't attractive—and Katie turned and faced Schmoozer.

"Is this true?" she asked.

He shrugged.

"You shouldn't have told her that. It's too harsh," she said. Katie looked at me, "Schmoozer is brutally honest and I get on him about that."

"Sometimes you say what you got to say to get the job done," he replied.

I always thought that was a weird way for him to phrase it. To chalk up telling me I wasn't pretty enough as a means to an end. And as I think about that statement knowing what I know now, saying things for the purpose "of getting the job done" takes a different meaning.

My eyes stung at the picnic table. I couldn't hide the disappointment that my friend would voluntarily lead me to believe that I am anything less than what I am. Friends are supposed to build you up, not tear you down. I had told the best friend what Schmoozer had been telling me all these months, [Insert Name Here because there have been multiples of this] isn't attracted to you.

"My, he's a gentleman," said the best friend.

I scoffed.

"He told me he was lying to you because he was protecting you," he tried to reason.

"How is making me believe I'm ugly protecting me?" I quietly asked.

Now it was his turn to shrug.

~Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Clemson's Credit

Clemson had kept his word to me. Every week, he makes an effort to come talk to me. I am so happy that I don't have a stone in my stomach when I see him across the bar; he's no longer an adversary for me to be afraid of.

The first time I saw him after the closure, he grabbed my hand and began pinching my veins.

"What the hell?!" I hollered as I snapped my hand away.

"You can tell how old a girl is by the elasticity of her veins," he said simply.

I rubbed the topside of my hand. "I will have you know that I have very supple veins. And you know how old I am. Besides that, I'm younger than you!"

I looked at his friend. "Alright, I'm going home. I'll see you two idiots later."

The next week I was waiting at the bar for a pitcher of beer for flip cup. I was leaning across the back of an empty bar stool. I felt a nudge. Clemson mimicked me with his arms folded across the top my bar stool. He stared ahead.

I lunged at his hand and began pinching his veins, "HOW OLD ARE YOU, OLD MAN?! HOW DOES THAT FEEL?"

"Ow!" he hollered.

"Yeah, it hurts!"

He asked whether I was still living across town.

"I sure do."

"Why are you always over here then?"

"Because 100% of my friends live here."

I knew what he was going to say. He was going to tell me to join a different kickball league closer to my apartment to meet people who lived near me.

"You should move here," he said thoughtfully.

"It's only 10 miles," I shrugged.

"Where is your work?" he asked.

I blushed because it was an incriminating answer. "Right down the street from here."

"You should move here," he repeated. "There are nice apartments around here."

I grabbed my pitcher and left to play my game.

A few hours later, I returned to the bar. Clemson and Girl from Irish Pub were seated together, deep in conversation.

She greeted me. "Your ears must have been burning. We were just talking about you."

Oh god. Both of them are nice to my face and I think I'm friends with them, but I'm not 100% sure how genuine these friendships are. I have no idea what they were talking about in relation to me and whether this held a positive or negative connotation.

They both stood up to leave.

I grabbed Clemson by the bicep and held my grip. "You didn't tell her what I said about Statham, did you?"

He looked at me. "No, that's between you and me." And he walked away.

A week later and kickball season had ended. The group still makes an effort to meet up once a week for drinks. Instead of our team bar, we travel and visit a different bar each week. I was seated across the table from Girl from Irish Pub in yet another Irish Pub. We had traded our glasses of red wine for beers on tap. It felt good, being out in a capacity other than kickball. We clean up nicely. I smoothed my sundress.

I was acutely aware that Clemson was behind me and talking to Nameless at the bar. I wasn't going to stare. We are friends now. Now if I could just get people to stop assuring me what a great guy he is despite his social cowardice.

A spot had opened up next to me at the end of the table; Clemson jumped inside it, appearing as if it were a magic trick.

"How's your week going?" I asked.

"Busy. I can't stay out late tonight. I got a deadline at noon tomorrow and another one at 2:30. I'm just going to have a couple of drinks here and go home and get started."

"I'm not staying out late either," I replied. "I'm leaving for Mexico tomorrow after work and I haven't even packed yet."

"I've never left the South," he said thoughtfully.

"You should rectify that."

He stood beside me and we held a civil, mundane conversation. That's when I realized I have never spoken to this boy sober in my life. This was the very first time. We were interacting normally.

He remained by my side the rest of the night, which really lasted another hour before I went home to pack. A girl flitted over to our table tipsy from happy hour and made wild proclamations. Clemson's face lit up. I recognized that expression.

It's the one he used to make when he saw me.

(Ed note: when I told this story to South Carolina's boyfriend, he confirmed that he had heard the vein theory. Pinch away.)

~Tuesday, September 06, 2011

20 Questions (6)

If instead of your current job, you had to do an "extreme" job (like racecar driver or something), what would you pick? -HomeImprovementNinja

This is hard! I am good at what I do and I can't imagine having a job where I'm not writing. Maybe being a tour guide would be fun, navigating zip lines or whitewater rafting all day would just feel like playing. But I'm also not terribly customer-service oriented, so that's probably out. Maybe something with animals. Training dogs for the blind or running a horse stable. Eh, that's not an extreme job, but then again I'm not really an extreme person.

Ever thought of leaving your current city? It seems like a necklace of heartache around your neck. Maybe you'd find a better love life elsewhere. -alien

I've given that a lot of thought this year. I'm not opposed to leaving the city. I think the main problem with cities such as mine and DC and LA and other metropolises is that we simply have too many options. It's called the paradox of choice, in which anxiety is caused by an overabundance of possibilities. There's simply too many single, educated, eligible people. And there's always going to be someone prettier. And there's always going to be someone funnier. There's no reason to settle down because the next great thing may just be a profile click away.

I'm glad I grew up in the South—I think I am a better person for growing up in the South—but I think I've conquered the South. I've done everything there is to do in the city. A guy once said he tried really hard to take me on an unusual date. My response was something like, "Oh yeah, I used to party with that crowd years ago. Good buddies of mine." Things are getting stale.

With that said, I don't know if I'm a strong enough person to give up my great job and my security and start life over elsewhere in a city where I don't know anyone. Schmoozer is doing that. He's traveling the Pacific Northwest this year to find the next city he's going to live in. I think if I were to do it, it would have to be for a person or with a person.

Best sex ever? -Charlotte

The best oral hands down was Adam. The best sex was probably Christopher circa 2006. He was silently attentive, listening to my reactions and gauging himself accordingly. "You like it a little to the left," he said to me one afternoon. I didn't really understand what "a little to the left" meant; he was paying attention in ways that I wasn't.

I'm trying to rack my brain for a particular life-changing romp, but I can't think of anything. It all kind of melds together into one forgettable memory. I'm going to assume the best sex ever is ahead of me.

Last question, to end on a lighter note, if you could choose a different hair color to have been born with, what color would you choose? -Anonymous

Growing up I had long hair that had rarely seen a pair of scissors. Unfortunately it had also rarely seen a comb. I was too fast in my tomboy lifestyle. When my mother finally caught me long enough to run a comb through the tangled mess, I'd howl in pain with hot, angry tears.

"Hold still. Let me get through this rat's nest," she'd order impatiently. That's what she called my head: a rat's nest. She'd call the color mousy brown, as if everything about me equated rodent.

When I was 11, my mother ordered me to get my hair cut. I screamed and cried in defiance. To lesson the blow, she also let me get it colored "to get rid of the mousy brown."

So from 11 – 29, I colored my hair. I was a red head in high school, a blonde in college and beyond. Against her wishes, I've grown my hair back out. Although I've since learned to use a comb.

Throughout the last year as the color transitioned from blonde to brunette, my mother marveled at the natural color of my hair. "It's a lot darker than I remember."

"It's always been this color," I'd retort resentfully. She's always hated my hair. This has always been a fight.

"No, it's darker, like your brother's."

Honestly, I wouldn't know. No one has seen my natural color in 19 years. But I guess it does darken as one ages. I still like the blonde lifestyle and the attention it attracts, but I have since learned to embrace the brunette.


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