Part III. The Embarkening
The week before we took a cab to Newark Pointless Security Airport, Siobhan and I studied the regulations and packed. I borrowed half of Daria’s summer wardrobe because she wouldn’t need it here in winter. We bought tiny bottles of expensive products and became convinced that Halliburton quietly cornered the sample size shampoo market. There can be no other reason why Customs cares about 4 oz. tubes of curl defining pomade when that whole Formulate A Bomb On Board The Plane process was demonstrated to be impossible YEARS AGO. Later, I spent a week losing the battle with frizz.
Also that week: I was so tense my shoulders were glued to my ears. I didn’t want to go! I wanted to be on the boat but I didn’t want to travel there! Anyway, at about this same point of near hysteria, I had a fine talk with Me about ridiculous overeating.
Tata: Hey! HEY! WHAT are you DOING?
Tata: Uh…mmmmph mmmmumph mummph…nothing!
Tata: Put that down! You’re not even hungry.
Tata: I’m not what? Of course, I’m hungry.
Tata: No, you’re nervous.
Tata: Uh…mmmmph mmmmumph mummph…What are you talking about?
Tata: I mean it! Put that DOWN!
Tata: Okay! Okay! What is your problem?
Tata: I’ll tell you what my problem is: your inexplicable fat ass, that’s what!
Tata: Bite me. I have a fabulous ass!
Tata: Let’s go look.
Tata: Now the healing can begin…
I put down the plate and went back to the exercise cycle. It can be tempting when traveling to forget one’s newfound resolution. On the day we traveled – Saturday – I discovered that I’m no better at flying than I have ever been, and once we got to the hotel in Miami, boat-related parties and events were planned. At a party, where most all I could do was marvel that I was standing outside in a t-shirt staring at palm trees, I also located the hotel’s gym. I hate gyms. But there it was, taunting me. The next morning, I sat my erstwhile fabulous ass on an exercise bicycle and pedalled for all I was worth. Since the bicycle was in the back of a room without the usual wall of horrifying mirrors and nobody paid the slightest attention to my presence, I actually enjoyed the whole thing. It was a revelation. That day – Sunday – we braced ourselves for the ordeal of going through Customs, since Newark had been an ordeal, but Port Miami wasn’t. Whooosh! Hundreds of our fellow passengers were through so fast I turned around, blinking. What?
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I used the various exercise cycle types on the boat. At first, I avoided the mirrors and eye contact with other people because I was afraid they were judging me. Later, I avoided the mirrors and eye contact with other people because I didn’t give a damn what they thought. That’s a giant step forward. See? A bad attitude can represent progress!
Also on Monday afternoon, Siobhan said something like, “Blah blah blah after I pushed the skinny twigs off the jogging track…” which I only half-heard because she’s always assaulting someone and after a while it’s all a blur.
Tata: DID YOU SAY ‘JOGGING TRACK’?
After dinner Monday night, I took the elevator to the top of the boat and walked 15 1/10-mile laps. Then we saw that Vanity Project show that took the wind out of my sails. Tuesday, I woke up with a different plan in mind, but we went to Grand Cayman, then I cycled, we had dinner, then I walked. Wednesday, I had an idea that was both genius and appallingly stupid. Isn’t it funny how that happens?
I was eating fresh fruit and salads with every meal, avoiding the buffets when I could and skipping dessert entirely unless it was more fruit. For the first time in ages, I finished a book, started another and finished that. I was getting just enough sunlight to turn my skin a fetching golden brown. Then I declared that for the rest of the cruise I’d only wear shoes to the formal dining room and to the gym. It was genius! I hate shoes! So I walked 17 laps Wednesday morning, bicycled in the afternoon and walked barefoot on the jogging track that night.
During the day, the jogging track was a sunny, social place where people ran, walked, lay on deck chairs and read books. The warm sea air felt fresh on the skin, and only lightly breezy. At night, the feeling was totally different. Every night, the boat sailed at an impressive clip. Up at the top, the wind rushed over the higher surfaces with some force and I walked half of each lap with the wind and half against it. On the first night, the wind grabbed my left foot and I wondered for a half-second if I might go over the side. Rather than discouraging me, this made me mad.
Think you can scare me, do ya? Now, that right there is a sign of genius.
The next night, potheads lighting up where they wouldn’t be on camera gave me the Evil Eye each time around the track. That didn’t scare me either. Then Wednesday night, I walked barefoot, with the idea that – pffft! – screw it, I’m walking. About lap 16, I felt like there was dirt under my feet that didn’t come off. A lap later, I tried scraping it off. A lap after that, I had to quit. The jogging track had tiny metal bits embedded in the finish and they’d cut pinholes in the soles of my feet. Naturally, I had to find Siobhan immediately and declare my genius.
I don’t remember how, but I spent some part of Wednesday evening with my feet in the pool and a drink in my hand. Later, at karaoke again, I was so appalled by those California housewives’ rendition of Super Freak I curled up into one of those positions normal adults don’t assume in public. When Youlia our waitress appeared, I had one foot on the table, one leg hooked under my hips and, since it was Pajama Night, a hideous red sheer polyester robe falling everywhere in a cascade of terrifying ruffles. I apologized for being folded in thirds. Then switched to gin in pint glasses.
The next day: walking, cycling, walking. Feet in pool, drinks in hand, Siobhan and I saw a band called Great Big Sea that was loads of fun. I put my time on the boat to good use. I read, changed my diet, exercised more and got some sun. I napped every afternoon and disengaged from politics for a while. I came back feeling healthier and stronger than I have in ages.
On Tuesday, Siobhan and I returned to our cabin and found this terrifying creature on the edge of my bed. Note its proximity to our balcony door! We screamed!
Tata: Get back! It could be feral!
Siobhan: What do we feed it? Do you have any beer?
Tata: Beer will not protect us from this beast.
Siobhan: I’ll get my camera while you disable the thing.
Tata: Thanks, Marlon Perkins. I’ll just do that.
As we later discovered, that was only the first wave of the towel animal assault.