When Susan arrived in the Dominican Republic exactly 24 hours after me I could hardly contain myself. I’d spent the day prior in a realm of doomful questioning but seeing her face immediately filled me with hope. I was in the middle of a pool volleyball game and she didn’t see me, but I saw her. She walked past my side of the net but my back was to her and waved to our couple-friends who were on the other side of the pool. I jumped over strangers, run-wading out of the water, shouting, “Babe, babe, babe?” My team members who didn’t know the story were giving me strange looks as I splashed past them.
I climbed out of the pool and ran to her grabbing her from behind around the waist. She was already hugging our friend, Allison- her EX, just in case you were wondering) when my childish side exploded, “Me first! Me first! I get to hug her first.” She laughed at me as she turned around and squeezed me tight. I asked her, “Babe, do you want to go change in the bathroom or do you want to go to the room and settle in first?” I couldn’t wait for our vacation together to begin. I was worse than a sugared up kid at Disney World. She said, “I want to see our room. Let’s go put my bags away and then we’ll come back to the pool.”
While we were walking back to the room I told her all my fears about plane crashes and never seeing my kids or her again depending on how the scenario played out. She told she had the same thoughts too and that there was obviously some reason we weren’t meant to fly together. “Maybe it’s because I ended up helping the guy in my building with a heart condition, or maybe it was to give you time alone with Michelle and Allison.” Either way there was intense, and unspoken electricity between us. We needed to reconnect and find comfort in each other.
The day before we arrived at Atlanta International Airport with luggage and passports in hand. We had taken a car service from my house. Her car was parked at my place and her keys were tucked away inside a basket in my kitchen. We checked in at the Air Tran desk to get our boarding passes. The clerk behind the desk took our passports and handed mine back. I saw her take Susan’s documentation over to another woman for examination. The woman shook her head and said, “They’re lucky they’re not going to Mexico.” The first woman walked back to us and said to Susan, “There’s something wrong with your passport. Do you see these holes? That means this passport isn’t valid, but it’s not expired. The Dominican is pretty lenient, so you should be OK.” I looked at Susan, “What’s wrong with your passport?” Her face dropped, “Shit, I must have grabbed the wrong one. I went ahead and ordered a new one because this one expires in October. I guess I left the new one at home.”
The woman behind the counter said we should be able to use it to get into the Dominican Republic, but may have trouble getting back in the country. At that point we still had 3 hours before our flight. She could’ve made it home and back before take off off, but we decided to find a TSA representative instead. The TSA supervisor told us she’d let us leave and that it wouldn’t be a problem since it hadn’t expired. We went through security and rode the tram to the international concourse. We still had an hour and half to go before boarding the flight. It was 9:00AM so we grabbed a martini and browsed the newsstand. We heard the boarding announcements and lined up at the gate. We were to board with zone 8 so we had to wait a while. Finally we were up, time to show our boarding passes and passports one last time. The flight attendant studied her passport and told her that she couldn’t let her board because she didn’t think she could get back into the states with it. Prior to this moment Susan and I had already discussed what to do in the event she couldn’t get on the plane. She told me to go ahead and she’d meet me there. Everything happened in slow motion, I turned and said, “Go to the Air Tran desk, and let me know what happens. Bye.” I walked through the tunnel alone and boarded the plane.
The next day Susan told me, “That was a lonely walk back down the terminal.” We were both shocked and saddened by what happened. We made it that far only to be separated, and that’s when the fears crept up like ghastly newspaper headlines. Immediately we both thought one of the planes was going down, but instead we both arrived safely to island just 24 hours apart. Air Tran was nice enough to book her on the same flight the following day without incurring any additional fees.
She took the train home and had a friend pick her up at the station. She spent the next hour trying to locate my spare key since her keys were inside my house. She called my EX, Jack thinking he may have it, but he didn’t so she got a few of my friend’s number’s from him. Eventually she got a spare key from my landlord, and everything squared away. She spoke to Barb, Jack’s mom who is also a travel agent to make sure she was booked for the same flight the following morning. Barb assured her she was but told her to double check by calling Air Tran.
In the meantime, I worried and wrung my hands about my decision to go ahead without her. I talked it over a few times with our friends and they assured me I’d done the right thing. Susan wouldn’t really communicate via text or phone because of the expense of international calling and texting. It was a quiet and lonely 24 hours for both of us. I called the kids that night and they were both worried about her. My daughter, Sophie asked, “Mommy, did Susan make it?” I said, “No, baby, but that’s sweet of you to ask. She’ll be here tomorrow.”
We got to the room and I showed her around and helped her unpack her bags. I still couldn’t believe she was really here. I had been subdued in a holding pattern until she got there.” I’m so glad you’re here. Things haven’t been the same without you. I missed you, we all missed you.” She was our connecting link, not only by association, but in spirit too. While recounting the story with our friend’s to another woman on the trip who hadn’t met her, I’d referred to Susan as “Mighty.” I said, “You’ll see her when she gets here, you can’t miss her. “She’s little but mighty. She’s mighty in spirit and stance, and she has beautiful red hair.” Sure enough, that afternoon the woman came up to me and said, “I see your girl is here.” I laughed and said, “How’d you know?” She said, “Well, you said she was red and mighty.” That became her knick-name the rest of the trip.
She didn’t hesitate for moment, after she unpacked her bags she was on vacation with me. On our way back to the pool area I showed her all the pretty trees: trees like expanding hand-held fans with palm blades, trees that looked like 5 feet tall, and 200 pound squat- pineapples, tall, tooth pick-thin palm trees dotted with holes, and trees like umbrellas with brown handles and flowering red tarps. I pointed to the native birds: palm-woodpeckers with scarlet mow-hawks, green-eyed mocking ravens, and tiny dust wings flying like bats in and out of the sky. I told her about the hoot owl outside our room and his calling at dusk. We took the path by the ocean and palm-tree covered white beach. Out in the distance you could see a rusted out ship split in two by a shipwreck at sea. The staff later told us the boat was a cruise ship from the 1940’s that sank near the island that gradually overtime washed ashore. The shipwreck allegedly drew tourist to the once barren island, which helped generate revenue for the Islander’s. The myth says that if the vessel is removed then the tourist will leave. It’s interesting to see the rusted metal bones of a bow and railings sitting not too far off shore.
The next day we kayaked out it and saw a lonely stork sitting at the tip. It was eerie, and lovely without words. The water beneath us was sea-foam with patches of mossy seaweed. The liquid salt was calm, as if sad and respectful of the remains. It made me think of blood shed on the other side of the island, Haiti.
As with life, the dichotomy continues. Beauty always suffers, and out of destruction beauty rises, and the cycle repeats. I cycled through a few of my old patterns while on vacation. I’d like to know how and if I can ever let go of my tightly held beliefs that hold me back, or push me places I shouldn’t go, like drunk and throwing up between lounge chairs, and hanging my head when unfamiliar faces called me by name the day after. You know the drill.