By the forth day of our Island of Lesbos vacation I couldn’t swallow the air of my questions anymore. I needed information like a meth head does a toothbrush. I’d been feeling quelled by the responsibility of traveling with other people, and ignored by Susan’s brighter than daylight personality. My head wanted to escape the social captivity of squeaky-clean surface and bury deep inside the ugly nuts and bolts of what holds people together. My issues manifested in the consumption of rum and diet cokes, and interviews on my imaginary microphone.
Susan has this enormous presence that I love so much but sometimes I feel lost in its vastness. When all of her attention and focus is on me I glow like a street lamp in a blizzard, but when removed I fade against the backdrop. She’s social on levels where I tire and bore, and fidget with skin-tightening intensity. People flock to her and she obliges. I’m moody and unpredictable, impatient, and a little pretentious about the content of my conversations. One afternoon coming back from the beach we stopped at the- take your paycheck to purchase- tourist trap store to browse. She started talking to a staggering woman with whiskers dressed in bile-green board shorts and matching surf shirt. She was bombed and I wasn’t interested whatsoever in what she had to say. Under my breath, but not audible enough for her to hear I said, “I’m going back to the pool.” I turned and left and when Susan realized that I left she called out to me but I motioned the other way. When she found me at the pool she said, “What are you doing? Why did you just leave?” I said, “I told you I was going back to the pool.” “No you didn’t. You just left.” “Well, I guess you didn’t hear me. For now on if you’re talking to someone that I’m not interested in talking to I’ll just meet you back here. I don’t want to waste my time talking nonsense. You’re way more social than I am, and I’m going to need my own time on this trip.” She didn’t look pleased. “OK, this is your vacation too, but just remember you never know what kind of nugget you’ll get from an unsuspecting person.”
The next day I decided that I needed time alone to write and that I was the only person capable of giving myself enough attention. After a few solo hours in the room I came out to find my gang around the pool. The beverage count was off in their favor so I tried catching up. I ordered two rum and diets and an extra shot of rum because the pours had lost their volume. The first few days the drinks were ¾ alcohol to ¼ mixer I’m assuming as a show of good faith, or maybe they just grew tired of hundreds of intoxicated women and changed the formula. It was island-hot that day and I sucked down the drinks with ease. Another couple joined our group at our pool nest complete with all the pool-side fixings; sunscreen galore, I-pad, camera, hats, towels, extra clothes, books, magazines, water bottles, and dental floss (You never know when you’re going to get chicken stuck in a molar.) The other couple was from California and they took their tattoo and running hobbies very seriously. They habitually referred to all the barns in bathing suits roaming around in a superior way commenting on how they over heard a big girl in the lunch-line say, “I’m just getting a burger.” That just messed with them, “How could she get a burger here? She was huge of course she ordered a burger. Our plates were full of fruits and salads.”
I laughed, but I didn’t mention the burger, fries, chicken fingers, salad, and fruit I had for lunch. During our conversation someone brought me another rum and diet, my third plus a shot in less than 30 minutes. I think by the time I finished it I already had my microphone out and ready for questioning. I started in on them, “So, I thought you were the butchy one but you’re the one with kids? Tell me more about that. ” I also reenacted Alanon* program literature by over sharing but I’ll just blame that on the alcohol. The next day the couple called me “Katie,” as in Katie Courric, and asked our friends about us, “Do Susan and Shannon eat, or do they have eating disorders?” They were interesting, and highly focused on the figure flaws of those around them, yet they admitted to gaining up to ten pounds on the Olivia trips.
At some point we started up a pool-volleyball game, which irritated me immediately. I was over the novelty of topless girls wearing racecar driver- sunglasses while playing volleyball. I had flashed my silicone sacks enough as a distraction while I served the ball, and wedged my bikini bottoms between my cheeks in dismay of a point to the extent of a rash. I was restless and buzzed and that’s when the inflated rhythm in my head got me.
I heard the Latin music from the beach getting louder. I bopped around in the pool and ungracefully shook my hips underwater. I looked at my watch. “It’s 4:00PM, time to Zumba on the beach.” I had been eyeing the Zumba class all week but felt intimidated by the coordination it required. However today was different. I thought to myself, “I can totally do that.” I left in the middle of our game to a round of “Boo’s” as I got out and showed them my ass one last time. On the way to the Zumba floor I must have stopped to get another drink although I don’t recall stopping for one, but the pictures showed otherwise. Club Med’s have photographers following around the guests taking pictures at opportune moments and then selling them for half a lamb. The next day when we went back through the pictures to trace my whereabouts we saw one of me with a cocktail in my hand while working out in Zumba class. I was the only person still in her bikini and throughout different shots I was doing a number of things. In one I semi-pass for a normal participant, however in others I’m facing the back and talking to people with one hand on my hip and drink in the other. In another series I’m sitting on a large speaker drinking and smiling while surrounded by 3 pretty girls, and in another I’m back in the class moving with a serious/focused look on my face, and then back to interviewing yet a different couple. I’m sure I was that animated, and in your face, drunk asshole we’ve all encountered in a college town bar. Actually, I know I was because I told one of the comedians, “I didn’t think your show was funny, but I do like your body and I respect your athletic abilities. When’s your birthday?” I mean she did come out naked during the opening act. How could she be funny after that? She should’ve waited. She stood listening shaking her head. I said, “You look like the stronger one, why were you always on the bottom? When’s your birthday?” She spoke, “You already asked me that.” “I’m sorry. You should just ignore me because I’m really drunk right now, but I’m having a goodtime. I’m a type A on hiatus.”
*(A support group/ 12 step program for people with alcoholics and drug addicts in their life.)
It was 5:00PM and my next thought was to join the group dance lesson at the beach bar. I was still sober enough to check in with Susan, who was playing volleyball at the pool. “I’m going to take the dance lesson. I’ll be back.” OK babe, are you doing alright?” “Yes, I’m good, I’m having a great time.” Somewhere between the beach bar and the pool I stopped and interviewed another couple but I didn’t know anything about it until the next day. I was walking by a group and someone called out, “Shannon?” I looked but didn’t recognize anyone. Two sassy-eyed girls started laughing and one of them said, “You don’t even remember do you?” Susan was next to me, I thought, “Oh shit, what did I do? I hope I didn’t stick my tongue in their ears or anything.” They were cute but not like my girl. I felt a hot flash of embarrassment and dropped my head and said, “I’m sorry if I was offensive or inappropriate.” They laughed again and said, “No, you were fine. You were just asking us a lot of questions.” The sweat dried. Susan said, “Babe, don’t drop your head, we’ve all done stupid things. Be proud of the fun you found.” Unfortunately, that’s not what she said when she found me passed out.
The next thing I remember after telling Susan where I was going is throwing up between two lounge chairs. I wasn’t very graceful about it either. I looked like my dog when she’s ashamed and throwing up in the yard. I was on all fours, big ass and wide hips in the air with my knees spread open and on my elbows; AKA, doggy style hoisted between two gorgeous chocolate brown cushioned chaise lounges over looking the ocean. My back heaved and my ribs moved in and out as I let the poison flow. When I finished two women were asking me if I needed help. I remember saying, “Yes, go find the little red-head at the pool. He name is Susan and she’s playing volleyball.” Evidently I’d been there a while because Susan wasn’t at the pool, she was in fact looking for me. The woman who went to look for Susan was a staff member with Olivia, our travel group, and the other was just a passerby. She must have been in her seventies but her eyes were still vivid ice blue against her silver hair. She told me, “It’s going to be OK honey. I’m a therapist.” My thoughts, “OH shit, this lady knows I’m a fuck-up.” I slurred when I spoke. “I didn’t mean to get drunk, it snuck up on me. Thank you for staying with me. I’m usually not like this. I haven’t done this in over ten years. I’m really normal when I’m not on vacation. Thank you for your kindness.” She just nodded.
The other lady came back with some water and told me she couldn’t find Susan. I sat up to take a sip and looked towards the bar above and saw her standing there. “There she is, she’s at the bar.” The lady helped me up and walked me over to Susan. The staffer said, “Can you take responsibility of her?” Susan said, “No, she’s a big girl, she can take care of herself. “If she’s going to run off and worry me sick and having me looking everywhere for her, she can care for herself.” The lady looked at me. I said, “I’m OK, she doesn’t mean it.” The lady left and I thanked her and then turned to Susan, “Babe, I was sick and passed out.” She said, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. I thought something really bad happened. Where were you?” I was down there on the chairs by the ocean.” “I didn’t see you there.” “I was passed out face first and then I threw up. I’m sorry you were worried. I had them look for you. I’m hungry, please take me to get some food.” We walked back to the room and she told me, “You’re in no shape for dinner. I’ll go get our food and bring it back here.” I had been looking forward the Tex-Mex night all week but she insisted. She walked me home and cleaned me up. I passed out again while she got my dinner. She came back with two overflowing plates of food. I bitched. “I need bread. Please go get me some more bread.” She said, “You’re being a brat.” But she went back anyway, and she brought me pizza. I ate like an animal and drank an orange Fanta although she recommended a Sprite.
After I ate I passed out for a few hours before spending the rest of the night squatting and face first into the toilet. Between bouts she’d run in with a damp cloth for my forehead. The Fanta was the last to go and then I had the Sprite. She said, “Drink it slowly, I mean it.” She told me I talked and groaned about my sickness throughout the night and that she also had to listen to our neighbors making love at 2:30AM. My nausea-induced sounds alternating between their climaxing must have been quite the chorus of moans, but at least I had her attention. Type A’s always get the job done.