This was the first day where I needed to use an alarm to get up, but I still got a good amount of sleep. I had to meet my parents at a specific time so that we could get off the boat in our first port of the trip – Antigua!
I ate breakfast and started walking towards my parent’s room. On my way I ran into a group I recognized, the one with the pretty girl in the blue dress, the husband that doesn’t dance, and their two friends. I stopped to say hi, and one of the guys asked “Microsoft or Amazon?” They laughed, and I looked at them quizzically. “Well, we’re both developers and think we can spot one of our own. You said you were from Seattle, so you must be at Microsoft or Amazon.” I told them I’ve actually worked at both, but I’m not a developer, and we chatted about work for a little bit.
It was nice to kind of have friends, but it didn’t seem like I could insert myself into their group as the 5th wheel and start hanging out with them. Maybe there’s a way to do that, but it seemed weird. I said goodbye and met up with my parents.
The exodus of a cruise ship is an experience. My parents and I followed the person in front of us, down to the correct floor, through the security gate, down the ramp to the dock, off the dock, until suddenly we’re released into a busy marketplace. I felt like a tiny piece of a large swarm. We were a horde of hungry ants descending on this small port town.
The streets were tiny and packed with people. Apparently there was another ship that was also in port that day. It was really hot, and I was following my parents by darting from one patch of shade to the next. The shops were a mixture of t-shirt and jewelry shops. Lots and lots of jewelry shops.
I realized that I was in a much different place in my life than the last time I was on a cruise 10 years ago. I had no desire to buy anything, though my mom made me buy a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. I used to want to buy little wooden turtles and key chains and sand-filled gecko toys and color-changing t-shirts and necklaces 3-for-10 dollars. I would keep these knickknacks around my room, wear them to school, show other kids. When I moved out, all these things went into a box. With each move, less things made it to the next location.
Now, I keep a pretty clean life. I love throwing things away because it means I will never have to think about that thing again. I still have some random doodads around my apartment, but only the strongest survive.
I’ve also got a job. The relative value of a t-shirt is much lower to me now. If I want something, I usually just buy it. I have Amazon ship it to me. I don’t own a color-changing cartoon cruise ship and smiling sun t-shirt because I don’t want one, not because I haven’t had the opportunity to buy one yet.
Standing there in the hot sun, I felt cold. Heartless. Where was my sentimentality? Didn’t I want /things/ to help me remember this trip? No…not these things. Not from this town that seemed to both need and hate us. Not an assembly-line seashell turtle I remember seeing ten years ago on a different island. That’s not how my memory works anymore.
The worst offenders were the necklaces – but that’s a rant for day six.
Just as I was getting worried that this island was nothing but shoulder-to-shoulder t-shirt shops, we stumbled into a peaceful courtyard. My mom went to find a bathroom, my dad wandered into a store, and I found a bench in the shade. There was grass and space. Across the courtyard was an open restaurant. I took this picture:
We went to the restaurant and were seated in a few minutes. It was called Napoleon Bonaparte. The waitress was a beautiful woman, probably in her 40’s. There was something about her, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She had a unique look that I appreciated. My parents got a drink, and I got delicious crab cakes the waitress recommended. It was nice to have a moment to sit and chat with my parents in a calm atmosphere.
We didn’t have any excursions planned, so we just made our way back to the boat. I was all hot and greasy (…ladies) after wandering around in the sun, so we went swimming in the pool and hung around the pool bar. Devon (the girl from Karaoke) and her mom were right next to us. Her mom started chatting with my parents, and I had a small conversation with Devon. I never felt like there would be a thing between us, and in a way that took the pressure off. She was really nice, which I was thankful for. I needed that.
We were back in the main dining hall with our table mates for dinner for a largely uneventful dinner. Nobody was accidentally racist.
After dinner I went to a show in the main theater – an Elton John impersonator. I was excited to watch a piano player. The show was OK. I wouldn’t call it great, but it was still good. There were some nice solo piano moments as well as full-band rock-outs.
The performer tried to get the audience to participate a lot. Clapping, singing, that sort of thing. He did a good job getting us into the singing, only to run us up against parts where he knew we didn’t know the words. “Oh no no no, I’m a rocket man. Rocket man! …uhhh…” Turns out the next lyrics are “burning out his fuse up here alone.” Who knew.
Still, this kind of forced audience participation makes me uncomfortable. I want to watch the show, but instead I’m being peer-pressured and guilt-tripped into clapping, and now I’m thinking about how the old people in front of me are clearly offbeat and not even trying, and then I have to do social calculations on how long I should keep clapping as people around me stop clapping, then I stop and thirty seconds later he gets us clapping again and it starts all over. Please just let me sit here and not feel socially awkward.
I wasn’t very familiar with Elton John going into the show, so I couldn’t tell if his interactions with the audience were an attempt to emulate Elton John. The longer the show went on, it seemed more like a guy that dressed like Elton John and sang Elton John songs, but acted like himself. I think I’m more a fan of the I-am-really-this-person type of impersonator, but there’s a place for both.
After the show he was taking pictures with the audience as they left. I hung back so I could ask a couple questions, if he seemed into it. After everybody had gotten their pictures, I asked him how long he had been playing piano. He said he’s been playing since he was 18, but that he only learned so that he could sing – he can’t read music. I didn’t get the sense he was interested in shooting the breeze about piano, so I thanked him for the show and left.
I was a little hungry, so I made my way to the late-night cafe for a slice of pizza. I sat down at a table to eat and read, and noticed a group of three guys that were part of Jessica’s 20-something group. There was that decision making moment, and I somehow forced myself to choose “do it” by putting one foot in front of the other. I walked up to their table, said that I’ve seen them around, and asked if they minded some company. They welcomed me, so I sat.
They were two curly-haired twins, and a clean-cut guy. I had seen the twins around the ship, and they always struck me as nerdy introverts. I thought maybe I could find a place here.
I was wrong. These were not my people.
They’re all in college. This is something like their 11th cruise. The twins play tennis, and at least one of them has a big scholarship. They’re in the same fraternity, and they can’t wait for the clean-cut guy’s little brother to pledge next year. They’re all business or finance majors. They started talking about this woman across the cafe. “Is she wearing Abercrombie?” “She’s like 50.” “I can’t believe a 50-year-old is wearing Abercrombie.” “I bet her pussy is so dry.” “I’d still get in there.” “Gross, who let’s a 50-year-old wear Abercrombie.”
I suddenly felt like I was in some combination of The Wolf of Wall Street and Social Network, right down to the rich ambitious twins. These were the people that were going to rule the world one day, and I was a little terrified.
Still, I knew I was making biased generalizations about these guys, so I tried to lighten up.
“Oh man, were you at Jesters last night?” Briefly. “There were these Spanish girls that were down for anything.” “Aaaanything.” “Dude they were all over you.” “I know, they were nasty.”
Yep, totally nice normal guys just like me, this will be great.
They decided to go to Jesters, and I followed. I thought they might provide an interesting ‘in’ to the group that Jessica has been colding me to. While not my kind of guys, they didn’t seem to hate me, so at least Jessica hadn’t badmouthed me to the whole group.
We show up and the other half of the group is there, including Jessica. Like usual, Jessica did the ghasp, turn, talk to friend, and ignore routine. Another one of the guys recognized me from Karaoke and gave me a high five.
Dancing was awkward, and just got more awkward the longer the night went. While the three guys I was talking to earlier weren’t ostracizing me, it was clear that they were there to drink and dance, and I wasn’t really a part of their goals. I also wasn’t drinking – maybe that would have helped.
People would cycle from the dance floor to this bench area on the edge of the dance floor and back. Jessica usually was out of sync with my floor/seat cycle, or at least would sit at the far end of the seats, or dance in a smaller group with her back to me. I tried to start conversations with some of the other guys, but it was loud and not really a place for chatting. The girls were keeping their distance from me and not making eye contact, and I wondered what Jessica had told them. Was I a creepy stalker who wouldn’t leave her alone? Or was I the cute guy she has a crush on that she can’t hang out with because she has a boyfriend? I felt like the former.
Eventually I found myself on the bench with one other guy. He was somebody Jessica seemed to be friends with. Twice that night I saw her pull him off the bench to the dance floor, almost desperately. I read it as her trying to stay occupied while I was around. I wondered if that was the guy she said she was seeing, but that didn’t add up. Why would she go to the singles night if she brought her boyfriend on the ship? Or did she start “seeing” him during the second night? That seemed too fast, and I got the sense that she was done with me before that point anyway. I had largely decided that she made up the “seeing somebody” thing anyway.
I was tired of the whole routine and felt incredibly out of place and unwanted. I leaned over to the guy and asked him, “Am I the weird guy who just won’t leave?”
He shook his head, “Naw, you’re fine.”
I said “No, really. I think if you look around the room and you can’t see the creepy guy who won’t leave, then it’s probably you.” He shrugged. “Yep…I’m going to take off. See ya.”
That was it. I went back to my room and got into bed. I had some friendly interactions with people throughout the day, but still didn’t have a place to belong. I got to know the one group of single people my age a little better, but still felt unwelcome. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just read all night…
UP NEXT: The Land and Sea tour!