My last full day on the ship started like most of the others. I woke up, showered, spent too much time putting on sunscreen, then met up with my parents.
That day we were in St. Croix. We had no planned excursions, so this was a pretty low-key day. Off the ship and down a long dock there was a little shopping area. Luckily we were the only ship in port, so things weren’t packed. The shops were around a clock tower and an open grassy area – much less claustrophobic than our first port of the trip.
The shops were typical, but almost in a charming way this time. I was actually terrified that my parents would notice the T-shirt shop full of the types of t-shirts that old people from Montana would like. You know, like “Porta Backyarda” with a Rastafarian dog in a beach chair lounging in the cartoon sun. Or maybe something along the lines of “god invented beer, it’s in the constitution.” Or those shirts that large people wear with the torso of a skinny girl with massive cartoon boobs. My parents would never buy that shirt, but I was terrified they would notice it and call me over, loudly, laughing about it. A part of me was sad when they didn’t.
Eventually we wandered out of the shopping area and found ourselves at some old red fort-turned-museum. I took a lot of pictures because I liked the deep contrasting colors of the red fort, green grass, and blue sky. They had some rooms in the fort set up to look like bedrooms of the time. I imagined living there, and it seemed nice. It’s hard to think of those people as the same people we are. Contrast that with the rooms about massive slavery. Again, it’s hard to think of those people as the same people we are. In the middle of our vacation my parents and I had a little “people can be awful” moment while looking at these dioramas about slaves.
For another interesting contrast, at some point I walked by a room with an open door where two kids were sitting at a desk watching something on a computer. To them, this wasn’t a museum, or an old fort, or the slave’s quarters – it was just where mom worked.
We looked around for a place to eat lunch and found an open bar that looked like it would have decent food. We sat at the bar and started chatting with the bartender, who looked American. He told us a long story about moving closer and closer to the equator over the course of his life. About a wife and kid that live somewhere back home. He had a big chipped tooth and was very jovial.
I was half listening and half watching tennis on TV. Serena Williams was behind 2 games to 5 facing game point. I watched her claw her way back, not drop another game, and win the match. I never watch tennis, but this impressed me. I couldn’t help but feel bad for the other girl – that’s a tough lead to give up. Why am I watching sports on my vacation?
After we left the bar we headed to the beach. We walked down the beach for a few minutes, shoes sinking in the sand. Then I went back to the ship, and my parents weren’t far behind. I read my book and got ready for dinner, which was once again good, but uneventful.
After dinner I headed to karaoke. I arrived just as it was starting, and the place was a little empty. I saw a couple of familiar faces, but nobody I had really talked to before. They encouraged me to sign up, and the guy running it pressured me into going first. It turns out they actually had Feel Good Inc, it was just listed with no artist, so I signed up for that, again with the intent of doing the Eminem song over it. I was hoping Devon would be there to see it, but alas. Perhaps I could still capture some of that same spark from before?
My performance was fine, but the room didn’t have the same energy to it. There weren’t that many people. I decided to check out the comedian’s main show in the theater, and I’d return to karaoke afterwards.
The comedian covered the same themes as the last time I saw him – relationships, men vs. women, being old, etc. Again, his content was average, and his delivery was good. He had a good bit about wanting to build a rocket with his friends after seeing it on TV.
When I returned to karaoke things had picked up considerably. I should have known! Devon was there with her mom, and I cursed myself for not waiting to perform later in the night. I resolved not to repeat the same mistake as last time by forcing a song I was unfamiliar with. I sat with Devon in a crowd of young people that I had seen around the ship. Karaoke continued as normal, and Devon and I talked idly from time to time. She seemed drunk, and she told me a story about her and her mom seeing me from all the way across the promenade earlier. Apparently her mom, who was also drunk, was shouting my name, but I didn’t hear her.
After karaoke I followed Devon and the young group, including the guy she seemed to kind of be with maybe, down to Jesters, which was empty. It was still early, so we wandered through the casino to kill time, eventually running into the twins and their father. They were playing blackjack and drinking. The group dispersed around the casino, and I found myself standing with Devon and the guy. I felt awkward, so I said I might see them at Jesters later, and I left.
I went by the late night café and grabbed some pizza. There I ran into the three gay guys I had gotten to know, so we started talking. Somehow they got me talking about myself, the trip, how I was feeling. I found myself opening up to them, going deeper into hard breakup stuff than I intended. While it was nice to talk about it, I was also embarrassed that I was going into it.
Eventually they went to bed and I knew it was time to check out Jesters. It was the last night on the ship. I hoped to find resolution with Jessica. Something, anything! I resolved to talk to her if I saw her. I must know. I can’t let the story end like this! Not like this.
I walked into the club and onto the dance floor, and there she was. I saw Jessica immediately, and she saw me. In that instant, her face had a look of shock. In slow motion I saw her eyebrows raise, her eyes grow wide, her mouth gape, and she turned away. She turned to her friend, bent down, and whispered in her ear. The friend stared right back at me, the hint of a smile on her face. Then Jessica continued to dance, now with her back to me.
I felt the willpower drain from me. This whole experience was demoralizing and degrading. I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it all was. So I laughed, and I didn’t confront her.
At this moment, I heard a “hey!” I turned, and it was one of the girls from the night I drunkenly told a group of teens the napoleon joke.
“Hey!” I smiled, glad that somebody else was glad because they saw me. I danced with them for a few minutes, but didn’t feel like making myself a part of their group. Maybe I didn’t have it in me. Maybe I was off my game. Mostly, they seemed a little too young, and I felt uncomfortable pushing my way into their group.
I looked around, and saw Devon there with the guy. They seemed to be having a good time, and I didn’t want to intrude. That’s when I spotted Blake across the dance floor. The whole gang was here! Maybe I could get a little resolution after all? I made my way to that side and walked up to Blake. “Hey,” I said.
“Hey.” She looked at me, then looked down and away.
“…how was your week?”
“Ok.” She didn’t even look at me to say this.
So I left.
I walked out of jesters, up the stairs, down the hall, and right up to my room. I put my hand on the door handle…and I hesitated. Could this be the end?
Not yet. I still had a chance to experience the ship one last time. To cement the memories and experience the fresh air. I had one last chance to choose “do it.” I let go of the handle and started to walk.
I went down the promenade and saw the pointing statue guy, the window shops, the Irish pub. I went through the casino with its slot machines and card tables. I went past the schooner bar and its piano player. I went up the stairs with art that looked like old rugs pulled straight from grandma’s house, and it looked like grandma smoked heavily. I went through the empty karaoke bar on the top floor that may have been closed off to non-diamond members. I walked around the pool and saw couples in the hot tubs. I saw teenagers as I walked through the arcade. I was going to make one last stop, at the back of the boat, to look over the ocean one last time.
I turned the corner, and stopped in my tracks. There, standing at the back of the boat, arms on the railing, head down, was Jessica, right where we kissed that first night.
I took a step forward. “Jessica?” My mouth didn’t know quite how to say the name. I don’t know if I sounded surprised, curious, angry, or just desperate. She turned, startled. Something was wrong. I looked…she had been crying.
“What?” It sounded like she didn’t quite know how to say the word, either.
What are you doing here? Why have you been ignoring me? Why did you kiss me? Why have you been a total bitch?!
All that came out was, “…what did I do?”
All she said was “nothing,” dismissively. She turned back to the ocean.
I stepped closer. “No, seriously, you’ve been treating me like shit. What’s your deal? You /chose/ to kiss me back, then you ignored me the rest of the trip.”
“I told you, I’m kind of seeing somebody.” There was desperation in her voice.
“Kind of? YOU started talking to ME! YOU suggested we go for a walk! The hell you’re seeing somebody!”
Her head went down again. She looked just like I found her when I rounded the corner. “He died,” she said. “He’s dead.”
“…oh my god.” As my brain processed this, my body moved next to her. My arm went around her shoulder, and her body leaned into me. “I’m so sorry,” I said.
I asked if she wanted to talk to me. I asked her to talk to me.
He was going to meet her parents on this cruise, but he got in a car accident. She didn’t know what to do. Her parents told her the cruise would be good for her. That she could relax and meet people. She followed them, and for a while it was working. She found herself at the singles event, and she noticed me. I was tall, like he was. She said I looked nice. She said she forgot, for a while. When we kissed, she remembered.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I told her that I was also trying to forget, but that I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. I pulled her a little tighter, and she turned and hugged me. Maybe now I could understand. Maybe now I could forgive her. Maybe now I could finally be…
…asleep. I looked down, and my hand was still on the handle to my room. This /was/ the end. There was no late night stroll. There was no moment. There would be no closure. I was done with the boat, and it was done with me. I turned the handle and walked into my room. The door closed behind me, and I was in the dark.
I woke up early the next day, still in the dark. Like every other morning, I turned on the light. I showered. I put on my clothes. I met up with my parents. Together, we left the ship, and we didn’t get back on.