Growing up I kept a diary. (*cough*Predictable!*cough*) It was filled with the usual dramatic self-searching common to a lot of young girl’s diaries. Also included were things like, “I really wish daddy would take pity on Black Beauty. That’s what I named the poor barn cat who isn’t even allowed in the house. I have never been so sad. I can’t imagine how sad Black Beauty must be.” and “I still don’t have a door handle. There’s finally a door but still no handle. I will probably never get one. Maybe it sounds stupid to you – the diary? – but it’s just like when I was promised a guppy fish for not sucking my thumb anymore and I never got it. They gave me a Barney doll instead, and I don’t even like Barney! And I really did stop. Not like Andrew. He got his hatchet (which he wanted!) and I see him sucking his thumb sometimes! It’s just not fair!!” Injustice seemed to be the theme of most of my entries.
The last time I kept a diary was my very first trip to France with Mat. Rather than injustice fueling my furious writing, it was excitement. The whole trip seemed surreal, especially to be going with a guy. A French guy. Swoon. The diary cuts abruptly though after he proposed to me in Montmartre and I said oui. (OK I didn’t say “oui”, I said yes. But whatever, it’s still romantic.)
Apparently I was too busy staring at my engagement ring (and Mat) for the remainder of the trip to bother writing anything down.
And so as we finally managed to plan some time away from the city for a real vacation, I thought, ‘Why don’t I keep a diary of our trip?’ A real, honest-to-goodness, written diary.
So I did.
“How are you doing? Resting?” he asked me. “Trying” I answered.
Why is it so hard to just relax? Taking the night bus to arrive in the morning sounded like a good idea at the time. That is, until we discovered that “night time” would not mean “quiet time.” I cannot quite explain how unappealing Ecuadorian flute music is when it’s being blasted from the speakers at 3 am. But we arrived in one piece (or I suppose, two pieces) and found the place easily. Being as exhausted as we were, Mat suggested sleeping for a few hours. Again, good idea in theory. I closed my eyes and “mmm”ed at how good it felt to be horizontal. My bliss was sharply interrupted by a stinging sensation in my legs. I opened my eyes to a swarm of menacing black mosquitoes. They were so big I could see every detail, most notably the long, piercing stingers. I must have been slapping my hands around the air rather wildly because next to me Mat stirred and kind of gave me this look that said, “Really?”
“They’re everywhere! Can you see them? They’re monstrous! Why aren’t they biting you?” “Maybe they are.” He shrugged, and rolled over. ‘Maybe they are?!’ I thought to myself. ‘How can he just lie there and let them bite him?’ It was maddening. I grabbed a bright red blanket and tucked myself into it as tightly as possible. “Great,” I mumbled. “now I look even more like a giant blood source.” I got up and walked around the place hoping for some insight. My eyes fell upon a bright orange spray bottle with images of upside-down insects (presumably dead) on it. “Yes!” I grabbed it and tucked myself back into the death blanket. I gripped the bottle and waited. Moments later a blurry mosquito came into focus as it locked on it’s target : me. I squeezed the trigger of the bottle furiously again and again, but nothing came out. Only a pathetic sound of air. Pff. Pff. Pff. “What is even happening right now?” I shouted pitifully into the air, no doubt to the delight of that smug Fighter Mosquito. Mat, not amused but not unsympathetic to my plight, went and got a large thin sheet from our luggage. He placed it over me and wrapped his arms around the shrouded victim. “There,” he said with authority. “I will be your human mosquito shield.” I smiled. And then, mercifully, we slept.
Waking up groggily some time later, Mat grinned and whispered excitedly, “We’re on vacation!” “Yay…” I replied, still gripping my useless bottle of bug killer and sweeping my eyes frantically around the room. I hoped at least the threat of it might keep some of the more simple-minded mosquitoes at bay.
We were laying on the sand of a nearly deserted beach when Mat asked me if I was resting. It’s a frustrating thing, this knowing I am supposed to be relaxing but unable to shut off my inner world. I wonder if this plagues women more than men, because when I ask Mat what he’s thinking about, he says simply, “Nothing.” Mind you, this is not always his answer. Sometimes he’ll say something like “Oh I was just thinking about the effect the moon has on the ocean…” or “I was wondering about the lifespan of ants and imagining a cartoon ant who has a white beard and a cane and tells of the crazy things he’s seen in all his three days.” So I pushed, hoping for some indication that he too was not succeeding in quieting his mind. “Yeah,” I say, “but you must be thinking something.” His eyes look as though they are laughing and I perk up to take in his response. “Nope.” His hand brushes the side of my face, lingers just a moment, then he turns over and closes his eyes. Darn it.
As I lounge here on the couch in front of an industrial size fan and a deadly-functioning bottle of bug spray I bought from a one-armed man who runs a local shop, I watch the ink from my pen slip out onto the paper and it hits me. What is this feeling? I must be starting to relax.
day 2 – the rooster is gone
Today I woke up to quiet. Well, country quiet, which I suppose to city folk can seem inescapably loud. The dogs play, the birds chirp, the roosters crow competitively. I take my time getting up. Even though we went to sleep at 9:30 last night, my body feels heavy and stubborn. The rooster who lives in our yard kept me awake most of the early morning with his award winning cock-a-doodle-doo. I willed him to be silenced and buried my head in the pillow.
Our small accommodations are on the side of a house owned by a local family. This suits us, as it gives a lived-in, comfortable vibe to the place. They let us play with their dogs and pretend we are pet owners again. The smaller of the two reminds me of a beanie baby I used to have named Doby. He cuddles with me in the hammock and I love him the best.
This morning as we were drinking our coffee outside and discussing an article we’d just read, the lady of the house came outside and started sharpening her freshly cleaned knife. “She’s sharpening her knife.” I stated the obvious. “The rooster is gone,” deduced Mat. At first I thought he was joking, but then she asked if she could store something in our freezer. I had to look. And there, motionlessly dropping in temperature, were the undeniable remains of a rooster. I felt guilty for having, in a way, wished it’s end. I can’t pretend to have had any strong attachment to the creature, but it had sparked several conversations between Mat and myself, one of which being what an odd choice the rooster makes as a symbol of his home. And now it was gone. Well not gone, but in our freezer. It is admittedly much quieter around here. Maybe I’ll start the book I brought…
day 3 – mine! (à moi!)
I read the first ten chapters last night. I couldn’t put it down! Now we’re talking. This is my idea of vacation. I’ve never been much of a sun tanner, my skin is of the indoor variety. But if that means sipping chilled wine on a beach chair under a protective tent, sticking my toes into the warm sand and hearing the crash of the waves in front of me while I read my book… well call me a beach nerd. I’ll take it. My book, SPF 65 and me are just fine, thank you.
I’ve been waiting to read this book, saving it for a time where I could read it uninterrupted. I’m not a fan of starting and stopping my way through a book. I knew I would love this read, so it was worth waiting for. Thing is, apparently I’m not alone in my enthusiasm. This morning after I woke, I walked over to where I had left my book to obviously, keep reading. A morning coffee with a great book, how ideal is that? So ideal that I found Mat outside in the hammock, enjoying his morning coffee and reading my book. When I came out and faced him, the book closed and he had this look on his face that said, “Hmm? What? Oh this old dusty book? I just, brought it out here, to, hold onto it, you see…” Wordlessly, I reached out and took it back like it was my newborn baby who I was not ready to expose to the public. He’s snatched it a few times since, when I’ve gotten up to get some water, make a snack, or go to the bathroom. Always gives it back, of course, but I see him eyeing it like it’s a chocolate eclair the bakery advertises but won’t sell to him.
I’ve always wanted him to read the books I read. Now that he’s actually trying to, of his own accord, I don’t want to share. Well… not until I’ve finished.
day 4 – shh.
Today is our last day of vacation. We leave tomorrow morning to head back to the city. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been here for four days, which makes it harder to go back. I like Mat’s perspective, which he shares with me when I tell him I’m sad it’s over so soon. “That just means we had a good time!” (He would be in a good mood, what with him having full custody of my book which I finished today.) While it may not feel like four days, we certainly look like we’ve been here four days. Did I mention already that the place we’re staying at has no running water? None. We’ve tried our best to splash-clean ourselves using a pail we’ve drawn from a basin of collected water. After four days of soaking exclusively in the ocean, I feel like one of those salt-crusted fish you’d get at a Greek restaurant. To be fair, we knew what we were getting into, water-wise, and neither of us are germaphobes by any means, so it’s fine. Some features of our digs did take me by surprise, like the mouse residing there (who Mat insisted was cute) and the gecko (who unarguably was cute.)
But it’s a small price to pay for time off and mental quiet. No computers, no tv, no phones, no radio… just quiet. I was thinking earlier this evening how enjoyable it felt to just be together, without all the usual noise. We were sitting together on the couch, reading. I had my legs draped over Mat’s and that wonderful fan was creating a breeze and preventing the mosquitoes from getting to us. Periodically we’d look up from our reading and smile at each other without breaking the silence.
I don’t need to ask what he is thinking. I already know.