A single strip of sunlight slid through the crack in the hotel curtains and rested on the bright white sheets of the bed. When Marilyn finally opened her eyes a few hours later, it was well after ten am, and she was dripping in sweat. She kicked the sheet off and lay on her back, limbs spread like a starfish. Soon, her were feet soaking up the coolness of the Talavera tile floor in the bathroom. The heavy bag of dread that had followed her from Comox sat on her back, weighing her stooped body down while she splashed handfuls of water on her face. Try not to cry, she willed herself. Try to enjoy this place. Back in the bedroom, the wooden rings clattered on the rod as she pulled the olive green curtains open, revealing a pool below, shaped like the number eight. It was surrounded by different shaped bodies in colours white, pink, brown and black. I wonder what all of their stories are, Marilyn thought.
Having an affair.
A vacation for the first time in ten years.
Blowing an inheritance, one shopping trip and destination at a time.
On the run.
A trip to save an already doomed marriage…
She had them all figured out. Would they like to know her story? She mused. “Ha! I doubt it!” she said to the empty room.
She dressed slowly, while sitting on the rumbled bed – turquoise and green bikini first, blue hemp dress next. No sense having a shower. The effort it took to get dressed was astonishing
to her; she could not believe how tired she felt all of the time – a heavy woolen cloak draped itself over her whenever it felt like. It slept with her even, covering her nose and mouth. She found herself lying down again, the sun now covering the whole bed. She stared at the ceiling for a few minutes, soaking in every detail of the swirled patterns of the plaster, its buttery paint chipping in places. She wondered who’s strong hands had done the swirling. Was he still doing such beautiful work?
When she woke again it was one o’clock and she was exceptionally sweaty and starving. “Jeeze Louise” she whispered as she rolled off the bed. She pulled a file out of her suitcase, wrapped her thin hair in a bun with an elastic, and proceeded down the stone staircase, her flip flops slapping. She was aware that she smelled of sweat, but did not care, really. Downstairs in the lobby, she felt remarkably better; the Frangipani scented breeze drifted in leisurely through the open door of enormous entrance. She smiled at a young boy, about five, wearing a Blue Jays ball cap. He smiled back, then wrapped himself around his mother’s tanned leg, and hid his face behind her thick thigh.
On the patio lounge, the waiter catered to her in a way that made her feel as if she was in his home, not a restaurant. His accent made her laugh, and she was, for the first time in years, not self – conscious of her thinning hair and her pale, sometimes greyish skin.
“I have very much liked your country before” he said smiling, as her placed her Guava juice down gently.
“Oh?” Marilyn answered, smiling back.
“Yes, it is true. My best is the, – how do you say – “and he fell silent, making gestures of a plane flying with both hands.
“Planes? You like our planes?”
“So much swooping! And loudness!” he said, laughing.
Puzzled at first, Marilyn guessed he might be talking about the Snowbirds.
“Snowbirds? The air show?” she asked, one eyebrow up slightly
“Yes, this is what it is. The plane show. How you say? Snowbirds? OK, Yes. Thank you for my memory for me”. He laughed and looked away sheepishly. “Please excuse my English, it is, I am learning them still. Excuse me. I am still learning it.”
Marilyn smiled at him again and sipped her juice. “You are doing very well”.
With both thumbs pointed towards himself and his tray tucked under his arm, he said,
“Well, back to work today for this guy, and your lunch will be ready in a jiffy!”
She was amused by the silly slang; another small sliver of sunshine to warm her dark life.
While she waited for her lunch, the young boy and his mother from the lobby entered the restaurant and sat at the table beside her.
“Did you unpack?” Marilyn said, smiling at his mother as she spoke. This time, he seemed less shy and willing to chat.
“Yuppers. And in my suitcase, guess what I found?” he said.
“Hmmmm, I dunno! What?”
“A picture” he answered and thrust it towards her.
“Ahhhh, a picture! I can’t see it from over here” Marilyn said. “What is it?”
Instantly, the little boy was at her side, holding the picture up for her to see – a carved pumpkin, a man with a friendly face on one side, and the little boy was on the other. Both grinning wildly, caught in mid-laugh.
“Oh, it’s nice!” Marilyn gushed “Did you do this?”
The boy’s mother ordered lunch while he set about to tell his story.
“Ya, I did. And my dad too. It was in the suitcase. I packed it with my goggles.
”You must really be proud of it, to want to have a picture of it on your holiday, hey?” Marilyn said sweetly, thick exhaustion creeping over her again, interrupting the sweet exchange.
“Nah, it’s not that good. We made the mouth too big. My dad got it crooked. And I wanted eyes like Bumble Bee, not triangles. Do you know Bumble Bee? Do you like pumpkins?” he asked, sweet green eyes pouring into her.
“Yes, I do like pumpkins! And no, I don’t know who Bumble Bee is I’m afraid. Is he a character in a show?” Marilyn asked gently, looking at the photo again, imagining the boy instructing his father in the art of carving a pumpkin.
“Bumble Bee is my favourite transformer. My dad said triangles were easier. Anyway, my dad is dead” he said flatly, arranging his ball cap like a full grown man might. “I have to go now” and before she could say anything more, he was nestled in beside his mother, who was gazing out towards the calm azure sea.
The manila file sat on table while Marilyn stared at her prawn and fruit skewered lunch. She managed to eat one before she pushed the plate away. She contemplated the letters in her file, all of them complete. She was right on schedule. She had spent hours on them, in the week
that she had been here. She had been filled with sorrow and cried while she wrote them, and wondered many times if she should rip them up and start over – or not write them at all. But now they were here, in a neat pile, with addressed envelopes to match. Underneath, were Google print outs of types of chemo and radiation, their effects, the prognosis for her type of invasiveness and various statistics and routes she could take that all seemed to end in the same place. A winding Labyrinth of false hope. A waste of time.
On her last day at the hotel, after she had packed neatly, after she had checked out, she went to a print shop and had her photos developed from the disposable camera she had purchased at the hotel. There were 6 photos in all, all the same. They were of her, taken by the waiter, as she sat in the patio restaurant. She was laughing – the waiter had said, “Say cheesie”, and it had seemed so ridiculous, so sweet. After she paid for her prints, she found a bench near a park surrounded by Royal Poinciana Trees, and she listened to boys playing in the background while she slipped a photo and letter into the right envelope.
One each for her sisters, her best friend, her mother, her husband.
A few blocks to the west she found a post office with a bell that announced her arrival and smelled like cigars and pineapple. The man who took her letters and her money nodded his head and smiled at her, and she smiled only a little in return. While she walked along the shoreline a short while later, she tried to imagine the photos bringing a sense of ease and soothing to the sting. She sent out a plea to the quiet waves that their grief would not linger nor haunt for an unreasonable amount of time. She envisioned her photo being kept close, and brought forth from time to time. This was my sister. This was my wife. Her name was Marilyn. And the story that followed didn’t have to be led by, or followed by sobs; they would see that even on the last day, she was free, and had moments of joy. As the balmy salt air whipped at her thin hair, she hoped they would forgive her.
Photo courtesy of Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com