Montego Bay, Jamaica – March 1998
If you want, you can drink rum punch all day at the Jack Tar all-inclusive resort. You can eat and drink until you get sick. If that’s what you want. This is the first all-inclusive resort that I’ve ever stayed at. I thought that it would be a good idea, because Jane has never been out of the United States. And besides, it’s good to experience all types of travel. You never know what you might like.
Jane and I drink rum punch on the beach. We lie on our beach towels and gaze at the windsurfers on Montego Bay. We have a history of lying on beaches and partying. In the summer before senior year of high school, we spent two weeks in California. Back then, we partied every day. We competed with each other to see who could get the darkest tan. She always won, because she has olive skin. We laugh about these memories, but I feel a pang of sadness. She was always the best at everything. The one that all the guys liked.
After a couple of drinks, we switch to water. We are no longer the partiers that we once were. This year we will both turn thirty. Jane has held up well. She still has her hard body, although now she has to work out almost every day to maintain it. Her trademark “bubblebutt”, as she calls it, is the only sign of softness. She sports it proudly. She received a compliment on it from a local man earlier, which provoked a rare smile. As usual, I’m invisible in her presence, but now I like it that way.
The combination of alcohol and sun gives me a headache, so I can only drink water at dinner. Our waiter, Ian, brings me a Coke as well. He says that it’s good for headaches. He lingers at our table. He’s been our waiter for every meal since we arrived yesterday. He offers to show us around Montego Bay tomorrow between his shifts. The resort warned us not to go into town, but we’ll be safe with him. We agree to meet outside of the gates after breakfast, because he’s not supposed to hang around the guests.
As he walks away, Jane says, “Everyone has been so nice here. Look at them.” She motions at the staff who have begun to dance with the guests. “It’s like they were born to smile.”
I smile to myself. I wasn’t sure that she would have a good time here, because she’s always been so against foreign travel. Every time I’ve tried to talk about my trips, she changes the subject. However, the Air Jamaica rate that I got through work was too good for her to pass up.
As promised, Ian gives us a quick tour of Montego Bay. The local women scowl at us as we look around the crafts market. Ian walks us most of the way back to the resort, and then goes to workout. As soon as he’s out of sight, a couple of local men hurry towards us. We make it inside the confines of the resort just before they catch up to us. The security guard shakes his head at us.
Later, I convince Jane to try snorkeling. She watches what I do, but keeps getting water in her mask. “Here, let me help you.” I reach out.
“No. I can fucking do it myself.” But after a couple more tries, she walks back to her towel and flings the snorkeling gear on the sand. She flops down on her towel and shakes her head in frustration.
The wind has picked up and the sea is no longer as calm, but I immerse myself in it for a long while. When I emerge, dark clouds are visible over the far hills. I return our snorkeling gear, and then we head inside. A large storm is headed this way, one of the staff members informs us.
We take our turns in the shower, and then Jane heads out for more rum punch. As soon as she leaves, there’s a knock on the door. Ian has stopped by to see if we’ve had a good day. I invite him in. He looks over his shoulder and then steps inside.
I sit at the table. “Have a seat.”
He grabs my hand and moves his face towards mine.
I duck out of the way. Before I can speak, he tries to kiss me again.
“Ian! What are you doing?”
He backs away. “Oh, okay. No problem. I’ll see you girls at dinner.” He smiles and walks out.
The shock gives way to sheepishness. I recently heard three of my colleagues from the travel agency talk about how they come to Jamaica for the sole purpose of getting laid. One woman is a gray-haired frump in her fifties. The other two women have been down here twice in the past month. Men go to Asia. Women go to Jamaica. Ian was doing what he thought I wanted.
Jane walks in, drinks balanced in one hand. “I wanted to buy some smokes, but couldn’t fucking find them. I saw Ian on the way back and he said he’d get some for me. What’s so funny?” She hands me a plastic cup.
“He totally hit on me. I was sitting here and he just swooped down on me.”
Her face hardens. She’s silent for a long moment. Her eyes narrow to slits. Her lips curl into a cold smile. “Well, that fucking n*@$#*r better bring my fucking smokes.”
A searing pain moves through my chest. She’s angry that he hit on me and not her. Not that she would ever cheat on her husband. This has never happened before. She wants to hurt me.
I take a deep breath. “Please don’t say that.”
“Don’t you fucking tell me what to say. You think you’re so superior. You and your traveling. So fucking stupid. There ain’t nothing here that you can’t find better in America.”
I get up and go out onto the balcony. I lean on the railing and look over the sea. The wind whips my hair around my face. A wall of black clouds advances. The sea churns. There’s nowhere to go.
I go inside and lie down on my bed. Jane lies on her bed watching television. Hand firmly on the remote control. Triumphant smirk on her face.
I turn on my side and stare out the sliding glass door. The sky’s eerie peach color slowly merges with the gray clouds. Thankfully, we go home tomorrow. As the hours pass, the tension in the room thickens and my resentment grows. I want to puke. But I have no one to blame but myself. A wave of sorrow washes over me. Back in high school, I was so desperate for friends that I hung around anyone who would let me. Jane didn’t go to my high school, so she was oblivious to the rumors. She would brag about how she’d use people for their cars or money. While I was driving her around in my car. She’d blow her cigarette smoke in my face. Those rare times when a guy would notice me, she’d make sure to divert his attention. We had some good times, though. She was fearless. We’d go to house parties in the Bay City “ghetto” where we were often the only white people. We danced in cramped basements to live deejays who spun music that we’d never heard in our heavy metal world. No one there so much as raised an eyebrow. Those were the days just before crack moved in and made it dangerous.
After high school, I moved away. She got married and stayed in the same town. Years passed. I continued to attract “friends” like Jane. As my world expanded, my confidence grew. I became comfortable with solitude. I cut the ties with toxic people, one by one.
The storm rages through the night. I look over at Jane. Even in sleep her face is smug. Thank God I’m not like you. Finally, I drift off to sleep.
The next morning, only remnants of storm remain. Gray skies and drizzle. The winds are calm. We eat breakfast and then catch our flight to Chicago. Jane is in good spirits. I let her think that she has won. During the three hour drive from Chicago back to Grand Rapids, I turn the radio up to discourage conversation. I go over scenarios in my head. How will I say goodbye? I could let all the anger out and scream at her. I could calmly explain to her, in detail, why she’s no longer welcome in my life. I could slap her hard across the face.
When we pull up to my apartment, her husband is waiting dutifully. Just as he always does. He doesn’t acknowledge me. Not because he doesn’t like me, but because all of his attention is focused on her. After we grab our backpacks, I lock her door and mine. Then I turn and walk to the front door of my apartment building without a word. Before I step inside, I glance once more over my shoulder. Jane stands in the street, her face contorted with profound hurt. What does she expect? A hug? Thank you for coming? Love ya? I turn away and let the door close behind me.