Rum Punch and Old Resentments


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.

29 thoughts on “Rum Punch and Old Resentments

  1. Great story – I think many people will relate to it! Isn’t it wonderful how as we get older, quality over quantity prevails! To experience that moment of truth when you realise that you don’t need them and that your life will be better for it.

  2. I can totally relate to having to remove toxic people from your life – those who steal your energy, and have no time to let you shine. It’s always the right decision.

    • That’s for sure. I’ve never regretted cutting those people out of my life, but I regret the time and energy lost to them. Oh well, we all have our lessons to learn.

  3. ciao! a toast to your story. do close the door on ‘old resntments’…they can only exist if you keep them in the now . the time lost…grows us. no regrets. rum punch.

  4. Well done my friend! Travel has a way of stripping away the accoutrements of everyday life so you are left with just the core relationship laid bare – the good and the bad. No distractions. Takes courage to take that knowledge and know that it is time to move on.

  5. really like the message in this post – sadly many so-called friends are just like this, and you have to cut them out sooner or later. energy-draining, and very toxic. had some just like it!!

    • I think there’s an epidemic of toxic people nowadays. It’s a challenge trying to avoid these parasites. The trick is to learn how to stay off of their radar.

      • very true! and yes, hubby and I have become adept at avoidance of these types. don’t you find though, that they seem to gravitate towards you even then?!!! it can be frustrating and annoying, and sometimes you just have to be rude to get rid of them.

        • Oh yeah, they can spot those who’ve got what they need to survive. Because they sure aren’t going to get it from others of their kind. I recently had to cut one off and I had to be rude about it. It’s not easy, because there’s always the guilt at hurting someone’s feelings. But I’m at the point where I’m fed up. Nothing is going to get better if this toxic behavior continues to be tolerated.

  6. Very powerful post. I agree, it’s one that most will be able to relate to.

    When we decided to live on the road full-time we got a lot of “toxicity” from some “friends” and family from home. At first I jumped through hoops trying to explain to them the reasons for our journey. My explanations always fell on deaf ears or triggered even more resentment. It was crazy to me. I finally gave up.

    Not too long after I decided we really didn’t owe anyone an explanation, especially the naysayers, I found the following saying:

    “Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges – so the crazies can’t follow you”

    Words to live by 🙂

    Thanks for another wonderful post!

    • That quote is priceless. Isn’t it funny that people demand explanations for a lifestyle that isn’t hurting anyone. They’re threatened by your freedom and probably a little jealous. It hurts when the people closest to you can’t accept who you really are. The longer that you’re “away” the easier it will get. They’ll stop demanding explanations and just avoid the subject.

      I used to try and talk about my trips when I’d go home for visits, but gave up. Complete strangers (those who read this blog) are more interested in my travels than even my closest friends and family, except for my Mom who’s very supportive. And yet they expect you to listen in fascination about their new landscaping projects, or the bundt cake pans that they got on sale at Target, or some petty family drama.
      Thanks a lot for your insight!

  7. Some “Friendship Contracts” have to come to an end. It’s hard especially when they have been you’re best friend for years.
    I’ve been wanting to write a similar thing about a friendship ending, but at the moment it’s too soon, might wait until a year or few has passed first.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Sorry to hear it was your best friend. “Jane” was one of my best friends and I should have broken it off many years earlier. It took her appalling behavior on this trip to make me do it. You’ll definitely feel better writing about it, when it’s time.

      • Funnily enough, it was also on a trip that really pushed the friendship to end. I guess I’m still in a bit of shock on the way she treated me.

        We live and learn 😉

  8. wow what a toxic friend! I can’t believe you travelled with her..I have my own toxic friend that I finally cut off couple of years ago. Best thing I ever did. Wonderfully written and thanks for sharing.

    • Yeah, it wasn’t a good idea. I accept total responsibility for inviting her along when I should have known better. However, if it weren’t for her vile outburst, I might still be friends with her. It needed to happen.

      • True. Sometimes you need that wake up call, that shove, the last straw etc. happened to me too.

  9. We all go through this, for me it was in Cancun but with 2 toxic girls, never doing that again. I can wait for you book, the more I read the blog, the more I want to read your memoir, when is it coming out?

    • Oh wow, a trip with 2 witches. How awful.

      Regarding my memoir: it will be a while before it’s published. I’m revising the 5th draft right now. Parts of it are in good shape, but others need work. I prefer to take my time and really polish it before I look for an agent or publisher. That also takes a lot of time. So, I’d say a couple of years or so. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot more adventures to post. 🙂

  10. Some people get so trapped, caught up inside their own small worlds, that they are never comfortable venturing out into other worlds.

    Keep being unique, and getting about our world, the travelers I’ve met (rather than tourists) have all been wonderful people, and never claustrophobic about living in a world without boarders. Well, without boarders between peoples, not nations. All the best in further travels!

  11. One’s need to be praised is in fact just food for self-importance which I think are enslaved to childish craving for validation – hollow words that are just short-lived.

    And it is always true to just keep the companionship of those who are compassionate and encouraging of our paths but still maintaining equanimity to those who aren’t. 🙂

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