Oasis

Romantic Couple at Sunset

Leep got himself a ferocious sunburn on his very first day at the resort, and subsequently had to wear thick lashings of sunscreen, a hat, and cover both his arms and legs to protect himself, even when he sought refuge in the shade under a tree or umbrella or beach canopy.

He regularly submerged himself in tub of cold water until his steaming skin warmed it to soup temperature, and took two extra-strength Advil every four hours as directed, to deal with the stinging pain of the burn. He lay in darkened rooms until the buoyant nausea subsided.

He watched the swimmers and boaters and fishers and wind-sailors with wistfulness and regret, even though he couldn’t swim and wouldn’t dream of paying $185 to frighten himself by wind sailing. And so he became an observer of others on vacation, not a vacationer himself.

There was the self-conscious newlywed couple, desperate to make romantic memories but curiously awkward and restrained; Felipe the activities director whose bright encouraging expressions dropped from his face in seconds when he turned his head away from the giddy group learning to line dance or build leis or use flippers. There was Alejandra, lean and muscular, who patrolled the pools and cafes and restaurants in a navy staff bikini and black pareo; the blonde sisters who took pains to befriend the staff and ignore the advances of other guests; the quiet man and woman who spent long days in the sun in silence and stillness, growing black; and the young family whose children were more dignified and well-mannered than their parents.

And Leep, anonymous in a wide rimmed straw hat, behind dark sunglasses, in long sleeves and grey cotton trousers that covered him to his ankles, distant and unapproachable.

Then, one day, he fell in love. He didn’t kid himself: love among the palms was a fantasy of Leep’s, at least it was since he researched and booked his ten days at a lushly landscaped all-inclusive tropical resort. There were photos online of couples laughing together in an azure pool, sipping exotic drinks in candlelit dining rooms, silhouetted by orange skies as they strolled hand in hand at twilight. He understood, of course he did, that these were marketing ploys, alluring and fantastical and unreal, but he fell under their spell nonetheless. The silhouette of the man could be Leep, why not? The woman could be a blonde sister, or Alejandra in a black pareo, or someone seated next to him at the fish and chip lunch, or someone he encountered not far from the resort, while sitting on a stool in deep cool shade, sipping Dos Equis and watching the beach vendors hawking their silver and leather.

Yes, there.

She was tall and too thin and wore a gauzy embroidered top cinched by a leather belt over jeans so faded as to be almost white in colour. Her leather sandals had loops that surrounded her big toes. She was dark, naturally, since she lived in constant sunshine, and her voice, though soft, betrayed too many years of smoking cigarettes.

“I quit in 1990,” she told Leep. “Cold turkey.” She spoke in short bursts like that, which Leep liked since they made his halting manner of speech seem almost normal.

“Another beer, Leep?” She took his empty glass and smiled at him with slightly raised eyebrows.

He’d already had his usual limit, two, but he smiled back, shrugged and nodded, and Lacey laughed and pulled another frosted green bottle from the little refrigerator with the glass doors.

Reggie was at the far end of the bar as he was every day, setting himself apart because the fragrant smoke from his pipe did not please everyone. He sat with his back to the beach, facing the tiny bar and the banyan tree behind that and the modest whitewashed hotel behind that. Soon Camille would roll out of bed and appear in her rumpled sundress and open weave cardigan sweater, ordering an orange juice, then and orange juice with vodka, then a vodka straight up.

Tourists strolling the beach might spot the small, shady, set-back oasis, but Leep knew it looked like a black hole from the sand, appealing only to someone like Leep, sweating under his hat and his shirt and with an eye for the black holes of the world.

Sometimes the curious would appear anyway, and perhaps have a drink with pineapple juice or slices of papaya which Lacey served up with a flourish, before setting off into the real world again. Reggie and Camille and Leep would fall silent for a while, as Lacey bantered with the fresh faces, and when they finally left Camille might pick up the story of her ex husband where she’d left off, or Leep would ask Lacey another question about her travels, or Reggie might say, “When did shoulder pads come back in style?”

Leep and Lacey, Reggie and Camille. They were a group. A gang. A comfortable clique. A casual club. An exclusive society of dark sitters, nectar sippers, easy idlers. Leep had never been a member of a group that welcomed him by choice, not ever. Among these people, Leep was a swaddled stranger, a mysterious man of few words, a kindred soul, a fellow traveller. He had never been happier in his life.

In the evenings, before bed, as he lingered in the tub of cold water he would dream about calling Mr Duffy and quitting his job, taking an inexpensive room at the whitewashed hotel, banging out his stories on a typewriter, sipping beer and sharing experiences with his group, his club. His friends. His woman.

Why not?

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Surnames Through the Ages [Repost]

Prompt: Telephone

hotel maid

The first Thursday of every month they meet at a hotel, a different hotel every time, according to the order they appear in the old 2014 telephone directory. They alternate procuring reservations and paying in cash for one night’s accommodation and register under names selected in alphabetical order from the book Surnames Through the Ages, in the chapter, ”Most Common”.

They don’t speak to one another, except in private sign language. When they arrive, they turn on the television, fairly loud, and then play a recording on a device that she brings in her bag. The recording is mostly silent, with the occasional cough, or snore, or flush of a toilet.

They make love soundlessly.

Until one Thursday when they check in under the name “Sullivan” at the Post and Pigeon Boutique Hotel near the farmers’ market.

So intense is their passion that they both cry out at once. In horror they dress quickly, and leave separately, never to meet again.


Surnames Through the Ages

Prompt: Embarrassing

hotel maid

The first Thursday of every month they meet at a hotel, a different hotel every time, according to the order they appear in the old 2014 telephone directory. They alternate procuring reservations and paying in cash for one night’s accommodation, and register under names selected in alphabetical order from the book Surnames Through the Ages, in the chapter, ”Most Common”.

They don’t speak to one another, except in private sign language. When they arrive, they turn on the television, fairly loud, and then play a recording on a device that she brings in her bag. The recording is mostly silent, with the occasional cough, or snore, or flush of a toilet.

They make love soundlessly.

Until one Thursday when they check in under the name “Sullivan” at the Post and Pigeon Boutique Hotel near the farmers’ market.

So intense is their passion that they both cry out at once. In horror they dress quickly, and leave separately, never to meet again.

Dream Job

Prompt: Money for Nothing
If you’re like most of us, you need to earn money by working for a living. Describe your ultimate job. If you’re in your dream job, tell us all about it — what is it that you love? What fulfills you? If you’re not in your dream job, describe for us what your ultimate job would be.

machine gun bird

I had a dream where I was an interpreter of dreams. One night, I dreamed that a man came to me and said, “I dreamed I awoke in a room full of windows.” I told him, “You are imprisoned.”

In the morning, I went to see my doctor and told her of the dream. She nodded and made a note.

The next night, a man came to me in a dream and said, “I dreamed I awoke in a house with many rooms, but all the doors were locked.” I said to him, “You are imprisoned.”

I told my doctor about this dream and she made a note.

The man in my dream came to me again, and said, “I dreamed I awoke in a room full of windows, but all the windows were barred.” I said, “You are imprisoned.”

The man in the dream told me, “I dreamed that all my meals come to me in my room.” I said, “You are imprisoned.”

I felt feverish. I asked my doctor if I was dreaming. She said, “Look out of the window.”

I looked out the window. Behind a fence, traffic streamed by in the heat, silently, as the windows did not open. In the distance I could see an emerald sea. Two guards stood by the locked gates. They carried Heckler & Koch MP5SD3s with S-E-F trigger groups and stocks extended.

A man and a woman came to the gate as I watched. They had visible cameras and carried satchels. The guards let them pass. Two children approached the guards, and they spoke. The guard fired shots on the ground near the children’s feet, and they ran away.

A woman in a caftan approached the guards from the inside. They allowed her to pass to the city beyond the gates.

“Am I in a hotel or am I in a prison?” I asked my doctor.

“Yes,” she said.

 


Image: National Geographic