It was a clear December Friday evening that my wife of six months and I boarded a direct flight to the Bahamas. We both needed a vacation after working hard for the past half year and were eagerly looking forward to spending seven glorious days in the sun while leaving the cold ugly nasty New York winter behind, even if only for a week.
We liked to travel at night for a lot of reasons. First it was almost always cheaper and a lot less crowded. These events took place way before our country was immersed in terrorist paranoia and therefore the airports were a breeze to navigate, very unlike today. Of course a lot of it had to do with the fact that both of us worked during the day and could not get off. Also we did not want to waste any precious weekend time traveling.
Arriving at our hotel near midnight and after the usual check in ritual, we were thrilled to just flop down in our room and try to get some sleep. This was very difficult after the excitement of the trip and the anticipation of events to come the next morning. After a couple of stiff vodkas we fell asleep no problem.
I woke Saturday morning to the intense streaming light that broke through our window shades and bathed my face with warm inviting sunshine. “Get out of bed and come have some fun” it seemed to say as I suddenly remembered that I was not in New York in the cold ugly nasty winter but instead I was languishing in Bahamian paradise. I looked over at my wife, still sleeping soundly and looking so beautiful with the sun on her face.
She must have felt me staring at her and started to awake. As she opened her mouth to speak I nearly went into shock. Her tongue was jet black! I kid you not it was as black as a moonless night up in the country! I panicked. I jumped out of bed screaming “Your tongue is black! Your tongue is black!” I immediately assumed that she had contracted some rare tropical disease overnight which had caused this horrible vision of a black tongue.
She started laughing out loud so hard that I at once assumed that it had also affected her mind and she was going insane! Oh my God was I panicked at that moment. Only after a few minutes had gone by did I actually start to listen to the words that were being formed with the help of her very black tongue.
“Relax silly” she said calmly “This is just a simple digestive enzyme reaction I get from time to time. It is hereditary and my Father gets it all the time. I hardly ever have this happen but it does show up every now and then. It goes away in a day or two.” And then she stopped talking and serenely walked off to the bathroom without another word.
“Well you might have warned me about this before we got married” I shouted through the door “you nearly gave me a heart attack. What else is there about you that I don’t yet know?” I felt betrayed and horrified that I was unaware of this nasty condition that there may be other weird things about her for all I know. It may take years for all of them to surface I thought in horror.
“There is nothing else you big dope, and this is such a small insignificant issue that I never thought to bring it up” she said with a big reassuring smile on her face. “Now let’s go have some breakfast and then have some fun.”
I was all for that, although somewhat shaken, so we made our way to the lovely dining room in the hotel which overlooked the ocean. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I had never been to the Bahamas and was deeply impressed with the abundance of natural beauty that surrounded us from all angles.
I ordered eggs, toast and coffee which arrived in an attractive presentation with some local fruits added as a garnish. The only item I was missing was some butter for the toast. I asked the waitress if she could please bring us some butter. “No problem mon, I get if for you right away” was her immediate and reassuring answer. She then disappeared.
How was I to know that in the Bahamas the phrase “right away” was to be interpreted as about twenty minutes to a half hour. I found this out the hard way long after I finished my eggs, coffee and very dry toast. About twenty five minutes after I asked for butter the waitress showed up with a pleased as punch look on her face and said “Here is you butter mon, will you be wanting anything else?”
Look, I grew up in New York. Where I grew up “right away” means about a minute and a half if that long. I guess I was still stressed out from the black tongue incident earlier in the morning and I actually said “Now what am I supposed to do with it now that I have finished?” This was shocking behavior for me because I was never ever rude to wait people, ever. You learn this in New York very quickly as you grow up because they can be extremely vindictive if you are rude to them.
The waitress just looked at me for a moment, shrugged and calmly walked off. No reaction from her whatsoever led me to think that I needed to learn a whole new way of life here. The rules were not the same as back home.
Trying to forget the nightmarish start to my vacation I spent the rest of the day laid out on the beach like a pancake on the griddle. My wife warned me several times about staying in the sun too long on our first day. After a while she ordered an umbrella and refused to sit in the sunshine at all. I was enjoying the feeling of sitting in the sun as contrasted to the weather I had just yesterday. It felt so good I did not want to leave it.
Big mistake. Later that afternoon I realized that foolishly I had injured myself and would pay the price over the next few days. My skin was beet red which later turned into a dull aching red and promised to torment me for quite some time.
Well at this point I figured that although our vacation has gotten off to a horrible start, it can only get better from here. I was grateful with the thought that all of the awful things have been gotten out of the way the very first day and all will be well hereafter.
That night I made reservations at the hotel night club for dinner and a show. We were eagerly looking forward to spending an exciting evening enjoying the sumptuous food and being wonderfully entertained.
We both got dressed up in our finest and went to dinner. It was more than I ever anticipated. Each course surpassed its predecessor and the service was outstanding. We started drinking our usual vodkas from the moment we sat down and we kept it up right through the meal. After dinner the show began and the drinks kept coming. I thought for a moment that perhaps we were exceeding our limits but then what the heck. We were on vacation and we deserved to have a great time. Enjoy we did as the show was fantastic.
Feeling really good about myself I thought I would do something romantic. I looked at my wife, winked and said “Here is the key to my room honey, why don’t you go upstairs and make yourself comfortable. I’ll be up right after I pay the bill.” I almost felt like James Bond for a moment it was such a suave thing to do. She took the key with a big smile and left as I signaled the waiter for the bill.
I rushed to the elevator on my way upstairs with the hottest thoughts in my head. I couldn’t wait to see her. We had been married six months ago but life was still fresh, new and exciting and I was in a big rush to get to our room. As I got to our floor I was filled with excitement and anticipation as I opened the door with my duplicate key.
She was not in the room. I ran to the bathroom and no one was there. The bed was made and there was no sign of anyone having been there since we left.
I immediately assumed that she had needed to go back downstairs for some reason. Perhaps she had forgotten her purse or shawl. It did not matter. I simply went back to the elevator and proceeded to the night club. It was empty and she was nowhere to be found.
Again I assumed an innocent reason for this reality. I thought oh well, she came down, got what she forgot and went back upstairs and we simply missed each other like two ships traveling in the night. So back up to the room I went certain that I would find her there this time. I opened the door with a big smile on my face ready to share the silliness of these events, only to find the room empty once again.
OK, this time I panicked. I did not know what to think. Here we were in a strange country with different rules than where we come from and much to my horror my wife is missing!
I rushed back downstairs and rechecked the nightclub. Nothing. I ran to the lobby and scoured every corner and again nothing. In my wild state I thought oh of course, on her way upstairs before she may have gotten sick and went into the ladies room located off the lobby. So I grabbed the nearest woman I could find and dragged her to the ladies room all the while blubbering that my wife is missing and that I needed her to go look in the ladies room to see if my wife was there.
I cannot describe the look of shock on this poor middle aged woman’s face. Suffice it to say that my grabbing her like that in the lobby was the very last thing she expected to happen to her that evening. But like a good soldier she went into the ladies room for me and in a moment or two came out stating that it was empty. My wife was not in there.
Now I was beyond panic and I started thinking about abductions of women in strange countries who are never seen again and I was now a raving lunatic. I ran to the front desk and started jammering at the poor clerk. She was a nighttime employee from a local town nearby and was not accustomed to having panicked guests blabbering at her. She listened politely for a few minutes while I tried to get all of the details out and then she calmly said “Mon, you need to go to the police and remember to bring your passports.”
I did not wait for another word and ran right to the elevator banks to go upstairs quickly and grab our passports which I intended to bring to the police to report a missing person.
No elevators were available momentarily so I stood there and continued to bathe in my fear, paranoia and panic. I was beside myself from emotional upheaval at this point.
The elevator bell finally rang and as I stood in front of the door as it opened there was my wife! She was standing in the back of the elevator swinging gently from side to side with a ridiculous grin on her face. As it turns out she had one too many vodkas and had been riding the elevator up and down ever since she left me in the nightclub. She was either too bombed to get off or in her inebriated state she was enjoying riding the elevator much too much to exit!
The range of emotions that riddled my body at that point is not describable. Some of them included a wave of relief at having found her, rage at having been put through this experience for nothing, a deep frustration with how my vacation was going and a host of other feelings all jumbled together in a huge red ball of feeling that I cannot dissect for you at this time.
Needless to say I took my wife back to the room and put her right to sleep. After calming down I realized I could take as much blame for what happened as she. I knew we were exceeding our drinking limits and did nothing to stop it.
I then had another stiff vodka and fell asleep myself thinking that after all this our vacation had to get better because we had hit rock bottom by this time.
The next morning we woke to a coldfront which invades the Bahamas I learned from time to time. The entire balance of our vacation was spent wearing heavy jackets and sweaters until it was time to go back home.
I can sincerely say that vacation was the most horrible of my entire life. This is true to this day and we are now married over thirty five years!