I can’t figure out why google images of “wife dare cruise” are of Tom Cruise, and the same search on Bing pulls up spread-eagled married fatties on holiday. I can’t even figure out how I involuntarily requested this search, because I did not type it in. By comparison the following selfie is as sinful as oatmeal.
This is the sunburn I received from not getting anyone’s attention long enough to help apply the SPF 50 waterproof twenty-bucks-a-tube sunscreen. I forgot my own rash guard in the panic to remember to bring everyone else’s rash guards. By everyone else, I mean ten of us, the whole surviving maternal arm of my well-meaning but ditzy relations, from swaying, frog-faced Obaa-chan, to five little hooded-eye crickets, whose incessant chirping was quickly drowned out by vaguely tropical (if Coppertone could make a sound) unceasing intercom music.
I don’t have a lot to say about the first three days, because if you will notice in the photo, in the drinking glass is my fourth or fifth packet of Dramamine pills which I’d started popping several hours before boarding. They slowed me down so much that the journey through miles of a hellishly long and narrow corridor to the cabin was fraught with narcolepsy. It was only through tracking the fish on the carpet (the fish, my brother noted, in a brotherly way to help his typically disoriented sister, swam upstream to the bow of the ship), like a drunk college student, that I ever was ever able to return to cabin 10518.
I fell asleep on Obaa-chan’s shoulder during the five-minute mandatory safety drill, and I wonder if this and my absence for the entire duration of the boat ride to Bermuda convinced her that I was a drug addict, and this is why my mother says she has decided to cut me out of her will. If I was awake at all, I was throwing up, so that was my trade-off. In both cases I was trapped in the cabin.
The whole thing was my mother’s idea, and being a timid creature, I could not say no to her grand plan of fun memory-of-a-lifetime-making family togetherness. To anyone who does not throw-up at the thought of an inconstant horizon line, my sensitivity is cause for ridicule. “Oh, you’ll be fine, just wear one of those wrist-bands. It’s all in your head.”
It’s not in my head, it’s out there: a giant floating bodily function, over water that goes down to unimaginably immense pressures where there is no sun, and nobody loves one another (only the kind of white blind life that hunts in the dark without caring a flick about its own thousands of specks of progeny), how many feet down, how many miles to dry land, those are numbers surpassing the limits of my mind, which can only measure in terms of its own energies. Unfathomable fathoms. Nothing to look at to get a sense of place but the texture of the waves. This is all the part of it that I like–the feeling of being small and just as unknowable to those creatures down below as they are to me.
Onboard in our strange onboard world we are so many overweight and pampered cruisers eating, like, ALL the time, for what reason I am trying to understand. Seven restaurants, two of them open 24 hours, we are eating lox appetizers and cheese plates and cream asparagus soup and roast beef and pasta and two desserts, using as many dishes as possible, drinking two and three glasses at a time, and flushing the byproducts prodigiously. This must be the ultimate kind of R & R you save up for, for the like the whole year. It wouldn’t be so awful if, like whales at a cloud of krill, we were sucking it all in actively. What’s awful is that we are sitting there being spoon-fed by a haggard wait-staff numbering in the hundreds, who underpaid, and sleep-deprived, are stuck on the ship for 7 months at a time feeding, cleaning and washing us. We are an army of babies tottering in weekly cavalcades off the Boston docks. But unlike with babies, you know there is no love. How could there be?
The service staff was, I have to say it, largely divided by race into hierarchies. The European staff (for instance, the white-blond girl who coordinated child care, whose accent made my brother fall all over himself) worked fewer hours without getting their hands dirty. The people I didn’t see so much of, not only because the disparity of their body mass to the patrons was so pronounced, but also because they had a habit of darting away into their quarters at the lowest level of the ship, were young South Asian women who are in the roaring belly washing and folding endlessly (3 poolside towels thrown on the chairs x 1,200 guests in and out of the pool area, so 3,600 pool towels, and maybe 1,500 sheets, and maybe 6,000 regular washcloths and bath towels on a daily basis).
I came out of hiding when we docked to pink beaches, teeming reefs for snorkeling, and the dazzling brightness of oddly inclusive locals (well, in Boston, they would be saying “We don’t like you intahlopers.” I forget what it feels like to be around people who are nice.) The kiddoes almost drowned a couple of times, a seashell necklace for my daughter cost eighty dollars, and Obaachan ripped up her knee when she fell over onto rocks under the duress of me trying to push a snorkel mask over her big head. She laughed it off.