Sometimes I can’t even believe my life. While everyone else was very busy fighting Nazis (?!#%*&@?!), I was busy vacationing luxuriously in the Caribbean, blessedly unaware of the stateside shitshow. And by “in the Caribbean” I mean literally in the Caribbean, alternately swimming, snorkeling and floating effortlessly in impossibly warm and clear waters for hours on end. We are enthusiastic snorkelers, my lover and I, and we had finally fulfilled a long-ago promise and purchased our own fins and masks for the trip. (Did you know you can get swim goggles with corrective lenses? TRUE FACT.)
A natural coral jetty divided the resort’s two sandy coves, and there were spectacular reefs very close to shore. It felt like a dream, really, and everything was going so wonderfully…
Until that little fucker Luther showed up.
Allow me to set the scene.
Not only are these waters breathtakingly beautiful, the resort itself is the kind of swanky place with a restaurant that serves exquisitely prepared local seafood and artisanal cocktails made with native fruit. At the day spa Yolanda worked miracles on my beleaguered back, and later Shangria poured ice cold sundowners at The Point bar, way out on the end of the jetty where we watched the sunset and moonrise nightly.
Also, excellent taste in decorative throw pillows.
(And I would know.)
One day, after a lazy breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar and rum-soaked raisins, we walked to the north beach for a late-morning snorkel. The seas were unusually calm, the skies were crystal clear, and we had the north cove all to ourselves. After visiting all my gorgeous fish and coral friends, I swam inshore to the shallower waters, tossed my fins up onto the sand and tipped over onto my back, drifting gently under a tranquil Caribbean sun. I made a mental note to tell my therapist when I got back that whenever he says “go to your safe place,” it looks, feels, smells and sounds pretty much exactly like this. Ahhhhh.
Then, ouch! A little sting! Right at the inner bend of my left elbow. I splashed straight up and stood there in the shallows, looking around warily for the offending insect. A light breeze rustled the palm fronds, and the waves lightly lapped the shore. A tiny piece of driftwood floated nearby on the glassy surface. All clear.
I returned leisurely to my former state, arms out to my sides. Now I snickered to myself that I was posed like Jeezus on the cross, except unlike a bloodied and miserable torture victim in a diaper I was positively beatific, resplendent in a black tankini.
Then, ouch! Another sting! WTF!? This time my right elbow! Again I splashed upright to full attention and spun around guardedly, hoping to spy the elusive bug. But again there was nothing, only a tiny piece of driftwood, no bigger than my smallest fingernail. Absentmindedly, I moved my hand toward it to brush it away.
It swam furiously away from my fingers. Not away from me, mind you, oh no. It kept the same, precise distance as it looped around toward my back, just out of range of my reach.
“OH. NO. YOU. DIDN’T.” I harrumphed.
At this point I sized him up suspiciously. He was clearly a loner, and not the sort of small fish that travels in schools. I had learned – twice – that he was a predator, inclined to unprovoked violence (like a squirrel, or you know, a fucking Nazi). And he was fearless, even against a creature hundreds if not thousands of times his size, speed and strength. Really, you should have seen him struggling so hard to swim so fiercely, with all of his fluttery fishy might, only to very, very gradually circle me. Like a shark.
It was hard not to laugh at him, but I reminded myself that this was serious business! My sacred floaty Jeezus safe place had been imperiously violated – twice – by a rude and nasty little beastie. I would not be able to return to it. Unless…unless I took matters into my own hands.
So I took him into my own hands, cupping the water beneath him and raising him up for a closer look. He did not like this one bit, no siree! He struggled mightily against my fingers and palms as the water slowly slicked away. Damn that tickled, all that flapping and fluttering, and I lowered him back into the sea. Now shoo! I ordered him sternly as I watched him swim away. That should be the end of it.
Except he didn’t swim away. He turned 180 degrees and headed straight back toward me. Unfuckingbelievable. You think this is some kind of a game? I’M not playing! Now I slid my nice new snorkel mask beneath him, and again hoisted him out of the sea. He struggled frantically against the silicon sidewalls as I tromped ashore.
I glanced back to see the lover still snorkeling along the jetty, oblivious to the shenanigans closer to shore. A helpful beach attendant had left pint-sized acrylic tumblers of ice water on the table next to our lounge chairs. I drew deeply from one of them, tossed the remainder into the sand and set down my snorkel mask/fish prison in its place. Back into the water, I rinsed it out and filled it up. Hmmm, now let’s see… I scooped up a handful of sand for the bottom, and dropped in some some tiny shells and colorful pebbles for decorative effect. Then, for dramatic accents, I tossed in a blade of sea grass, a clump of some green stuff that was growing on the sea floor, and finally, a piece of actual driftwood. (Believe me, I made damn sure of it).
Plonk went the fish from the mask to the glass, now a splendid little saltwater aquarium if I do say so myself. The fish of course was none too happy about his new digs. He wriggled frenetically up, down and around the perimeter, all for naught. Serves you right you little fucker, I shot back at him over my shoulder as I strode sassily back to the sea. The warm soft waters embraced and enveloped me. Sacred floaty Jeezus safe place: achieved.
A little later the lover returned from the reefs and swam up by my side. “I think we should get out of the sun,” he said. “This sunblock only lasts 80 minutes in the water.”
“80 minutes? That’s, like, almost an hour and a half,” I calculated brilliantly. “How long have we been out here?”
He looked at his waterproof watch thoughtfully, then raised an eyebrow. “Almost three hours,” he said, slightly alarmed. We were, after all, Whitey McWhitepersons, and without a base tan.
NOTE TO SELF: a state of bliss makes time stand still. Or rather, seem to.
We sloshed ashore and were toweling off when he noticed something a little off with one of the water glasses. “What’s that?” he asked.
“Oh that’s just Luther.” I don’t know why I said Luther, honestly. It just came out, maybe because we had been binge-watching the BBC TV series of the same name starring Idris Elba. Though I would hardly mind Idris Elba nibbling at me if you know what I mean.
Luther also happened to evoke of the name of this very island. Anyway it seemed to suit him, so Luther it was.
The lover peered into the tumbler. “What’s, uh, Luther? Doing in there?”
“I put him in time out.”
“I see.” He blinked at me a few times. “And are you putting him back in the water?”
“No. I’m taking him back to the room.”
“HE KNOWS WHAT HE DID,” I snapped shortly.
“Uh-huh,” he said. We gathered up our things, and I held Luther in front of me steadily as we hiked over the pale sands and grassy hills. “That’s seawater in there, right? It’s not…freshwater…?”
I stopped, narrowed my eyes and glared at him, slowly shook my head and walked onward in silence.
The lover puts up with a lot.
Luther was settled down by the time we arrived at the room. He had probably exhausted himself attempting to escape his confines. We eyed each other through the glass. Now I’m no professional ichthyologist, but even I could tell that Luther remained smug and unrepentant.
I took him inside and perched him prominently on top of the dresser, showered off and headed for lunch at the bar. By then, we and the staff had gotten to know each other fairly well because hello, bar, and I told them the tale of Luther. They were incredulous. No one had ever heard such a story, and most of these people were born and raised on the island.
“What kind of fish is it?” Lorenzo asked.
“It’s a Bitey McBiterfish obviously,” I said. “Actually I was hoping you could tell me.” I showed them the pictures on my phone, and much squee ensued: everyone working the lunch shift thought Luther was just adorable.
“What are you going to do with him?” They all wanted to know, including the lover I’m sure.
“I think I’ll keep him overnight, and release him tomorrow morning. He has to learn his lesson.”
Back in the room, Luther was glum. I ignored him.
But lo and behold, by morning Luther was contrite! Finally! And you know what? I even felt some some grudging admiration for him and his bad attitude. “You’re a tough little d00d, Luther,” I said.
As I had promised the staff (a.k.a. Luther’s fan club), I took him with us to breakfast and set him on our table. More squeeing ensued while Luther swam in lazy circles, clearly remorseful. After some strong coffee, we traipsed down to the beach with him. The south beach. Heh. It would take his tiny-ass fishy butt half the day at least to swim all the way around the jetty to the shallows of the north cove, where I first encountered him.
I waded into the water. There had been storms overnight so the seas were rougher than the day before, though not by much. And then and there, Luther was tossed unceremoniously back into the Caribbean Sea, never to bite again. Well, at least not me: I remained blissfully unbitten for the rest of my glorious days on the island.
I’m quite sure Luther told all his fishy friends to stay far, far away from that bitch in black ‘cuz she ain’t playin’.