SATURDAY, APRIL 2
We wake up to find that we are docked in Cozumel, Mexico, excited purely by the merit of its exotic otherness. We flood off the boat in droves and find a mini mall boasting AIR CONDITIONING! and selling oversized t-shirts with cartoon female bodies in bikinis—predictably disproportioned—and authentic ponchos with NFL logos. They price their merchandise with dollars, not pesos. We keep our heads down, feeling more heckled than enticed, amidst the chorus: “Souvenirs!” “Five dollars only!” “Real silver!” And obviously not meant for my ears: “Spend it all…” followed by low laughter.
We walk for 30 minutes, bashfully avoiding solicitous natives, not having booked snorkeling lessons or dolphin encounters, until we’ve convinced ourselves that we have seen the real Cozumel. The three blossoming blisters on my feet, optimistically, foolishly clad in brand-new sandals, help do the convincing.
We head back to the ship, looking for anyone else shuffling in the same direction to assuage our feelings of wasted opportunity and shame, and stop in a convenience store selling all of the usual things, like Gatorade—only taller, thinner Gatorade. We get in line to buy Advil for our now-chronic headaches and are told they cannot make change, despite having been paid in ones by the two previous customers. Another tourist comes to our rescue and trades bills with us.
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Back in our room, I shower, washing Mexico off my skin and then take a nap—the third one so far. After a hard hour of sleep, I am drawn out of the privacy of our stateroom by the promise of free fish and rice, my husband by unlimited ice cream. Wanting to walk off our meal, we wander around the ship. On the same level are the Casino Royale and a nursery where parents can book a child-free hour for $8. I have no baby to give away, so we amble toward the casino.
Not a soul in sight, the gambling hall lacks the luster that Hollywood gives it. Art Nouveau women stare from every wall, sirens wearing their femininity like a snare, images of blatant female sexuality to compliment the thrill of risk and bankruptcy. The statue on the roulette wheel slowly revolves, spinning from my husband’s errant hand, now gone on to tap and poke the various slot machines. She spins—dancing, twirling, waiting for the next player.
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When we get back to our stateroom, my husband is delighted to see a towel twisted into the shape of a monkey on a hanger hooked on the curtain rod. “The service person that attends our room probably left it to encourage a tip at the end of the cruise,” I tell my husband, spiteful for no reason. Whoever they were, they had meticulously stuck tiny pieces of dark paper where eyes would be, staying by some mysterious application. Its ‘hands’ were pinned by the clasp of the trouser clips on the clothes hanger. I tried to ignore it as I went to sleep.
To be continued…