It's the end of January and it couldn't be grayer. What I'd really like to do at a time like this is blow out of town, go somewhere tropical. Palm trees. White sand beaches. Warm breezes. I know that I'm not original in this.
However, there are two obstacles, no three, that keep me from hopping on a plane for that flight to the Caribbean. 1) I have a new book due at the end of April - I know, insane. Don't get me started. I haven't. (Ha, ha, Ellen. That was just a joke) 2) Money 3) I believe our family is wanted by a band of North Caicos guerillas.
The story goes like this: I planned a vacation for our family in the Turks and Caicos, a beautiful spot only a few hours from Boston. As my husband, Charlie, is an extremely athletic outdoors type who can't stand the thought of lying on a beach all day or being surrounded by commercialism, I divided the vacation into two parts. First part: fly to Providenciales, the big resort hub, and take a put-put plane to North Caicos. Remote. No resorts, except for a few eco-touristy things. That way he could have his rustic experience and I could get his antsiness out of the way. Second part: Fly back to Providenciales and stay at a lovely resort with an ocean-view room, pools, tiki huts on the beach, pina coladas on a tray. Perfect.
First day in the first part. We are staying in a modest "hotel" on the beach in North Caicos which is rustic and beautiful, though property is going for $90 million per square inch on the prospect that a bridge will be built connecting Providenciales to North Caicos. We can practically walk through the water to the Parrot Cay resort where Ben Affleck and Jen Garner got married.
Charlie bounds out of bed at 6 a.m. and declares he will go for a run up the length of the beach. This is where Anna and Sam, our two kids, and I are waiting when he returns an hour and a half later to declare that he is going to bike THE ENTIRE ISLAND.
"Have something to eat, first," I suggest.
But he scoffs at this. He has big plans to return to Vermont healthy and more in shape. And besides, don't you know that food just slows you down. No, all he needs is water. And off he goes.
It is 9 a.m.
Anna, Sam and I do what we can. The weather is not great despite pronouncements that the weather is ALWAYS GREAT in the Turks and Caicos. We swim. We build sand castles. We have lunch. Looking up the beach, I see a deserted resort where I had actually contemplated making reservations, but which was closed down by the Italian Parmalat scandal the week before. And then there's this spit jutting out. I decide to take Anna and Sam through the water around it that afternoon.
It is a fascinating adventure, especially when I realize the spit of land is not land, but a coral reef and that as we are coming back, the tide is coming in. Not the way it comes in at Cape Cod, but in a dramatic, a foot every fifteen minutes way. Shit! I grab Sam, who is only eight, and small, and urge Anna, who is thirteen, to plow on. Water is up to Sam's neck. Waves are crashing and I picture the three of us smashed against the reef. When we make it home it is three and I am certain Charlie will be thrilled to see us, worried beyond belief.
Except he's not there. Nor is he there two hours later when the sun is setting and Anna, Sam and I have changed into real clothes. The wind is picking up. It might storm. And then, just as the last rays sink over the horizon, Charlie appears, riding his bike down to the beach. At which point he falls off and lands face first in the sand.
He is drunk.
I don't mean a few sheets to the wind. Not toasted. I mean drunk. In all of our then fifteen years of marriage I'd never seen him that drunk, not even after his bachelor party. Plus, his shoulder is looking really odd. It's distorted.
"Are you okay?" I asked stupidly.
"I told them," he said, getting up, if you can call weaving from side to side getting up, "that they needed to start a revolution. They've got to take back their land." His theory - a correct one, probably - was that the natives were going to be screwed when North Caicos took off like Providenciales had and if they didn't want to be washing sheets, they needed to grab their guns and start by taking over the parking-lot sized airport.
Oh, brother. Sam and Anna give each other looks and I decide Charlie needs to get inside and get to bed--now! All that exercise, no food and he's as red as a lobster. Then there's the beer.
All I want to do is get him sober. It's a long process. Through it I hear how after bikng the island he stopped at a local dive bar to get water. The natives there insisted he drink a beer, too. Which he did and ended up buying a few rounds. That's when the revolutionary talk started with Charlie pounding the bar and declaring a junta. Satisfied that they would lead the war in his absence, he got on his bike, tried to jump a curb and dislocated his shoulder.
The bar was exactly fifty feet from our hotel. He'd arrived there at 2. He left at 6.
"Well," I said with a sigh, "at least you got drunk on North Caicos. You can go home and no one will be the wiser."
Uh, not true, Charlie says. Apparently, in the middle of this revolutionary rant who should walk in to this remote bar on this remote island but a woman he'd just interviewed to be principal of our local elementary school. She was staying at one of the eco-touristy things up the road. In fact, she's from Vermont, a mere few towns away.
"We'll always have North Caicos," has become the family joke, now. And let me just tell you, that fancy resort in Providenciales - where no one recognized him - was pretty damned nice. There's a lot to be said for lying amidst luxury and not worrying if there's a band of natives about to take over the airport because some white guy from Vermont said they should.
Gee, I hope this doesn't get me divorced,