Naked in Antigua; Luggage in Aruba

Beach vacations
We had a toddler and a toddler wannabe. We’d moved six times in six years, following the corporate something-or-other. We’d just sold our house and were moving to I-forget-where-now.

In between frenetic demands — leaky diapers, new jobs, snowstorms, moving boxes, plants that arrived dead — we decided to take a break and leave the kids with Grandma. I felt a little guilty about it. But we needed a rest. We’d go to the Caribbean and relax for a change. We didn’t yet know about a credit card problem that would render us temporarily insolvent.

The airport was bedlam, our frame of mind as well. That’s probably why we forgot to notice the crucial error: The bags went to Aruba; we went to Antigua. Lots of miles in between. Oh well.

We were quick to adapt to the new reality once we’d absorbed the facts: We had a pre-paid hotel stay, a bogus credit card, the clothes on our backs and the kits full of toiletries we’d had the foresight to carry on board the plane. Nothing else.

It was simple. We took the paltry sum the airline had given us for clothes and sundries, and marched to the local tourist outfitter for supplies. (No need to risk the questionable credit of the credit card; the bags would arrive any day now, we thought.)

Then we began the daily rotation: the clothes just worn were given to the maid to wash, the new threads were on our backs. Next day: the opposite. Nothing to worry about there. No worries about theft because we had nothing to steal.

We had a lot of fun lying under the palms by the pool, lolling in the caress of the breeze. Here we composed the nasty letter we would send to the cheapskate airline which is now out of business.

Dear So and So, How you feel we can get by with one bathing suit and one pair of shorts and a shirt each is beyond us. We bet you never had to put up with this crap. No sir, you’re the CEO. Mr. Big Shot. Everything goes swimmingly for you. Blah, blah, blah.

I did the backstroke while designing our diatribe. My husband slathered on the tanning lotion; we’d put the charge on our hotel bill and would see what the iffy credit card would do on departure day.

One day, we drove around the island in a rental car. I forget now how we had the financial wherewithal to finagle that one. We stopped at various lookouts for a view of this splendid place.

As I stood at the top of Shirley Heights looking out over the spectacular blues and greens of historic English Harbour with its array of costly yachts, I waited for my husband to snap my picture. It then occurred to me that I was not wearing any underwear. Given our tiny clothes allowance and the few bugs remaining to be worked out in the laundry rotation, I’d somehow skipped this crucial detail.

I wore a diaphanous shirt and skirt, purchased with our measly emergency fund. The fashion freedom was exhilarating, but I wondered about the photograph. Would it be X-rated?

I asked my husband what he thought of the view — backlit by the sun, the breeze blowing my skirt. “It’s a fabulous shot,” he said, eyebrows raised. Just wonderful.”

Men! I should have known better than to ask him.

We wiled away the week, reading, swimming. We drifted off into our naps watching the lizards etch a path across the ceiling as the fan made its languid circles. We watched the gambling at night because we couldn’t afford to wager, and didn’t play tennis — no rackets. At mid-week with no luggage in sight, we transferred to the property next door, as per our prior arrangement.

Once in our new digs, we headed for the restaurant to sample the local fare. A lady with a lilting accent waited on us. When I foolishly asked her if the place had a pool, she extended her hand toward the beach and looked at me like I might be crazy.

Jolly Beach
Jolly Beach

Right. Who needs a pool when you have this very, very large body of water called the Caribbean at your feet? Stupid me. We went for a swim, snoozed some more.

Saturday came. We’d have to leave the next day, I noted with sadness. Still no luggage, of course. As I worked my way through the day’s laundry rotation, a knock sounded at the door of our beach cottage. Our bags had arrived.

We opened the once-coveted suitcases. What an assortment of goodies met our eyes: shorts, shoes, shirts. Beach towels, dinner dresses, tennis rackets, extra paperbacks. Flip flops, goggles, fins.

We could play tennis now, dress for dinner, worry about our stuff. But who wanted to? I’d loved my time as a vagabond, a penniless, item-less bum.

I felt sort of dejected. I saw the bags as the harbinger of things to come. We’d go back to civilization — to bills, incompetent moving companies, telephone hookups, searches for new doctors and dentists.

Why couldn’t we just send the bags back to Aruba and stay here sans accoutrements in the resort with the world’s biggest swimming pool?

If You Go

Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism

www.antigua-barbuda.org

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