Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kiribati: Getting Back

Hector is an SUV: sporty, tough, powerful and a fuel-guzzler. He gulps his power drink by the gallon and seems to keep going strong no matter how much of the hard stuff he has in his system. Shot for shot he has no rival. Hector is either drinking or sleeping.
I turned to reply but he was gone.

I teetered atop my stool, empty basket of shark tacos still in front of me. Cannon fire  blasted across the midline of my brain. The heat and the hangover played tricks on my eyes, splitting the Mai Tai before me into two wavering cups of alcohol.

“You’d better catch up,” Hector chastised, sucking down his own second drink and heading off to pee in the ocean, still wrapped in the bloodstained sail.

There really were two drinks sitting before me.

“You’ve really done some job on that boat,” announced the man who mounted the stool next to mine. It was the same gold-skinned beach-frolicker Hector and I had tried to flag down that morning while we drifted helplessly in the center of a pack of sharks. The man’s skin glowed through the fabric of his white swim shorts and I did my best to pretend I couldn’t see the shadow of his penis through them. Once you’ve noticed a penis, it’s all but impossible to unnotice it.

I picked up the Mai Tai with a renewed interest, both for the something it gave me to do with my hands and the excuse to stare down into it. “I don’t know what happened,” I said into the ice cubes, sneaking a quick leftward glance (yup, that’s his penis), “It’s hard to remember yesterday.”

His laugh was a quick burst of sound so loud it made me jump. “Ha! You don’t know how you busted your mast in half? Crack! Straight through! Pow!”

“Nope,” I replied. Was there a clearly marked escape route? Last thing I needed with this headache was to get trapped in a conversation that utilized sound effects.

“Well, Bunnie and I are headed back the main island in an hour or so. We can give you a lift, and tow you’re boat in. We woulda helped if we’d have known you were actually in trouble. You know, I could really go for a scotch. They got scotch here. Hey, barkeep. You got Chivas? Yeah? Get me one: on the rocks. Bam! What a beautiful day.”

I need to escape from this vacation.

“Hey, hey, hey, Bunnie, baby, this is that girl with that boat we saw. What’d you say your name was?”

“Uh, Crystal.” I turned back to him. A woman who could have passed as an anime character draped her twig-arms around his bare chest. She too was clad in white and her nipples poked out at me through the three-inch triangles of bikini she must have taped to them. Why bother, people?

“Name’s Paul Ketner, Venture Capitalist. This is Bunnie. She’s a model. What is it that you do?”

 “I’m a writer. Fiction and travel narrative, mostly. Occasionally film and television scripts.”

Bunnie sucked on her teeth and used Paul’s glasses as a mirror.

Grabbing on to his drink, Paul leaned back and  scratched his crotch, nodded at me. “So you’ll let us give you a lift?”

Bunnie and Paul or one last, long swim. I wanted to live. I really did.

“Hey, man, your balls are showing,” Hector announced, slapping Paul on the shoulder.

Paul laughed like a maniac. “I know it! WOO! South Pacific! You wearing a toga? What’s that? Blood? Fuck man! Awesome!”

Paul led us aboard his yacht and proceeded to give us the extended tour. There were many details and histories I won’t trouble you with now. It was worse than watching video of other people’s kids on an iPhone.
The good ship Venture Capitalist
Eventually, our broken shell of boat was tied to the stallion yacht and we were on our way, sailing away from a sinking sun and into the darkness of yet another night voyage. I let the evening wash over me thought back over the last few days and my incredible knack for getting into every sort of trouble with my swarthy man-friends. Hector had a knack for chaos. It was the reason that I despised traveling with him and the reason that I kept calling him up time and again. There is something exotic about him, something magnetic the way—


Wait a minute.

Where’s Hector?


I climbed the ladder to the bridge but Paul and the Bunnie were utilizing all the available space. This ship has autopilot right? Is that the word for it on a boat?

“Hector?” I repeated, opening the door to the lounge and stepping across the threshold.

Inside, the lights twinkled like a thousand stars in the glass of the fully stocked bar. Hector, now dressed in one of Paul’s suits, spun on top of one of the bar stools, grinning that crazed smile of his. I swallowed the urge to collapse into a panic attack and approached. That's when I saw that Hector sat in front of a pile of white powder.

“What the fuck?” The words flew out of my mouth like an autonomic reflex.

Hector slid down from the stool, pushing his fingers into my lips. “Sh. Sh, sh, sh sh,” the shooshing teetered on the edge of laugher for a moment, but then regained its composure, “Shhhhh. They have blow.” He whispered loudly into my face, his mouth incapable of closing. It was like staring down a lion.

“Yes, I can see that.”

“You totally have to do a line. Oh my god. Best idea ever. Come on, I'll get it ready for you.”

“Are you out of your mind? Did they share? Do they know you're down here?”

“Let me just get this nice and straight for you and then, whoosh, you can come to the party. Snort this cocaine. Do it. Best idea ever.”

“They're gonna come back down here. That guy say he was a venture capitalist? What the fuck does that mean?”

“Best. Idea. Ever.”

“Isn't a venture capitalist like a modern day gangster.  Is that an entire duffel bag full of coke? Holy shit. Are they trafficking? Put it back.”

Hector's teeth gleamed out at me from behind lips pulled too tight. A ring of white sparkled around his dark irises. He might have fallen out of a horror film and straight into my life. “Dude, you gotta do this blow with me.”

“Give me that,” I squeaked, snatching the duffel from the bar top and sliding the loose powder into it. “The last thing we need right now is for the two of them to come down here and realize you're stealing their coke.” I looked around for a place to stash the bag, now zipped up tight. Over in the corner next to the other couple dozen seemed like a good place for it. “Damn it, Hector.”

“No, I'm serious. I'm totally serious. Look at me. Am I serious? Yes. Snort that.”

“Fuck me.”

“If you don't do this line of coke, nobody will and then they really will come down here and know that we stole their drugs and kill us and have sex with our skulls.” He laughed, more hyena than man and balled and unballed his hands in the neurotic need to continue moving. “That's why you totally gotta do that coke.”

“You make a compelling argument,” I lied, but I knew I’d have to humor him.

“Can I tell you something?”


I leaned over the edge of the bar and stared down at the line of cocaine. I’d seen it done once before, and even then the jester who attempted it failed. That wouldn’t stop me, though. I blew at the line with my mouth while pretending to snort it into my nose. Definitely not as easy as it sounds. About half of the drug ended up in my face, and though I jumped up and tried to wipe it away, it was too late. My nose was going numb.

“Ha ha ha ha ha!!!” the hyena cackled.

I quickly brushed the rest of the powder from the counter and, grabbing Hector by the arm, fled the scene of the crime.

In the soft glow of evening, Hector put his arms around me, more half-Nelson than hug. “You're my best friend ever,” he said, “I just want you to know that.”

“I sincerely hope not.” I couldn't seem to stop brushing my face off. Would they see the telltale dust littering my skin, confessing in my stead? There’s still more on me. Still more drugs. Have to get them off.

“We should go swimming.”


“Not now. Later.”

“Okay, later.”

A few hours later, safe in the hotel lobby, Hector and I returned what was left of the catamaran. Hector kept dipping his fingers into his pockets, rubbing them against his gums each time and sucking powder out from under his nails.

“I’m really sorry about this,” I told the man who held my credit card as collateral, “I’ll pay for whatever repairs you need to make.”

“She’ll pay for it,” Hector confirmed, “The mast is broken. She’ll pay for it.”

“I’m really sorry. I’m not sure what happened.”

“The mast broke,” Hector reminded me.

“I’m sorry.”

I signed the credit card slip and agreed again to pay for all the repairs. When I looked up, Hector was gone.

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