I was looking at the coastline imagining my new life on this
rocky island. While traveling, I
often find myself running scenarios where I am a permanent resident of wherever
I am at that time. “OK… I could
probably afford a condo within walking distance of that happening area
downtown. I could maybe get a job
doing some sales shit, though this damn language barrier would be a tough
go. Hmm… Maybe I could be like this dude with the bad teeth driving
the boat. Make wisecracks to
tourists. The same jokes every
day, perfected by the sheer repetition of it. I could be that guy living like a monastic surfer, but then
drop in intellectual stuff into conversation so people would wonder what the
deal was with the mysterious boat driver…”
The result of almost consistent movement in my last 25 years
has resulted in feelings of confinement and edginess if I stay static for more
than two weeks. The knowledge of
other options that feel not only comfortable but undeniably “right” settle onto
the shoulders. I think one of the
reasons people in places like Gary IN can be happy is that they have never
traveled anywhere else to offer comparison. If someone lives in a shithole house in a terrible climate
surrounded by uncaring acquaintances, it would be fine as long as they never
spent time in a sunny clean place with someone that provided them limitless
love and support. It’s all about
having a point of comparison. You're fine if you don't know what you don't have.
So I’m thinking about all of this as the dive boat comes to
a stop at a place called Rolling Rocks.
The wind had created a decent chop. I struggled to get my scuba gear on with a nagging feeling
that I really needed to take a leak.
Eh, I would be back at the dock in an hour or so. I would be fine. Frankly, the small boat didn’t have a
“head” anyway (look at me using nautical parlance). I flopped off the boat and waited for the other strangers in
the group to get in the water. The
chill of the water dramatically increased the urgency of the need to
urinate. This is when I made my
decision to let ‘er rip. I floated
in the ocean with a dull look of satisfaction as the warmth of my urine spread
across my groin under my wetsuit. Ahhh….
The dive was unremarkable. We worked across currents. Some fish swam by.
Some coral. A
drop-off. We ascended. Due to the rough chop, we climbed on the
boat giving each other distance to minimize the risk of getting hit in the head
with a scuba tank if the diver in front of you fell off the ladder. I deferred to the others and got on
board last. Most of them had
already unzipped out of their “shorties”, wet suits with short sleeves that
only went to mid thigh. I unzipped
myself out of the top portion and walked into the small cabin to grab an orange
section and water. Damn. It smells like piss up here. I walked back out to my area in the
back of the boat and sat down. The
wind shifted slightly. It smells
like piss out here too. Wait. Wait… It’s me! It’s
me! I smell like piss!
In retrospect, I should have recognized that a wet suit is
designed to not only keep the outside water out of the suit, but also keep
things inside the suit. As opposed
to the dive washing out my suit, I had basically marinated in my own
urine. Making matters worse was my
decision hours earlier at sunup to have a double espresso. The only thing worse I could have done
was to have eaten a plate of steamed asparagus as a side order. My urine was a horrible liquid
pollution. I really reeked. I flashed back to an amazing parallel
of an incident in nursery school when rather than asserting myself and asking
to go to the bathroom, I peed my pants and then attempted a game of cat n’
mouse with my teachers in a doomed effort to run their gauntlet and make it
home to a pair of crisp dry underpants.
In that incident I was led out of the school with my head down, an
object of scorn and failure. If I
wasn’t careful, this would end the same way. Maybe worse.
I was almost positive the pale fleshy girl across from me
had noted that I had, in effect, peed my pants. We both pretended she hadn’t noticed, or so I thought. She must have though. It was hard to ignore. I couldn’t be positive though. I then decided my move was to try to
stay downwind until arriving at the dock where I would somehow clean myself and
the wetsuit on the fly. Maybe just
a dive into the ocean where I would shed the suit and try to explain it like I
was crazy eager to go swimming?
No. That wouldn’t play. Why
the fuck would I dive off a dock?
Keep your cool. Keep it
The boat docked.
I showed remarkable responsibility and quickness by hopping off the boat
with an armload of gear and made my way well in front of the others to the dive
shack. Nothing to see here. Just doing my part everybody. Maybe I could ditch the suit like a
body and disappear without them knowing?
A clerk stared at me upon entering. Where the hell did he come from? I kept myself busy sorting and re-sorting gear until he
shuffled off. In the back of the
room was an enormous sink, about the size of a massive freezer. It had already been filled with water
to be used for others to dunk their gear.
I hurriedly dropped by wetsuit and vest into the water just as the
fleshy girl entered.
There is that moment when you know someone is pretending not
to know something about you. I knew
that she knew that I knew. Oh yes,
she knew my shame. Or she thought
I was a half step above a barnyard animal. I did appreciate how gentile she was as we both sloshed our
stuff around the massive tank. Had
it been me, I wouldn’t have been eager to dunk my stuff into any water source
potentially tainted with my fetid urine, but manners often override common
sense. I made small talk to bide
my time. I sloshed the wet suit
around the water, hoping it would wash the horrible smell out. Nothing I did seemed to make a
difference. It was time to move to
I pounced the moment she walked out to organize her
backpack, quickly zipping the wetsuit onto a hanger, mixing in with the others
on the rack, hoping that it would hide in the crowd. I quickly disappeared out the back door, hoping no one would
burst out of the doorway with a shout of “Hey! You! Grab
him! He pissed his wet suit! The stench! The unholy stench!”.
There was really no question.
Some poor sap would be swimming in a rather ripe wet suit on a future
outing. I felt badly about that,
but certainly not badly enough to publicly discuss it with the cantankerous
divemaster and rotten toothed captain.
I took the coward’s way out.
I walked back along the coastline. The wind shifted.
My nose once again filled with the stench. Just from my bathing suit alone, I smelled like a homeless
man under a highway overpass on a hot July day. I dove into the ocean.
I swam out to where the reef dropped off, and allowed myself to drop
down 15-20 feet until my lungs couldn’t hold out any longer. I burst to the surface and slowly
backstroked to shore. I came out
of the surf to be greeted by the faint smell of urine. Jesus. That espresso was something else, or I was in serious need
of medical attention. I quickly
walked back to the room while avoiding human contact, got in the shower and
drenched myself with shower gel while still in the bathing suit. Even while the offending bathing suit
dried on the towel rack, the faint scent of it followed me. Scent memory or reality? I don’t know for sure. I tossed the bathing suit in the
garbage in a lonely plastic container at the end of a hallway like it was a human
head from a murder scene.
I have been around a little bit. I have a few ideas about where I would ideally like to be,
and what I would like to be doing.
I’m flexible though. There
are many great places in this world.
Now when I catalogue the potential lives I can lead, that rocky island
has been left out. I find that if
one wants to start over, rectify the mistakes and bad decisions of the past, it
is best not to do so on a small island where one is probably known as “El
Gringo Mear” or “The Piss Gringo”. It’s just too much to live down.