The Red Trunks
There was a time when man could not fly, when the farthest he could
go in a day's travel was as far as his sturdy steed could carry him
across land. That time is long past. Someone please tell my wife.
"We should have gone to Mexico," I said. "Flown to Mexico.
Or at least Florida. I hate this." I didn't look away from the
road, but I felt Laura's eyes boring into the side of my head.
"Are you going to do that the whole way?" she snapped. "We've
been on the road barely four hours. We haven't even left Ontario yet."
"I don't like driving; you know that." Oh, she knew all right,
but that didn't stop her snatching away my beloved Caribbean vacation
this year in favor of "seeing more of our own country." Newfoundland,
she chose. "A beautiful province," she called it, "like
nowhere else in Canada."
And the farthest east you can go before you fall into the Atlantic,
"You're just whining because you have the bladder capacity of
a gerbil," Laura chided.
I blew a jet of hot air out my nostrils, but backed down. We had already
stopped twice since leaving Toronto, and I had to pee again. It wasn't
my fault: just one cup of coffee and I'm a human garden hose. I held
my peace disconsolately for another hundred kilometers, until we finally
crossed the Quebec border and pulled into a little town called Saint-Zotique.
It was Friday night, approaching midnight. Laura had insisted we get
started right after work, to make the most of our two weeks off. Why
waste a night at home? Opening the door to our room at the Motel Spit
(the name was Motel Esprit, but the "E" and "r"
had burned out), I was assaulted with an answer. The room smelled like
alcoholic breath barely masked with lemony Lysol. I dumped my bag in
a corner of the room and headed for the washroom, making no effort to
conceal my displeasure.
Motel Spit was our first stop. And the place where I had the first
And wake up in an ocean-view room at the Grand Paradise Bavaro in Punta
Cana. My eyes open to golden sunlight streaming in the windows. Sunlight?
Soft pillow? Shouldn't I be somewhere else? I blink and shake my head,
feeling disoriented. I'm sure I should be somewhere else. I slip out
of bed and feel the cool tiles beneath my feet, smell the fresh ocean
air, and hear waves rolling into shore instead of traffic rolling down
a highway. A comfortable familiarity sets in; I know this place. Of
course I know this place! I am in the Dominican Republic. But weren't
we here three years ago?
This is the third day. The burn on my belly stings where I neglected
to apply sun block yesterday. And there on the dresser are my broken
sunglasses that I sat on after my shower last night. No problem: I will
buy another pair at the hotel shop this afternoon
a memory of
something yet to happen.
Laura stirs and rises. I ask her what's going on. She only snorts and
comments on my red paunch and something about sand still stuck in certain
places. She doesn't act different or notice anything unusual.
The sunburn doesn't bother me; the broken sunglasses don't bother me;
nothing bothers me. Here I am standing in a hotel room in the DR, the
moment feeling so real I can taste the salt in the Caribbean air. Am
I really here again? Oops, one question too many. Not like me. I'm not
the type to complicate a good thing with questions. This is where I
want to be, so who cares about how's or why's? I sigh and let myself
drift into the sensations.
Buffet breakfast, snorkeling, sunbathing, beach volleyball, poolside bar, elegant dinner, disco I ride shotgun behind my own eyes, reliving every chronological moment of an entire glorious day on one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. At the end of the day, I fall into bed and into a deep, satisfied sleep in our ocean view room at the Grand Paradise Bavaro in Punta Cana
And woke up on a moldy mattress in the Motel Spit, Quebec. No salty
sea air, no Caribbean sun beaming in the window, no soft pillow. Just
the musty stink of a thousand transient bodies and the smog-dulled light
of daybreak on the side of a Canadian highway. What happened? It was
Emotions rolled over me like the waves I left behind on the powdery
white beach. The first wave was disappointment, the kind anyone feels
waking from a dream he doesn't want to end. But as I sat up, the second
wave washed over me, a feeling like having truly lived relived
the day I dreamed last night. I felt it in my skin, and could
have sworn that I had actually spent a full day in the Dominican Republic.
Reality be damned, I smiled and rode that feeling as I went to shave.
"What are you smiling about?" Laura asked with cautious amusement.
A smile on my face was the last thing she expected to see this morning.
"I had a good dream last night."
"Men," she said tartly.
Then, as I was pulling on my pants, the third wave hit. A ripple of
confusion penetrated my good mood, a blemish in the image that made
the picture imperfect. Something wasn't right. What was it? The feeling
nagged at me all through breakfast.
"What happened to your chipper mood?" Laura asked. "I
thought I might have some livelier company today."