February 12th

Day 14.

Today was the day that we’d scheduled to go snorkeling. We had recently invited our newfound friends to join us, too. Up to now, I had been looking forward to going. I had never been snorkeling before, and we’d gotten a great deal from what I could tell — not only would we be taken out on a boat ride to Tortuga Islands, but we’d be given lunch and drinks when we got there!

But now that I had hurt my toe, I felt differently. I became apprehensive — I was not interested in hurting it further, I suspected that I might do so, and all I really wanted to do was stay home and rest for a few days. But we’d already paid for the trip, and so there was nothing I could do about it but wait and see.

The company that owned the snorkeling package was actually located in Montezuma. So after picking up our friends, Lori and I took to the wild roads and arrived by way of Cabuya — the same route we’d taken when we went to the waterfalls, in fact.

We located the office for the company in town, and after confirming that we were on the list, we asked the man behind the counter whether the tour was still happening. It had been windy over the previous few days, and in fact, other snorkeling trips run by other companies had been canceled outright. But he told us that we were still on for this morning, albeit pushed back by an hour. That was somewhat worrisome in my mind.

We had time to kill, so we walked around town. Montezuma seemed cool — more touristy than Santa Teresa, perhaps, but also more developed, at least judging by the buildings there. Presently we came upon a café/restaurant, the Sano Banano, and had some fresh juice to drink. The back room, which was outside but surrounded by trees, felt like an exhibit at the zoo.

Time was up, and the four of us walked back to the office together. This time, many other people had congregated there, presumably the people who would be on the same trip as we. The man behind the counter took roll, stepped out and gave the call to board, then told us to follow a guide, who led us down to the shore where our boat was pulling in. I’d imagined a ship and was surprised to find it was more of a skipper. It anchored and we climbed on board. The boat slowly pulled out a safe distance away from the shore, then it sped up and we were on our way.

I was miserable on the boat. The wind made the water very choppy, but the crewmen charged forward at a fairly high speed regardless. Every time the boat hit a wave, it would rise up in the air slightly and slam down onto the water, driving a shock through the hull and, because there was nothing to absorb it, into the body of everyone who was sitting down. I felt like I was on the worst wooden roller coaster imaginable, and that with each bump, the very molecules of my skeleton were tearing apart. And no one really seemed to complain; after a while, people were talking or sitting in silence as if it was the smoothest ride in the world. This went on for an hour, and all I could do was sit in silence and endure it.

Finally, the bodily abuse ceased as the boat slowed down and came to a halt nearby a monumental, round rocky structure poking out of the water. Here, we were going to do our first snorkeling session. One of the guides stood up and explained that we would be out for forty-five minutes.

Another of the guides started passing out flippers. I became worried. Was this going to work? I carefully fitted one onto my right foot. Nope, it wasn’t — there was a slit in the flippers where my toe peeked out, and as I moved my feet, I knew that the water was going to pull on the nail and it was going to feel uncomfortable. I wished that the guide was going to tell me that flippers were required to snorkel and that I would be forced to remain on the boat. “Why don’t you wear your life jacket instead of the flippers?” Lori suggested. I was disappointed, but I had to concede that it was a good idea. I got up and asked the guide if that was possible, and he said yes. Guess I’d have to see how well this worked.

I turned the jacket around at the instruction of the guide, grabbed the mask, and jumped off the boat into the water. For a brief moment, I was happy. The sea felt nice and warm. It was certainly much better than a constant stream of bumps.

As we were a good distance from the rock structure, everyone started swimming in that direction, and I made it my goal to follow. It was frustrating. The life jacket made me look like I couldn’t swim and slowed me down, but I couldn’t even think about that: in order to even swim, I relied primarily on my arms, as my legs were effectively disabled, and when that didn’t work, I turned onto my back and used a squid motion to propel myself backward. It was a terribly inconvenient way to get around, and I felt ridiculous.

By the time I got to the rock, I was exhausted. I hadn’t spent my energy for nothing, though, so I put the end of the snorkel in my mouth and looked into the water. Four fish were lazily swimming around. I felt underwhelmed. We paid forty dollars to see this? Well, maybe there were more fish closer to the rock. I sloppily made my way over and peered into the water again. Nope, same thing.

I wasn’t enjoying this. When the forty-five minutes were up, everyone made their way back to the boat and climbed aboard, and we set off to the next snorkeling spot. This time, I opted to stay on the boat, and I felt much better.

We arrived at one of the Islands after that, and the crewmen anchored the boat and we filed out of the back. It was time for lunch. A table had been set up, and on it slices of fresh pineapple, watermelon, and cantaloupe had been laid out for us to eat. They were juicy and sweet, and I relished them. Next, the guides brought the meal, fish that they had just grilled. It was exactly what I wanted.

We were scheduled to meet back up on the boat in an hour and a half, and everyone dispersed to explore the island, play in the water, or sunbathe. There wasn’t a whole lot I could do, and I was disappointed by the fact that we were really only allowed to roam the beach, as the rest of the island was blocked off to public access. Lori beckoned me into the water, and I tried to enjoy it, but my toe felt weird, as if at any point the nail was about to fall off. No, I would have to be content with sitting on the beach. The view was nice, at least. At one point, she and I walked around and were surprised to spot a peacock and a wild boar. They seemed accustomed to humans, and we were able to approach them fairly closely.

That was the highlight of the day. Our group eventually reassembled back at the boat, and I was forced to endure another round of bumpiness until we landed back in Montezuma. Lori and I caught up with our friends, and we spent some time walking around town, passing through shops and looking for souvenirs. I wanted to find something for my desk at work, but the prices were expensive, and I settled on a keychain and a patch for my backpack.

Lori and I dropped off our friends back in Santa Teresa and headed back home. I was tired. I had been tired for a while, in fact, and now tiredness was turning to exasperation. I felt that the day had been somewhat of a wash, and if only my toe didn’t bother me so much, then I would have a much better time. But I hadn’t, and there was nothing I could have done about it. Even if I’d stayed home, I would have been hot, I would have had to figure out a way down the hill, and I would have been thinking about how much fun Lori was having. It just wouldn’t have worked.

So I lay down and stewed for a while. Lori proposed that we get food. In my haze of emotions, I was conflicted. I knew that if I didn’t get food, I would be even worse, and I didn’t want that. But I wanted to be back home in the States, where there were good restaurants with good food. We could go to Soda Tiquicia and get takeout and bring it back here, Lori said. Would that suffice? I had no choice. It would have to.

We drove to the soda. I was seething inside. “What is it?” she said, stopping outside the place. “What’s up with you?” I couldn’t form the words to express what I was feeling inside. We went inside and I looked at the menu. I had no desire to order anything. Why was I here? I stared at the items. This was stupid. Did I want fish? No, I’d had that already. I was so mad. What about beef? No, another night when I could actually enjoy it. Ugh. This whole trip had been a nightmare. But I had to pick something or else I’d be standing here forever. Something with chicken and rice. Yeah, that looked good.

“Let’s go for a walk,” Lori said. That wouldn’t help, but it didn’t matter. Nothing did. We set off and she started chatting about something that I had no desire to listen to. She tended to do that a lot — come up with random things to say, I mean. Ordinarily I didn’t mind. It was one of the qualities about her that I liked, that she enjoyed a good conversation. But right now wasn’t the time.

“Oh,” she said, stopping herself. “You want me to stop talking, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said. Without thinking, I blurted, “Of course, it doesn’t matter what I say, you’re going to keep talking anyway.”

Wow, dude. Seriously? Way to go.

I had blown my cover. She waved me off, even though I know she really wanted to flip me off, and started walking in the other direction, back toward the soda.

I kept going. What was I going to do about it now? I felt better without her anyway.

I walked on. In fact, I walked a good five hundred feet before I started to realize that this wasn’t making things better. I needed to go back, to apologize, to make things right.

I turned around. When I came to the soda, I hesitated. That had been a really nasty thing I’d said to her. But I was still angry, and I didn’t want to be angry in front of her.

I paced back and forth a few times. There was no way around it. I would just have to face the music.

I finally set foot in the soda again. Suddenly, she appeared with the takeout in her hands. She seemed happy. That wasn’t right. I was confused. We got in the car. She began a conversation again, only to stop herself short. “Oh, that’s right,” she said flatly, “you don’t want me to talk.” I gulped and confessed, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said.” This night wasn’t going how I wanted. Damn emotions.

I sat in the passenger seat, silent, as we rode the rest of the way. We got home, went downstairs, unpacked the food, and sat down. There were no words to say. I watched as Lori finished her food quickly, slid upstairs to the room, and shut the door.

Now alone, I was suddenly aware of how quiet and still it was outside.

I stared at the food I’d ordered. I’d completely lost my appetite. But I’d said I wanted it, so I had to eat it.

The cat, who had been milling about, jumped up on the chair next to me. She must have been hungry, and having food so accessible to her must have been a rare opportunity. “Shoo,” I said aloud, blocking her from leaping up onto the table. She tried again. “Stop,” I said, and held her back. She seemed to get the message and stayed put. I returned to my food, and I was in mid-thought when I looked up and saw that she’d already made her move and had her nose up to my food. What an annoying cat, I thought. I picked her up, placed her on the ground some distance from the table, and went back to my seat.

Not thirty seconds later, the cat appeared on the chair again, as if nothing had ever happened. Ugh. She was certainly persistent, but now she was merely sitting on the chair staring up at me. Fine. I needed to get some water, and that meant I’d have to leave my post. I had a feeling she would try to snatch a bite, so I closed the lid of the to-go box and walked to the kitchen.

As I was getting a glass, I heard a thunk. I quickly stowed the glass and hurried back to the dining area. Sure enough, the cat was on all fours on top of the table, and — where was my food? I came closer, looked down, and there it lay, underneath the table. Amazingly, it was right-side up, and when I opened it, only a small part of the food was mixed together. I had to give props to the cat for pulling off that feat.

But if I hadn’t been interested in eating the food now, I definitely wasn’t interested in it now. I tossed it in a nearby trash can, went upstairs to the room, and slid into bed. I only hoped that the next day would be better.

Like what you read? Give Elliot’s travelogue a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.