Friday, January 21, 2011

Tropical mattress

      Waikiki is twenty minutes by plane and then an hour by bus from Molokai, but light years in ways that are both enlivening and infuriating. That’s why I go. It’s as anonymous as a twelve step meeting, more crowded than a feed lot, terribly loud and just plain stimulating. It’s also the very best place to go to get away from nature.  The ocean feels like a public pool and the beach looks like a Rubens painting with pool toys. There is one of everybody laid out roasting in the sun. Fat Canadians, as white as unbaked pies, sprawl on beach mats. Their smiles betraying complete relief for time stolen from shoveling snow back home. Those are my people and I just love being there. For some unexplained reason nobody seems bothered by the square miles of exposed skin in various iterations of aging on that one weird little stretch of sand.
       My legs were sore from the Kalaupapa hike, so sore I didn’t want to spend the next three nights climbing the rickety ladder to the top bunk in the hostel. The women’s dorm was full, except for the bunk I was never getting in. The unassuming young man who showed me the creaky sleeping arrangements tried to be helpful. He suggested I find someone to trade with. No one was in the room at the time and all the boogie boards were checked out. I knew from experience no one would give up their bottom bunk unless I caught them on video selling drugs. Back at the front desk the kind elderly gentleman understood my plight. He too had to get up during the night. He searched the computer for an empty bottom bunk and came up with one in a men’s dorm. That was okay with me as long as the boys were not all hurling banana daiquiris at the same time. Waikiki can do things like that to unseasoned young tourists and hostels are full of them.  
     The bunk beds were made of two by fours hung with tatty little curtains for privacy that was clearly imagined and, I kid you not, plastic mattresses. While I understand it is easier to clean daiquiri vomit off plastic, come on, even bed bugs don’t want to inhabit them. But I had complained already, on the verge of possibly real tears to get this coveted lower bunk and could not rail further. I took my stack of well worn sheets, made my bed and lay on it. Instantly my back started to tingle. I got up and put my beach towel under the sheet. It blocked the sweat producing power of plastic in the balmy tropics just long enough to fall asleep. Until the guy sleeping above me got up to pee. The bunk swayed and banged the wall as he swung down the ladder. It must have been late since the disco next door had shut off the thumping music and booted the drunks to the street where they held loud conversations in boozy slurs. Coming to consciousness sucked. I knew what had happened and just didn’t want to face it. The worn sheet had wrapped itself around my ankles, the beach towel and pillow had slipped off the bed and my face was glued to the plastic mattress with a thin slime of drool and sweat. Face down on a plate of mashed potatoes would have been more comfortable.
    The next night I woke up because I could not understand what I was hearing. It filled the room and confused me. Five men snored in near harmony like a highly unconventional acapella group and there was testosterone in the timber. It was a long tedious stretch before I drifted off again. The third morning I woke myself up talking in my sleep. I dreamt I wore 1970’s Jane Fonda leggings to the beach and when I realized how stupid I looked (in the leggings not sweating on a plastic mattress) I started yelling NO, NO, NO. I can only imagine what my tortured moans sounded like, burbling in sweat, behind my tapa print curtain to the men in the other bunks. I don’t think I’ll stay there again. I’m not sure I can stay there again.  

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