Forgive Me My Trespasses
Kind of a long story. Recalling a retreat from the end of 2014.
At what point, in any given situation, do we decide to "make ourselves comfortable"? When we're at a friend's house for the first time, do we just make their refrigerator, their beer, their "special cheese" our own? Some people do, perhaps because they would expect - encourage, even - any guest of theirs to do the same.
But what about when you're on vacation, at a week-long "retreat" that costs more than a few months' rent? Is there really time to "make yourself comfortable"?
I didn't have time for these questions when I stayed at the Casa Tres Amigos (which, contrary to its name, was packed full of people who hardly knew each other) in Rincon, Puerto Rico. I was there to attend retreat where we would (in my case, learn how to) rock climb, slackline, surf, give each other Thai massage, and practice acroyoga. We would "redefine balance."
There was maybe one roll of toilet paper when we all arrived.
I wanted to retreat from this retreat: I wanted to get to the beach. I knew there was a shortcut through a neighboring property (that we retreators had been granted permission to take), as Tres Amigos wasn't situated quite on the shoreline. When I left the house through the back, and observed that only a few properties stood between me and the ocean, I realized that I had a few options: hop a locked fence that led to a field, which led to another fence to the beach; do something that involved transgressing barbed wire; or walk westward through a wide-open, very large and expensive-looking gate, which led to a very large and expensive-looking residence.
Now, here was one of those houses that someone had built on their beachfront property, the kind of Spanish-villa-inspired McMansion that could be found in West Palm Beach (where, I assume, the proprietor also resided). But the gate was wide open! What trust! Yes, there were security cameras pointing at me as I carried my book and towel onto the property, but, I figured, this must be the place we were allowed to cut through. The owner was probably some sort of philanthropist, and this was his way of "giving back."
It felt strange to walk across the concrete yard, in a region where concrete is a rarity. There was, of course, a huge, in-ground swimming pool, surrounded by little elevated decks. It would have made a great setting for a nineties rap video, or one of those MTV Spring Break specials that aired in the early aughts. But I was the only reckless young lady on the premises, and I hadn't quite gone wild. The lack of people in a setting that held such potential for revelry was almost eerie.
I made my way, after a few wrong turns, to a gate to the beach. It was a huge and wooden, and lent no visibility to what was on the other side, with a vertical metal rod that lowered into the ground to lock.
I lifted up the rod to unlock the gate, even though I knew it only locked from the inside, and I managed to get the rod to fall back into its hole when I pulled the gate shut. But now that I was outside, there wasn't much ground to stand on. It was rather marshy - there really wasn't much beach. I made my way to the shoreline, but it was pretty much ocean and fences, without much in between.
I had brought my book to read and a small towel, in hopes of parking my ass and relaxing. But the tides in Rincon are such that you could be sitting on the sand one moment, and suddenly, you're in the ocean.
Against my better judgment, I sat down on the narrow strip of beach, when man with a camera approached me. I had seen him earlier and vaguely smiled on my way to what I guess was my destination, and here he was again, saying something about my towel.
Egoist that I am, I assumed he was shouting a compliment. You like my towel? Thanks.
"Do you HAVE a towel?!"
Oh, yes - I did have a towel.
A man in the ocean had, apparently, lost his shorts, and this nice man was trying to help him. I looked into the water and saw a surfer kind of goofily floating around. His shorts were gone. The ocean takes, so I gave him my towel.
Shortly thereafter, I went from sitting on the sand to being in the ocean, though I hadn't moved. There was nowhere to sit without this happening - I tried, but the waves got me.
So I walked along the fences of these oceanfront homes, until I found a couple of lawn chairs up on a platform, safe from the temperamental tides. By this point, I had already curved back to the property through which I had initially walked; this guy had the hook-up, all the way to his raised chairs.
I could sit in these, right?
I went for it, under the assumption that these were included in the cutting-through-the-property deal. That, and I didn't have a better option. There really was no beach.
Before I could get really comfortable, I looked behind me, and saw a man approaching, double-fisting a cellphone and a cigarette. He was an older-middle-aged, clearly wealthy, white man. I waved to him.
"Hi," he said, not quite matching my cheer but easily exceeding my certainty. Clearly a New Yorker.
"Are you Eliot?"
"No; Eliot lives over there," and he pointed to a house with a big field that divided it from the "beach."
"Oh, I thought Eliot lived here." I was not supposed to be in this man's chair. "Do you want me to move?"
"That'd be good." So smug. He probably did this all the time. He had to get back to his phone call, and I had to get my overly curious, presumptuous ass off his property.
I also had to get my towel back. It was my only one. I figured if I just walked back along the beach, I would find the surfer.
When I did, he was sitting on the sand with my towel over his loins. This was an inopportune time to reclaim what was mine. I don't quite remember what happened next, only that I had to hunt the surfer down again, when he finally rectified the situation.
I approached a few young beach goers and and asked if they has seen a man with a turquoise towel. They burst into laughter.
"That's my towel," I explained. The whole crew of buddies found this really amusing, and I guess it was; I finally found him back at the parking lot, where his friends had brought him some shorts. I got my towel back.
I took the long way back to Tres Amigos, and stopped in an extraordinarily overpriced surf shop. There was a woman shopping there, talking with the shop keep; both were middle aged and white.
The shop keep was bemoaning a man who had stood her up - in EUROPE! - where she had traveled to see him. He was over her. I listened to the whole story. She was so attracted to him. He had found someone else. She spent sexless nights in his bed.
She had no affordable board shorts for sale, and she had no shame in sharing her story within earshot of customers.
What kinds of wealthy white people had set up shop in Rincon? People who wanted more fun than Florida, who wanted to surf and do yoga, or at least be in close proximity to hotter, younger people who did those things? Where were the Puerto Ricans? Where was the Puerto Rican food? When would I get to practice my Spanish?
Another time. Now, it was time to practice my balance.