I just returned from a trip to Florida. I went with a friend. Our last day and night are the inspiration for the following story.
We walked on the beach. Two women were getting married. A fighter jet soared overhead. And then a baby hammerhead shark, very much alive, washed up on the beach right in front of me. I had two instincts take over. Both were perhaps rooted in being a mom; the problem was that they were in conflict. The first instinct was to save the shark. It was the “Oh, Did You Fall Down and Get An Owie?” Instinct. The shark was cute and gasping and helpless. As soon as I reached for it though, the Other Instinct kicked in. I guess I would call it the “Don’t Pet A Strange Dog, It Might Bite You” Instinct. Except this was a shark. Because I generalize the ocean to a mass of invisible, venomous creatures all silently plotting to sting me, paralyze me, drag me into the undertow and eat me, Instinct Two was a formidable barrier to saving the shark.
It was at this point, I compromised. I touched the shark. I’d like to think of it as a reassuring pat: “Don’t you worry. Your Mom will be here in just a minute.” If I had to be honest though, it was really a poke followed by a loud scream. Just in case it was plotting to spin around and bite my arm in two. My scream landed squarely on a woman obviously familiar with shark beachings who then rescued the shark and me and threw the shark back into the water.
Our last night was uneventful until the sound of very loud fighting punctuated the quiet. A swear word and glass shattering made me reach for the phone and then simply hold the receiver in my hand. My friend woke up too. “Call the front desk,” I said, holding the phone in my hand and deciding to stop there. I waited. She searched for the elusive Front Desk Button and told me later, she didn’t think of the number zero. Fortunately, there is a genius out there who invented a system whereby one can simply hold the phone in a stupor and a call will eventually connect to the front desk. I held the phone…the Front Desk answered.
Tony, the night manager, was true to his word. “We’ll send someone right up.” My friend and I peeked through the hole in the door, cursing the smudge.
“Sir! We need to know where the blood is coming from,” said a security guard, now accompanying the night manager.
The mention of blood and an unknown source takes things to a whole new level. Gone was the giddy voyeuristic intrigue. We suddenly felt tossed into a wholly different situation that demanded much more than either of us possessed.
Fortunately, the blood was from the man who had punched the picture frame. “I just need a vacuum,” stated the now calmed idiot who thought if he couldn’t fix his girlfriend, he could at least vacuum up an entire picture’s worth of glass.
With not much more to see, we decided to do what most people would at 2:00 in the morning. Take pictures. My friend is posing by the peephole. I am pretending to smash a picture.
The silver lining is that we did not pay for this last night’s amusement nor did I have to invent stories of heroism when I got home to a waiting family.
Our first day back together, I made a ham. Seemed like the way to say, “Hey. I’m really back and I’m into this all again.” Not like the communication of, say, a meal of Hot Pockets. My son ate a couple pieces of ham, then asked what the “pink thing” was. Before I could answer, he said, “It’s probably a birthmark. Can I be excused? I just lost my appetite.”
Welcome home, me.