Friday, August 29, 2003

From Port Lucaya With Love

The Story of Sassy and Ben

by Sassy Esquire

Sassy and Ben Posted by Hello

I met him on August 29, 2003 in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island. Lala, Ed and I were out for kicks on our last vacation night. Jazzy was at the casino (I know, shocking). So the three of us are standing in the square with drinks in hand.

I'm talking to Lala, when a woman next to me announces, "You must be from Grenada or Trinidad." Michelle.

"No. I am actually from Barbados, but how could you...?"

"It's the way you say your 'r's," she replies.

Friendly chat. She tells me she is a crew mate on a private yacht.

"How do I get that job?" I ask.

She turns to her right, pointing. "You need to ask the Captain."

And there he was.

I remember setting my sights on him. Not really sure why. I just wanted to. His back was to the bay and he cast a quizzical look in my direction. He ponders me briefly and I make my pitch.

"How do I become your mate?" I don't believe those were my exact words but they could as well have been. "I can't swim," I add.

"Then you can't get the job," is all he says.

I pout. He is amused. Quietly amused. Reserved and observed. I think he knows I am interested but he thinks it's just a lark.

If I could have that moment to live over, what would I do differently? I probably would do something differently and that's the beauty of it....The result would be the same.

We all settle into a lively conversation: Michelle, Lala, Ben and me, and Christine. She's a dive master, she says. Stunning eyes. I assess her, dismiss her, and go back to my plotted course.

"So, Ben...."

He engages in some mindless banter with me. I wonder if anyone has noticed my primo physical positioning. Yeah. I squeezed Christine out, forcing her to talk to Lala. I just want to be closer to him. He intrigues me. He knows. Reserved and observed, he is.

I can't remember what prompts it but he tells me, by way of excuse almost, that he is "sorta on a date" with Christine. Oops! My bad! Then why in the hell did she even let me near you, I think. "Well, let me get out of your way so y'all can chat," I say with a laugh. He smiles. I move away, back to Lala. One of my better moves, I find out later.

The owner of the yacht and her boy toy arrive. We are all introduced. She has that graceful air about her that comes with financial security. She seems nice enough, holding onto her fading looks with both hands balled into fists. Not smiling too broadly, but showing perfect teeth.

I finally cop to being a lawyer, or maybe Lala told them.

"Do you know Freddie Smith then?" Michelle asks in all seriousness.

"Um. No." It is a myth that all lawyers know each other, you see.

So we go off to Shenanigan's Pub. It's a fairly big group now: yacht owner, boy toy, Lala, Michelle, Christine, Ben and me. We meet others in the pub, including Freddie Smith. Go figure. Boxing is on the television. Boy toy is talking about race cars; I am chatting with yacht owner lady and I have lost track of Ben. But I imagine he is leaning on the bar, listening with one ear to Christine and watching me intently. I can feel him.

Time warps. There is laughter and drinks and music and dancing and then, there is Ben. Standing next to me. Close. He just sorta appeared or floated over. He is here now and I am going to keep him near. I lean into him. He doesn't resist. I feel his warmth. I am feeling bold. I turn my face up to him and blurt out, "This is what it looks like when someone is flirting with you." That works.

There is no sequence to what follows. I remember dancing. Laughing. Swaying and grooving to the music in his arms and against his leanness. We move together well.

"You follow well," Ben remarks. Of course, I immediately stumble in my chunky Steve Maddens.

We dance some more. I think we kiss, but that first one would soon be rendered completely irrelevant in the grand scheme of marathon kissing that follows.

We spend what feels like eternity together. Back to my hotel. Apparently, I drag him into a sports bar and yell out at the patrons, "Who won the Steelers game?"

I am drunk. But I am stone cold sober.

And we go into the ocean. I would later learn that he thinks I am mad because bull sharks are difficult to see in the dark. But he follows me in anyway. I am clearly completely drunk or else I am overcome with trust and hope. He won't let me drown, right?

He tells me the planet I have been pondering all week is Mars. The closest it has ever been to Earth. I look up. Mars is our planet now. She is orange.

We search out hot tubs, take a dip in the pool. Back rubs. So much to talk about. And so much kissing to get caught up on. I think he is resisting the natural progression of physical intimacy, but that's ok. I am more than happy to just kiss him for the rest of my life.

We go to my room where Ed is sleeping (or so I thought). We tiptoe out onto the balcony and I draw the curtains. I go next door to check on Lala and get some libations. Oh for two. I settle for some warm Bombay Sapphire and a brief lecture on morality, both courtesy of Jazzy.

Back to Ben.

We take off our wet clothes and sit on the balcony, naked, talking. For hours. We engage in an intimacy like no other. We do not make love.

As the hours pass, and as we decide warm Bombay Sapphire really ain't so good, I am becoming more and more clear-headed. The clarity brings painful elation. This is really happening! And I am not afraid.

Into the frigid room! Crawl under the covers of the "Heavenly Bed" (thank you, Westin!) and we snuggle. Happy beyond my wildest nightmares. You don't dare to dream about this kind of happiness. You cast it to the river Hades and fantasize that it doesn't exist - like the bogeyman in the closet. Don't let it out! Because if it is real, your life was meaningless to this point. Or maybe the suffering is preparation for the searing stab of bright, light joy when love comes.

So we talk under the covers for a few more hours. Finally, he has to go back to the yacht. It's now about 5 in the morning. We exchange numbers on his business cards because I can't find mine.

And he leaves me.

But he never left me.

In the lobby of the hotel, waiting for a cab. I scribble out a note on hotel stationery, drop my recently discovered business card into an envelope. I don't feel desperate. I just want to hear from him and I want him to know.

"Dear Ben. It was great being with you. I hope to do it again. Jo."

(Turns out the address on his card was an old one. He doesn't get that note until 3 months later. By then, I had quit my job in Delaware and moved in with him in Fort Lauderdale.)

Back in Delaware. I sleep. And sleep. I don't unpack. I sleep. On Sunday, the day after I returned from Port Lucaya, I awaken. Back to reality. Maybe none of it happened.

Lala on the phone. I ask if I can join her and Kiki to see "Pirates of the Caribbean" - I am partial to sailors now, you see.

It's about an hour before show time. The phone rings. Caller ID toys with me, announcing only that I have an incoming call. I am not expecting anything or anyone, so I flip Caller ID the bird and grab the phone, just as it reveals a 954 area code....

"I'm calling to make sure you exist. Did I dream you?" His opening words.

"Hello, Ben."

It's on now.

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