Father and Son Cruise
The night was fitful for both of us. I tossed and turned trying to get comfortable, but it was just not possible. I turned on the TV just for the distraction. Ryan went out to settle on the verandah for some peace and quiet.
Eventually, sleep arrived. As consciousness began to intrude some time later, I fought it for as long as possible. The room was pitch black, and the TV was turned off.
I tiptoed to the shower so as not to wake Ryan, who must have waited until I finally dozed off before getting in to bed. When I emerged, light from the bathroom revealed that Ryan wasn’t in the room. I pulled the curtains open to invite him in from his refuge on the verandah. The sun was high in the sky, and the chairs were unoccupied.
I hadn’t looked at the clock until now. It was just after 11 a.m. Ryan was long gone, and I’d just wasted half a sea day. The pain had worsened.
The Mercury Daily was headlined “Happy Valentines Day”. An order card for the special, romantic (Adult cruise) “Breakfast for Dreamers” lay on the table. I could still partake for another hour, but romance was lacking at the moment. I debated about even having coffee.
After restacking the piles of stuff on the love seat, I decided to head out. The Do Not Disturb sign was thoughtfully hung on the door.
I chanced a cup of coffee. Out on the stern, the late morning was perfect. The seas were dead calm, and there was no one around. When my personal fog lifted, I tried to analyze the sensations coming from my midsection. I thought I could detect incredible hunger piercing through the steady sharp pain. “An odd combination,” I thought. It was high noon. Time for an experiment – I had to figure out what was ailing me…
Things were just warming up in the Café. I did a double take at the sight of an extensive Sushi bar – today’s lunch was themed Oriental. As great as it looked, I had other ideas.
The pool area was hopping, but there was no line at the grill. I marched up and grabbed a beer and a pizza. Hogging a table for four, I began the experiment. The pizza was gone in about two minutes — the beer shortly thereafter.
I waited. The hunger began to subside, and the other feelings continued unabated. No side effects. Overall, I noted an improvement. After a few minutes, I got another pizza and ate it.
Renewed, I went back to the room for my bathing suit. Ryan was there.
“How are you feeling?”
“About the same, but I figured it out.”
“What is it?”
My family should be the subject of a medical study. I had my first kidney stone at the age of 18. Ryan waited until he was 19 and he has had three so far. My 17 year-old son Wells is precocious – he had his first of two at the age of 16. My mother has had them. For the last several months, my sister has seen every doctor and Chiropractor in New York, complaining of severe back pain. Finally someone checked for stones – she has a bunch. I stopped counting my own at #30.
“Yeah, well at least I can deal with it. And I can eat…”
“It’s good that we get a day to just chill.”
“So, what are you up to?”
“Just hanging out with some people. Can I borrow your MP3 player?”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“Thanks – Well, I’m going to the spa and then back up by the pool. See ya.”
He was gone.
I spent some time poolside before getting up just to walk around for a while. Around 3:00, I ran in to Adrienne and Mike (MAAF) in the hallway. They were carrying face masks made at an earlier event in preparation for Halloween. As we stood and talked I felt a hand slowly run up my back. It paused and tickled the back of my neck – a tingle went up my spine.
I slowly turned, half expecting to see Kris — so intimate was the touch.
“Your tag was hanging out of your shirt.”
A foot below my eyelevel, an elderly lady smiled up at me. She rested her hand on my arm.
“Can you tell me where the arts and crafts event is?”
I smiled broadly but was temporarily muted. Adrienne directed the woman to the elevator with instructions to get off at deck 11 and go to the café.
I finished the afternoon with my book back at the pool. Just as I’d start to overheat, a waiter would saunter up with an ice-cold face cloth or a cup of lemon ice – more Adult Escape fringe benefits. I appreciated the touch. A couple of people would later tell me that the waiters on some other line used spray bottles to “mist” people in the heat. It would cut down on the laundry. As the sun began to wane, I finished up with some time in a whirlpool and forgot about everything for a while.
Tonight marked the last formal dinner of the trip. I was dressed and ready to go before Ryan returned from his daytime adventure.
“We have to wear the tux again?” Ryan looked concerned, and started rummaging through the piles of dirty clothing.
“It came with two shirts,” I said.
“Phew! Good thing.”
We performed the simulated strangling by bow tie, and the cummerbund ritual.
“I finally met up with that guy Chris today.” Chris is the son of Debby (debby21). Prior to the cruise Debby had posted her hope that the boys would get together and stave off boredom. We met Chris on the first day and hadn’t seen him since – apparently boredom was simply not an issue for either of these gentlemen.
“Great. How’s he liking the trip?”
“Oh, I’d say he’s liking it just fine. We might get together later on.”
As we were leaving, I noticed that our “Welcome Aboard” bottle of champagne was still sitting in the bucket. Every day, Aldrin had freshened the bucket with ice and a crisp white towel.
“Hey. We should take the champagne to dinner. I don’t think you and I are going to get around to drinking it ourselves.” I talked Ryan into carrying it.
We headed for the dining room, pausing to visit with the NJCruiser crowd in the Martini Bar. I wonder, Donna, did you all ever make it to dinner that night?
The dining room was bustling tonight for the Captain’s Gala Dinner. I handed the Celebrity champagne to Pablo and asked him to serve it to the table. Weeks later, I puzzled over a $12 beverage charge on this day’s tab. Indeed…
Ryan got up his nerve and tried the frog’s legs. They went nicely with his by-now standard shrimp cocktail.
I wanted to catch Maro’s napkin folding ritual on tape tonight. Neal helped in the conspiracy by leaving the table for a few minutes. He placed his napkin conspicuously on the back of the chair, and I waited patiently for Maro to swoop in and fold it into some magical shape. For the first time on the trip, he failed to do so. Thwarted.
I wasn’t about to miss the Irish Coffee show, however. When the time came, both Ryan and I ordered one. Ryan stuck around this time to see if we were making up fanciful stories about the process. He was not disappointed.
After dessert, I told Maro about the failed attempt to catch him folding a napkin. He stopped everything and proceeded to give us a demonstration. I taped the whole thing, and it lasted for more than 15 minutes. It was like our own private magic show. I’ll put some highlights together in a clip someday soon.
Ryan and I were the last to leave the table. Maro came over and held up his hand.
“Just for you, but no camera.”
He produced a pair of napkins. Amongst other things, he “dressed” himself as a woman in a bikini – highly detailed and just amazing. I am really sorry that I didn’t sneak my finger to the camera’s on-button. I made a mental note to up the tip – by a lot.
As we stood to leave, Babette (ocngypz) happened by. She had dined at the Captain’s table, and was positively glowing. I aimed the camera where she stood with Ryan.
I hinted at this picture some time ago, saying that it might launch a new career for Babette. I’m not sure just what career that might be – maybe Professional Rose Taster. Anyway, if you look closely, you might be able to catch an example of the elusive “Sparkle” that seems to be associated with the presence of men in tuxedos.
We hit the casino for a little while. Side-by-side, Ryan and I fed the hungry machines. They did not reciprocate.
“This was a great day. It’s so nice to just relax,” said Ryan.
“What was your favorite thing to do – or not do?”
“You know…just sitting up on the deck in the breeze. The waiter brought me a bucket of Coronas.”
“You asked for a beer and he just brought you a bucket full of Coronas?”
“No. I asked for it that way.”
“How many beers in the bucket?”
“Just one. They use those champagne buckets — fill ‘em with ice and stick the beer in it. It keeps them really cold. The guy was happy to do it.”
“I looked around for you by the pool.”
“I was on the upper deck.”
“So was I. Right above the pool.”
“I was up one more level towards the front.”
“The topless deck?” I asked.
“That was up one more deck – I was right below that.”
“What, were you peeking?”
“Nah. I looked up there once.”
“Were there topless people up there?”
“Just guys. And a lot of old men kept walking around.”
Huh. I figured I’d have to check it out myself. Later, I took the camera. Here it is – the shocking truth about the topless deck:
“Can I take the tux off now?” Ryan asked.
“Well, you’re supposed to follow the dress code all evening. I know how you feel though.” I was ready to get casual myself. Horizontally. “I think I’m going to just go back to the room. I’m pretty sore.”
I put on my shorts and took a drink and a book out on to the verandah. Ryan changed into normal clothes, but I think he put on his suit jacket just to blend in.”
“I’m going out.”
“Good,” I thought. I had been the closest thing to a night owl from our cabin so far, which isn’t saying much. “Have fun.”
From the verandah I saw the mysterious streaking lights out over the water again. Around 2:00 a.m., I turned in. Ryan was still out.
At 3:00, I started to worry. Did he fall overboard?
The last thing I remember it was 3:45 and Ryan was missing. A later investigation revealed that he bought a round of drinks in the Navigator Club at 3:16 a.m.