09 January 2008

Moon Over Malaga

This is a storytelling post, something that's sort of a new experiment.

Late in the summer last year, my NYC sister came to visit us. Her plane was scheduled to land late on a Friday night, so as soon as we got the call that she had pushed back from the gate at La Guardia Airport, we left my parent's place to pick her up. It takes about the same length of time to drive from the 'rents house to the airport as it does to fly from NYC to Oh-hi-ia.

As we got on the freeway, my mother said to me, "Did you see it? Its beautiful. Behind us."

I had no idea what the hell she was talking about; I imagined at first that she meant an accident behind us on the freeway, which confused me, because when was the last time you saw a beautiful accident? But when I turned around in my seat a gazed out the back window of my dad's very big SUV, I saw an enormous golden moon, hanging low in the sky. I can never see a moon like that without remembering the very first time I went to Europe, and a night that perhaps had a hand in shaping the adult I became.

I was a lucky, lucky kid. We weren't well off, but we didn't want for much either. During my 8th grade year, the school announced a trip to Europe, for a fee, of course. I don't remember why I wanted to go so badly, especially when none of my friends wanted to go. But I talked my parents into the first informational meeting, and they agreed that I could go. I'm sure there were rules about keeping my grades up and various other things tied to actually being able to go on the trip, but time has stolen those recollections away from me.

We left the states via JFK Airport in New York and flew to Madrid, Spain. It was the first time I'd been so far away from home, something I was super-excited about. We spent several days in Madrid before heading south, into Seville, and then Spain's Costa del Sol, and the crown jewel city of Malaga. By the time we got to Malaga, we were used to hotels that weren't fantastic and very odd-seeming food. A pecking order among the 50 or so kids on our bus from schools all across the country had been established. I had made friends with a boy and a girl from Delaware, and even made a few new friends from my own hometown, with kids I'd never speak to at home.

There was a boy; isn't there always? I was 14 during this trip, young, to say the least. I just realized that most of the rest of this post is going to horrify my mother (Hi Mom!) who reads my blog from time to time. Oh well. Now that I am over 30, she can't get angry about such youthful transgressions, right? Right?!?

The boy was 16-ish, maybe 17. He was from Oregon, and I had a huge crush on him. He seemed to like me as well, or at least we enjoyed one another's company during the small amounts of free time we had. This was all pretty platonic, things like sitting together on the bus or checking out a piece of art in a museum after the rest of the group had moved on.

The chaperones from my hometown were particularly vigilant about their charges; we rarely had unsupervised time. When we did, we made absolutely sure that we were up to positively no good whatsoever.

The first night in Malaga, they allowed us to do whatever we wanted, provided that we didn't leave the grounds of our ocean-front hotel, the first and only decent one that we stayed in the whole 2 week trip. That was difficult, riiiight. The hotel had 3 bars, one on a terrace overlooking the beach, and most of us had rooms facing the ocean with balconies that seemed palatial.

Several daring souls left the compound and ran to a grocery store across the way, buying booze, wine, soda and juice to mix the booze with and munchies. We weren't particularly sly most of the time, but no one was caught.

The boy and I had agreed to meet, and I spent some time sitting on the beach with him and some of his schoolmates, having earnest youthful conversation and sharing some Sangria. It grew dark and a huge moon, larger than I had ever seen, rose in the sky and we all watched it silently for a while. It was breathtaking. It seemed as if you could see every crater on the moon with the naked eye.

I couldn't stop looking at it. My new friends poked fun at me for losing the thread of the conversation several times as I gazed at this wonder, teasing me about my inability to hold my liquor. It wasn't the first time I'd ever had a drink (ummmm....yeah, let's not tell that story) but it was the most I'd ever had to drink in one sitting. I felt like the night was full of possibilities, adventure untasted, limitless potential. A high-flying sort of feeling. Was I drunk? I don't think so; if I was, what happened next sobered me up in a hell of a hurry.

Eventually, we all grew tired and the boy and I headed back to the hotel, leaving his friends behind. He took my hand as we walked back to the hotel, and my heart pounded. Proof positive! He liked me too!

I thought that this might be the chance I'd been waiting for. To tell him that I had a crush on him, that I sort of thought the sun rose and set with him. Unfortunately, as soon as we walked back into the hotel, one of my roommates spotted me and came running up to inform me that a third roomie, C, was drunk and we needed to do something about it before the chaperones came by for a 1 AM bed-check.

The boy and I followed my roommate to the elevators, and as it rose to our floor, I had the sensation that my stomach had stayed on the ground floor. Possibilities flew right out the window. I certainly wasn't going to be telling him how cute I thought he was with my roommate in the elevator and a crisis of epic proportion looming on the horizon.

Underage drinking was something that could get you sent home, no ands, ifs, or buts, and anyone who conspired to cover it up was just as liable. We knew that, and yet, we were convinced that we could hide it. When we got to our room, on one of the upper floors, we had a Suge Night moment when my boy pulled a guy off of the drunk girl, someone trying to take tremendous advantage of her. He didn't get tossed off of the balcony, but he sure did leave our room in a heck of a hurry.

My fella left soon after, with a rueful grin that I know was reflected on my own face for lost opportunity.

None of us knew anything about sobering someone up, other than what we'd seen on TV. We had no coffee to pour into her; it was superlate and the bars were closing, plus the moment of the chaperones would come knocking on our door was creeping closer. We'd be in nearly as much trouble for being out of our rooms so close to curfew as we would be for drinking. We thought about trying to put her to bed, but with the rest of us wide awake and still chattering, she wouldn't stay in bed. We sat her in a corner and told her to keep her mouth shut, answering any question they asked her directly with as few words as possible. She was a chatterbox, and we told her that if they asked why she was so quiet, she was to tell them that she was very tired.

I was worried about my own neck too; I'd had plenty of sangria on the beach with the boy and his friends, who had much more liberal chaperones. They were allowed to drink if they wanted. I, on the other hand, stood as large a chance as C did to get sent home. The fact that I was merely buzzed and she was completely shit-faced wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference.

The chaperones admired our view when they came at last to our room, seating themselves on chairs on the balcony. We thought they'd never leave; we all managed to work the fact that we were allll soooo tired into the conversation, but they weren't taking the hint. Amazingly, C kept silent, and no one questioned her. When they left, we all were nearly hysterical with relief.

Age and experience tells me, now, that they knew. They had to. I'll bet they laughed themselves silly on the way back to their own rooms.

But that night was the first time I acted as a caretaker for anyone outside of my own family, a pattern which continues to this day. We bundled C into bed, finally, making sure there was a trash can near her in case she got sick, and I found aspirin or Advil or Tylenol for the headache she was sure to have in the morning.

Parties in high school had me doing more of the same, watching out for friends, keeping a cool head about myself. In Europe, my junior year, I wasn't too worried about consequences. My host parents were OK with me drinking, knowing the kids I ran around with and knowing how little trouble I could really get into in Sweden. When I came home from Sweden, my friends were all horrified at the amount of smoking and drinking I'd done; and then, at some point during the middle of that schoolyear, everyone else discovered drinking too. I worried, I watched. At least until Senior's Week, the week we graduated, when I behaved like any other teen, sure I was immortal, and all of my friends were bullet-proof.

We're all lucky that we're not dead of alcohol poisoning, really.

I continue to be the caretaker. Most of the time, that's OK with me. I wonder, though, if my life would have taken a different course, if I'd be the same adult that I am now, if when informed of C's drunken-ness that night so long ago if I'd said, "Hey, figure it out. Not my problem. The boy and I need to talk. I'll see you later."

Oh, and if you're wondering.....nothing ever happened with the boy. Never so much as kissed him. I don't remember even holding hands with him at any other point during the trip. Never saw him again, either. Obviously, it wasn't meant to be.


Dawna said...

Aaaaaaw, that was a nice story!

Lucy Arin said...

Thanks! An experiment of sorts. I'm glad you liked it. Maybe leading up to posting some of my fiction? IDK if I'm that brave yet.

But the positive feedback means a lot, thank you. :-)

Dawna said...

No problem!

Doing a story telling type blog is something I always wanted to do but have put the idea aside because I don't believe anyone would ever read them. Posting up fiction is a little different because it isn't something that particularly happened to you as a person; something which I have posted many times and rarely have people batted an eyelash at it.

Not enough people leave feedback! It is always nice to know that people read what one writes without just shrugging and clicking away to another site.

MotherMe said...

Great story!

I kwym about being the caretaker, by the way. Maybe it's oldest child/daughter syndrome. Maybe it's just because we're both damn nice people. But I also and always take care of others, even when I'm shitfaced. Now you know why I'm MotherMe. :P