"Hawaii," Barry said.
"That's in America. That's not a vacation."
"They hate tourists there. They call them haoles. It's an anagram for 'a-holes,' so it can't be good."
"The dollar's in the crapper. We'll pay through the nose."
"There's war in the streets!"
"I wouldn't stop thinking about the tsunami."
"Droughts, fire, sharks, snakes, spiders," I shuddered. "Like an apocalypse at the zoo."
"Come on. It's a big country. Dreams stay with you."
"But it's a twenty hour flight. We'd lose a day both ways."
"What, safari? Killing helpless animals? I'd see a poached elephant and it would ruin the whole trip."
"We're running out of planet, Miranda. The Middle East hates us."
"India. No, they poop in a hole in the floor."
"The Caribbean," he said.
"Just not Aruba. That murdered girl will haunt my dreams. They never found her body."
"How about Bermuda?"
"Triangle," I said.
"It's a myth!"
"The shorts are stupid-looking."
"You don't have to wear them!"
"But you will, Barry. I know you will."
"Damn it, Miranda-"
"Antigua! We can go to Antigua," I said. "That's in the Caribbean, isn't it?"
So that's how we wound up in Antigua. It's beautiful. Everyone here is black and very friendly. It's so cute that they have their own country and let us come here! The immigration fellow smiled at me. His teeth are so good, I can't believe it was a British colony!
"Miranda, put your sunglasses on, if you're going to stare," Barry says. He doesn't see things like I do. He's so practical.
I fall in love with their accents on the ride to the resort, as the driver talks on his cell phone. We share a van with some skinny Germans. They don't tip, so I make Barry tip double.
"Hi, our reservation is under Kellerson. All inclusive," Barry says.
"Don't worry, she's not going to charge you to check in. Don't give me that look."
"You are in suite 32, Mr. Kellerson," she says. She sounds like the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency, on HBO!
"I could listen to you talk all day," I say.
Barry tugs my elbow, and we go to drop our bags in the room.
"This looks like a hotel. We could've gone to Atlantic City," I say.
"Let's go get a drink on the beach."
Standing in the bathroom, Barry slathers sun cream on his moley white skin. He aims the bottle at me.
"I'm good," I say.
"What about skin cancer?"
"I want a tan to show off when we get back."
The sand sucks at our feet as we walk the beach, trying to swallow us whole.
"It's like a postcard," Barry says.
"The sun's so hot here." The sun feels like it's glaring at me.
"I told you to wear sunscreen," he snaps. "Let's get fruity drinks. Under the shade."
A girl with her hair in a bun tends bar at the Tiki hut. Her name badge reads ‘Carol.’
"Two piña coladas, please," Barry says.
"Coming right up," Carol lilts, and fires up the blender.
It's so hot that my drink disappears. So cool and coconutty. She makes another.
"Barry, will you go get the sun screen?"
"I told you to put some on."
"I can't walk back now. I'll burn,” I say. “The sun doesn't like our kind.”
He waddles off into the sand.
Soon my straw's gurgling again like a noisy toilet.
"Carol, you make a good drink. Drink with me."
"I am not supposed to drink with customers, Miss."
"Call me Miranda. It's okay!"
She makes two more, and looks around before taking a sip.
"Oh my God! There's a weasel in the bushes," I say.
"That was a mongoose," Carol says.
"Aren't they from India? Like in Rikki Tikki Tavi?"
"They were imported to eat the rats in the cane fields. But they ate the snakes."
"They're an invasive species," I say. Then I get one of my epiphanies. "We're an invasive species."
"What?" she said.
"White people. We're an invasive species. We come with money, we chase you locals off the beach. Take it all for ourselves."
"The beaches are public here," Carol says.
"We have to slather ourselves in chemicals just to walk around here."
"We get sunburn too, Miss."
"I said you can call me Miranda," I repeat. "Carol. Is that your real name?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is that your real name, or your ... American name?"
Carol tilts her head. "It is my name."
"Yeah, but is that like a slave name?"
"Carol is my name. Britain ended slavery in 1808. Before America."
"My family never owned slaves," I tell her. "My great-grandparents came over after the pogroms."
"I think you've had enough to drink."
"My people were slaves once, in Egypt."
Barry shuffles up with a sigh, and puts a twenty on the bar.
"I'm sorry. She never sleeps when she flies," he says, squirting my shoulders with sunscreen. I feel like a cat being spritzed with a corrective water bottle.
"I'll fry to a crisp," I protest. "Even the sun doesn't want us here."
He takes me by the arm. "Let's go back to our room, honey."
"I can't go anywhere, I care too much," I tell Carol. "Doesn't that make me a victim of slavery as well?"
Barry kisses my forehead and leads me away. "We should've gone to Tahiti."
published 10 August 2011