Capturing Freeport

Photos from my recent trip to the Bahamas

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Authentically Aurora

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Cruise of the Bruised – Part IV

Nassau

Over a sub-par breakfast of fatty bacon and runny eggs (fancy as it can be, cruise ship food is definitely made for the masses), the girls and I discussed our plans for the day. Our ship would dock at Nassau within the hour, and the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds, promising a beautiful day to spend on the beaches of the Bahamas.

Since I’d been with the muscled massage therapist during most of our time in Freeport, I was looking forward to celebrating Marina’s upcoming birthday with her during our sunny afternoon in Nassau. Verna and Marina chattered on about drinking piña coladas on the white sand, and Marina agreed to take acroyoga photos with me in front of the breathtaking turquoise water —

Jordan appeared mid-conversation, walking by our table on the upper dock in his workout clothes, body glistening with perspiration. I watched him do a double-take as he noticed me sitting there, and – as I’d expected – he walked over to say hi. He wanted to spend the day with me, but I told him I was on the cruise with the girls and was there to celebrate Marina’s birthday.

“Well… could I meet you later this evening? Maybe at that hot tub,” he gestured with his towel-free hand, “Around 5 o’clock tonight?”

I smiled. “I think I can make that happen,” I said coyly.

“Great!” His grin lit up his face. “I’ll see you then.”

I turned back around to find the girls snickering, amusement lighting up their eyes. “Oh, hush,” I told them with mock disapproval. They just laughed harder.

An hour later, the three of us were decked out in our colorful bikinis and sunglasses, disembarking for our second day ashore in the Bahamas. We passed by hordes of taxis and horse-drawn carriages, opting instead to take in some Vitamin D during the 20 minute walk to the beach.

Verna and Marina decided to pay $10 for beach chairs, but I laid out my towel in the sand, readjusted my sunglasses on my nose, and sighed happily as I (finally!) opened my book to start reading. This was exactly what I’d envisioned when I agreed to go on this cruise with the girls.

Verna and Marina chattered away in Spanish, and after a while, Marina and I roped Verna into playing photographer while we posed in various acroyoga positions on the beach. We laughed uproariously every time we fell over, and I chuckled to myself when I noticed other patrons discreetly snapping photos of us on their phones. Both our posing and our falling was entertaining for all.

After the photos, we splashed around in the water, watched a limbo competition, and bought matching necklaces with flowers made out of conch shells. Then we all ordered drinks – piña coladas in coconuts – to celebrate a wonderful vacation and the perfect day.

Hours later, as we were packing up to walk back to the ship, I suddenly spotted Jordan across the beach, making his way toward a volleyball court where I saw the younger boys playing. I started to call out to say hi, but as I kept watching his veering path along the beach, I realized that he was incapable of walking in a straight line. He was drunk.

Verna and Marina had gone to the bathroom, so from where I stood guarding their stuff, I watched Jordan approach the group of bachelorettes who’d won the limbo competition. He laughed with the bride-to-be, taking her in his arms and twirling her around, dancing in the sand. “Don’t torture yourself,” came a quiet voice from behind me. I turned around to see that Verna had joined me, a knowing look on her face.

Then Marina appeared, we gathered our stuff and walked back to the ship. When we got back to the cabin, the girls decided they wanted to nap after the long day in the sun. So while they slept, I looked through the photos we’d taken and tried to decide what to do about my 5pm meeting with Jordan. Ultimately, I decided to be a woman of my word, so at 4:55, I left the girls sleeping in the cabin and made my way to the hot tub on the top deck.

When I arrived, I saw lots of people milling about, but no Jordan. I wasn’t surprised. Between the alcohol and the bachelorettes, I figured he’d completely forgotten about me. I’d brought a book with me for just such an instance, so I sat and read, letting the sounds of people talking and laughing fade into the background.

At 5:15, I felt a presence hovering over me, so I looked up to see Jonah and two of the other high school boys gathered around me. I didn’t remember their names, but I recognized them both – one tall and gangly; the other tall and beefy.

“Hey, Aurora!” Jonah greeted me, a genuinely happy smile on his face. I was glad he was glad to see me. “Can we join you?” he asked.

“Please do!” I told them cheerfully. So the three high school boys sat around me on the long bench beside the pool, the chunky one on my right; Jonah and the beanpole to my left. “How was your day?” I asked them.

They told me all about drinking at Señor Frog’s, playing volleyball on the beach and trying to pick up girls. I internally rolled my eyes. They were definitely high school boys.

“Speaking of picking up girls,” Jonah said, putting his arm around me with a dramatic pause, “How you doin’?” The other boys laughed while I shrugged his arm off me and asked with a smirk, “Jonah, how old do you think I am?”

“Dunno… 23?” The other two nodded in agreement.

“I’m almost 30,” I told him, raising my left eyebrow for emphasis.

“Sh** — no way!” Then they were asking about Marina (32) and even Verna, who is in her 40s. I told them they were ridiculous, and they started asking for tips on picking up girls.

The chunky one was quiet and sweet. After telling me about how he works with his dad in the construction business, he asked me in a soft voice the best way to get a girl’s attention. The other guys called outbursts about telling her she’s sexy or a hot momma, but I ignored them and told him that I like it when a guy wants to get to know me. “Ask her where she’s from; where she goes to school. Ask about her hobbies. Genuinely try to get to know her. That will go a lot farther than objectifying her,” I told him with a wink. He smiled shyly. What was this sweetheart doing with these other boys?

I turned to Beanpole and asked him, “So what about you? What do you like to do for fun?”

He looked dumbfounded. “Uh… I dunno.”

“Are you in any clubs at school? Do you play any sports? What are your hobbies?”

The 17-year-old gave me a devilish look and answered, “Recreational substance abuse.”

I knew he was trying to get a rise out of me, so I just shrugged and said, “I appreciate the honesty. What do you want to do for a living? Any idea what you want to major in?”

He looked dumbfounded again, so I started asking him questions that would help me determine his MBTI – how he likes to recharge when he’s stressed, if he tends to go with his gut on making decisions. He seemed curious enough to stick with me through the impromptu session, and the other two boys were enraptured as well. I got the sense that no one ever bothered to talk to them like adults with hopes and dreams and passions.

Ultimately, I identified Beanpole as an ISTP – “Friendly but very private, calm but suddenly spontaneous, extremely curious but unable to stay focused on formal studies, ISTP personalities can be a challenge to predict, even by their friends and loved ones. ISTPs can seem very loyal and steady for a while, but they tend to build up a store of impulsive energy that explodes without warning, taking their interests in bold new directions.”

I could tell that Beanpole still had some alcohol (or something stronger) in his system, so I told him to take a note in his phone to look into his ISTP personality. After watching him type the note into his phone, Jonah asked, “So what are you doing up here anyway?”

“I was supposed to meet Jordan here at 5:00.”

There was an instant of silence; then all three boys started guffawing, slapping their legs and rocking back and forth. “Nah, there’s no way Jordan’s coming. He’s passed out in the room!”

“I suspected as much,” I said, lips drawn into a tight line as their laughter continued.

“Oooh!” Jonah’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Let’s go wake him up!” The other boys agreed, jumped up, and pulled me along behind them. I begrudgingly followed them down to room 242, where they unlocked the door, surprising D.J. as they stormed in and started jumping on Jordan’s bed.

In all the commotion, D.J. assured me that Jordan is normally responsible; this is the first time he’s seen Jordan like that, and it was because Jordan forgot to eat lunch, so he had a few drinks on an empty stomach. Jordan peered at me, bleary eyed and apologized profusely. “I’m so sorry I missed our date.”

I waved him off. “That’s okay. It wasn’t a date. I’m not dating this year, remember? Let’s get you some food.” I hauled him up, and we walked – just the two of us – up to the cafeteria for some dinner. After some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, Jordan assured me that he felt better; then he checked his phone for the time and asked if I’d mind if he called his daughter Grace. “This is the fifteen minute time slot her mother and I agreed I could talk to her every day.”

I nodded and excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I came back, Jordan was just finishing up his call with Grace. He seemed tired. Sad. I put my hand on his arm and asked how he was doing. He started telling me all about the lawyers’ fees and the custody battle and how concerned he is for his daughter, growing up in that household with her emotionally unstable mother and sexual predator of an uncle.

Jordan was really shaken up and clearly had no one to confide in about these things, so I asked him about his church. He knows deep down that he needs the fellowship and community that the church can provide, but he’s been wounded by the church. So many “Christians” have judged him for his divorce, refused to stand up with him in court and generally deepened his hurts that he wants nothing to do with them.

So I asked if I could pray for him. Jordan agreed. So we held hands, bowed our heads, and boldly approached the Throne of Grace. I prayed for Jordan, for peace and for healing. I prayed for his ex-wife, created in the image of God and desperately in need of healing herself. I prayed for protection for sweet little Grace. I prayed about the custody battle and the lawyers and the church and Jordan’s job and all manner of things he’d shared with me over the past few days. And by the end, I had silent tears streaming down my face. God, why have you given me such a soft heart for the hurting and brokenhearted?

At the end, we hugged silently; then we agreed to walk around the ship for a while, lightening the mood. We had only walked the length of one level of the cruise ship when we ran into the sweet, chunky kid from the hot tub. Jordan wrapped him in a bear hug, and wiggled my fingers at him in a wave from over Jordan’s shoulder.

“Whatcha doin’?” Jordan asked the Teddy Bear. We followed his eyes to where a pretty blonde teenager sat alone at a table, scrolling on her phone. Ah.

“I’m really nervous, but I want to talk to her,” the Teddy Bear admitted, looking at me. “What should I say?”

I was surprised and honored that he wanted my advice, especially since Jordan is the one who has known him since he was in diapers. “Ask her if she watched the SuperBowl this weekend. If she did, ask who she rooted for. If not, ask what she did instead. Just keep the questions rolling, but keep it casual and laid-back. Express an interest in getting to know her.”

“Okay,” Teddy repeated back to me, practicing. “Hey, did you watch the SuperBowl this weekend?” He paused; then tried again. “Hey! How about that SuperBowl, huh?”

I smiled, gave him a hug, and nudged him forward. “You’ve got this.”

“Will you stay here for me?” he asked, nervousness written all over his face. His vulnerability and honesty were charming. “Of course,” I told him reassuringly. He was adorable.

Jordan and I stood arm-in-arm watching Teddy approach the girl. He sat down at the table next to hers, just as I’d coached him. “You want to seem friendly but not come on too strong.” We watched the conversation begin, the girl looking wary at first; then merely uncomfortable before Teddy said something to make her laugh, and, “He’s in,” I said to Jordan with a smile. We waltzed away, Jordan’s arm around me, as Teddy continued getting to know the solitary blonde, confidence building.

I’ve spoken to Jordan a few times since the cruise, and he tells me that the guys talk about me all the time. “Apparently your conversations with them had quite an impact.” He says they seem inspired and driven, like they have hope again. Yes, Lord. Thank you for there being purpose in my being on that cruise – the Cruise of the Bruised… a phrase that could describe all of our journeys at one time or another.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice… I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” -Isaiah 42

Authentically Aurora

Cruise of the Bruised – Part III

Jordan and I managed to make it back to the ship without getting killed, abducted or exploited, so I count that as a win. Especially since I had no cash, I.D. or cell phone on me – just my hot pink bikini and $3000 camera. Not one of my finest moments.

The negotiator in me had been running through scenarios of bartering off my Canon 5D Mark II in exchange for our lives. Or having Jordan bribe any would-be predators with the marijuana hidden in his swim trunks. Between my brains and Jordan’s brawn, I’d convinced myself we’d be okay. I’m glad it turned out to be the case, no loss of vacation photos required. Or worse.

D.J. (Daddy John, the orthopedic friend of Jordan’s) met us at the pier with his daughter Penny, who grinned and wrapped me in a plush blue towel, returning to me some of my dignity. “Welcome back,” D.J. greeted us, laughter dancing in his eyes. “Glad you made it!” He looked at me and said, “Your friends have your backpack with your I.D. and wallet. They’re going to meet you at the entrance to the ship so you can get on board.” Praise God for the kindness of strangers and the patience and benevolence of Verna and Marina!

Within the next hour, I’d been reunited with the girls and my backpack, gotten a hot shower and – of course – been quizzed unmercifully by my traveling companions. I admitted to the kiss but told the girls that nothing really happened, which was true, and I thanked them for collecting my things and meeting me at the ship entrance. Nice as the Bahamas was, it just wouldn’t do to be stuck on the island for the rest of my life.

Jordan hadn’t asked for my phone number or room number, so when we’d parted ways, I assumed that was the end of our tête-à-tête. Probably for the best, I thought. But over the next few days, I kept running into people from his group.

Carnival_interior_2Penny was a sweet girl of just 14, and I passed her and her oldest brother Jonah in an elegant hallway on one of the upper levels, all of us swaying with the rough seas. “How are you?!” I squealed, giving her a big hug. She’d modeled for me on the beach, and I absolutely adored her sweet spirit and quiet confidence. “Are these boys treating you okay?” I raised one eyebrow playfully, but I was partially serious. I didn’t like that she was alone with such a rough group of boys.

She nudged her brother in the ribs. “Yeah, they treat me okay.” She smiled.

“They don’t get you smoking and drinking with them, do they?” I asked, still half-teasing, half-serious.

“Nah,” Penny gave a sideways smile. “I’m not into all that stuff. And actually, they tell me all the time that if guys like them ever come and hit on me, I should run as fast as I can in the other direction!”

Jonah nodded in affirmation, a big, silly grin on his face. I asked him, “And you, Jonah… Are you like your namesake at all?” I knew from Jordan that D.J. was a Christian, even as wild as his boys were, so I figured Jonah knew the story. “Are you running from what you’ve been created for?”

The 17-year-old boy shrugged, his mass of curly hair flopping with the movement. “Probably.” I gave him a look full of both challenge and affection. He squirmed and ducked his head, so I wrapped him in a hug and said, “You’re a smart kid, I can tell. You’ll figure it out.”

Shortly thereafter, I ran into their dad D.J., who stopped me in the hallway to ask (with thinly veiled curiosity) what I thought of Jordan. “You two make a handsome couple,” he told me. There was an intensity and weight to his words. He wanted me to know that he cared deeply for Jordan – had known him for decades – and wanted to see him married to a good woman.

“Jordan is a great guy,” I told the would-be matchmaker. “He’s got a lot of potential, but he needs to get right with God. He seems to have a lot of head knowledge – he knows a lot of scripture and facts about the bible – but I think we both know he has wandered a bit and has some healing to do before he’s ready for another relationship.”

D.J. nodded, understanding but still pushing. “Did you have fun at the beach with him?”

“I did,” I began slowly. “He is a lot of fun and very easy to be around. I love how laid-back he is. But, D.J., I’m in a season where I don’t date just to date. I’m dating to marry, and Jordan has a lot to work through before he’s ready for the kind of relationship I would expect.”

Lantern in the darkI found out later from Jordan that he was getting quizzed by the matchmaker, too. “D.J. likes you a lot,” Jordan told me. “He keeps telling me that you’re a catch. That you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. He says,

‘Don’t let this one get away. She’s got a smile that lights up the room.'” 

Hopefully she’s got a heart that lights up some lives, too.

Authentically Aurora

Cruise of the Bruised – Part II

Book BeachLaying on a quiet beach reading a good book is my idea of a good time, so at the first port stop of our Bahamas cruise, I convinced the girls that we should find a secluded beach location rather than one of the party spots (it helped that my travel companions were 32 and 42, whereas I have no excuse for my preference). No Señor Frog’s for us!

After chatting with one of the locals who advised us of the best beach for what we were looking for, we got in line for a taxi headed to the appropriate location. As our group of three climbed into the back of a long taxi-van, a much larger group also stepped forward to board: Jordan, his slender orthopedic buddy and the entire gaggle of kids! Of all the taxis going to all the beaches in Freeport, we managed to end up in the same one. With a cruise ship of literally thousands of people, and with everyone disembarking at different times, I can legitimately say it was not planned. At least, not by mere mortals.

It was a cold day in Freeport – overcast and in the 60s – so everyone huddled together on the bench seats, joking and laughing as we all shivered at the cold wind cutting in through the open windows of the van. As soon as we got on the beach, some shady guy with dreadlocks came up to me and let me know he could set me up with the goods if I wanted to have any illegal fun. “What kind of illegal fun?” I asked, perplexed. “You’ll know what to ask for if you want it,” he told me with a wink, slinking away.

Shaking my head, I found a flat stretch of sand and laid out my beach towel, digging in my backpack for the book I’d started reading the day before. All the Carolinians (for the orthopedic group was from a mix of North and South Carolina) got out snorkel gear and splashed out into the chilly water. Verna and Marina got into the water, too, but they quickly returned and wrapped themselves in their warm, fluffy towels, chatting away in Spanish (they are from Argentina and Ecuador, respectively).

Less than half a chapter into my book, the Carolinians returned, and Jordan came over to talk to me. Only, he didn’t say anything; he just stood near me, pretending to examine his scuba gear. “Wanna explore?” I asked finally, gesturing to the beach.

“Sure.” He sounded relieved. The beach was ruggedly beautiful – rocky with a dense tree line close to the water – so I grabbed my camera and followed him down the shoreline, my long hair whipping around my face in the wind.

Jordan and I made small talk for a while, stopping occasionally so I could snap landscape photos as I felt inspired. We fell into an easy rhythm, and before long – as I have come to expect – Jordan started opening up to me about his past, telling me about his nine-year-old daughter Grace and his divorce from her mother four years ago. Apparently his ex-wife was abused as a child, and she became violent herself during the course of their marriage. According to Jordan, his ex was suicidal during the few years of their marriage; then she turned homicidal near the end. Jordan is still fighting a custody battle for their daughter.

After a time, we turned the conversation lighter, and Jordan told me more about his work. He loves what he does. He loves being a healer. “It’s amazing to see people who were wheelchair bound for twenty years start to walk again,” he told me with awe in his voice. His enthusiasm was palpable.

“How does your faith play into your role of healer?” I asked Jordan. He’d made a passing reference to a church, and I was curious how deep his faith went.

Jordan looked surprised but not uncomfortable. “I tend to keep a pretty tangible, scientific outlook, but I also know that God is ultimately the Great Physician,” he told me. As our conversation continued, I found out that Jordan had gone to seminary for a few semesters. Prior to becoming a massage therapist, he had been a youth pastor. It was my turn to be surprised. Jordan knows Greek and Hebrew, is an orthopedic massage therapist, and is also working as a carpenter, remodeling his home himself. This simple country boy was quickly becoming more and more interesting!

About a mile down the beach, Jordan and I came upon a large outcropping of rocks. I am normally pretty sure-footed, but my wet flip-flops kept slipping, so Jordan offered me his hand to help me climb over the rocks. Once I was safety on the other side, though, he kept my hand in his. For a moment, I thought of pulling my hand away, but I was cold, and his hand was warm and welcoming. Besides, I thought, there’s nothing wrong with holding hands.

Shortly thereafter, I suggested we turn back around and start heading back. We could no longer see our group of friends down the winding stretch of sandy beach. Jordan agreed, and we started to turn, but then he stopped. With my hand attached to his, I had to stop, too. I looked up at him, and he stepped closer, eyes full of intent. I barely had time to think before his arm was around me and he had lowered his lips to mine. I let him kiss me, but when we pulled away, I told him, “Jordan, I’m not dating this year. And you live in South Carolina. And you’re still fighting for custody of your daughter.”

He sighed and smiled. “I know.” He paused. “But I enjoy your company.”

I smiled, too, and we kept walking. But it was further back to our group than either of us had realized. And the day was getting colder and colder. And I had brought nothing with me but my camera – no towel, no I.D., no cell phone, no cash. So when we got back to where our group should be and found an empty patch of sand, I started to panic. Just then, the illegal-activity-encouraging dreadlocks-wearer appeared from behind the trees to offer some insight into the situation in which we found ourselves.

Apparently our group had left him as a messenger that the last taxi driver had capriciously decided to go back to the pier an hour earlier than agreed upon. And our group had been forced to leave us behind or be left behind themselves. But the drug dealer told us that he knew someone who could take us back to the cruise ship from our remote location. He gestured for us to follow him back to the parking lot where we’d been dropped off, and he introduced us to a heavy-set woman whose name I never caught. She seemed unhappy to be the errand girl, but clearly the druggie held some sway with her, so she hurried us into her car, and away we went, presumably back to the pier.

I was glad Jordan was so ripped.

I was not glad when I found out that Jordan had purchased marijuana for the high school boys from the dreadlocks man.

“It’s better than the stuff they usually do. At least this will keep them away from the pills,” he whispered to me in the backseat of the rotund woman’s car. “Last night, one of the kids was doing uppers and downers at the same time. I told him he’s going to kill himself that way.”

I was scandalized.”I thought you were a youth pastor at one time. Why are you encouraging this?! You told me you were on this trip to be a positive role model to these kids!”

“I am. I’m better than what they’ve got back home,” he told me in his slow drawl. “And, like I said, they’re going to do drugs regardless. At least I can help guide them toward the softer stuff. I won’t smoke any of it myself.”

“But you’re enabling them. And you’re a Christian. Don’t you believe that God is able to emotionally heal these kids fully, not just control how bad their drug usage gets?”

Jordan shrugged. And then, to my astonishment, told me the biblical story of Zacchaeus. “God doesn’t change our outward actions and then our hearts. He changes us from the inside out. Making these boys do the right thing – not doing drugs – without getting to their hearts first is just going to create a bunch of little Pharisees. I’m doing what I can to have a more lasting impact… and try to keep them out of too much trouble in the meantime.”

I was absolutely stunned. Jordan speaks with a   v e r y   s l o w  Southern accent, sometimes pausing so long that I think he’s forgotten to finish his sentence. During our walk on the beach, he seemed nice enough, but he didn’t come off as overly intelligent, and after the marijuana revelation, I had doubts about his moral code. So to have him pull out the story of Zacchaeus and insightfully apply it to our discussion left me dumbfounded.

I was momentarily swayed into understanding where he was coming from, but then Jordan went on to tell me he’d taught the kids how to smuggle alcohol onto the ship using listerine bottles. “They tried doing it last year, but they did it wrong, so they got caught. At least if I teach them, they won’t get in trouble with the authorities. A couple of them have already done jail time.”

I remembered my own childhood, my mother telling me, “If you ever do anything wrong, I hope you get caught!” I was hurt at first, not understanding, but she explained, “I would want you to get caught because I love you. And sometimes being disciplined is the best blessing we could receive.” If we are never caught – never disciplined – we may never turn from wrongdoing. Getting away with wrongdoing is often a worse punishment than getting caught because, without facing the consequences of your actions, your character may never be refined.

I tried to talk to Jordan about his approach to mentoring these kids. “Be relevant and relatable to the kids, yes; meet them where they are, yes, but don’t damage your witness in the process. Don’t compromise the line between right and wrong in order to try and reach them. I can’t imagine that’s God-honoring.”

We had to agree to disagree. Jordan told me I didn’t really understand the kids; didn’t know what it was like to come from a broken family. He told me they wouldn’t understand all my “high-and-mighty talk” if I tried to reach them my way. But the next day would prove otherwise. All these kids needed was a little love, encouragement, inspiration, I thought. …and boundaries.

Authentically Aurora

Cruise of the Bruised – Part I

Yankee capI noticed him the moment I stepped from the cab and onto the rain-soaked sidewalk beside the pier. He stood bent over a blue Team USA duffel bag, biceps bulging and baseball cap pulled low over his eyes to shield him from the light drizzle that was already beginning to mist my hair. His sandy brown hair poked out from beneath his cap, and as he righted himself, I saw deep smile lines etched around his eyes and chiseled below his cheekbones.

Marina and Verna made a beeline for the cruise ship so, pulling my gaze away from the tanned athlete, I grabbed the handle of my lavender suitcase and hurried along behind them. Five minutes later, we walked through the metal detectors of security, and I glanced behind me to see Mr. Team USA standing directly behind Verna in line to board the ship.

The two other girls were oblivious to his presence, but as we snaked our way through the line toward the gangway, I glanced in his direction each time we turned a corner to circle back the other direction. The ball cap wearer and I made eye contact a few times, and the third time, he smiled at me. I smiled shyly before ducking my head and scurrying forward in the line, chiding myself. You’re not dating this year. You’re not dating this year.

My younger brother met his wife on a cruise a few years ago, so it was hard not to get the idea in my head, but I kept coaching myself that I am committed to taking this year off dating. It’s a lot easier to keep that mindset when you don’t have two married women – your only travel companions – teasing you, encouraging you and constantly looking to set you up with every young, able-bodied male on the cruise ship.

Long after I’d started making eyes at Mr. Team USA, Verna started complaining about wrist pain from her poor computer set up at the office. I watched in fascination at the various expressions flickering across Mr. Team USA’s face. He was obviously listening, and eventually, he spoke up. “If you wear a rubber band around your wrist, you can do finger and wrist strengthening exercises like this,” he gestured, and we all looked down to where he demonstrated the exercise for us with a rubber band he wore encircling his wrist.

Marina, being a fitness instructor, jumped right into the conversation, asking him what he does for a living. Jordan (as he introduced himself) is an orthopedic massage therapist who studied under the Yankees’ orthopedic physician and also does work on a few guys in the NFL. He is currently studying for his physical trainer certification and has a few patents in the works.

I tried to ignore the winks from Verna and wiggling eyebrows from Marina as we boarded the ship. “Who are you here with?” I asked Jordan nonchalantly. He appeared to be traveling alone.

“One of my orthopedic buddies and his kids,” Jordan answered as – sure enough – a slender man in his late forties approached with five boys and one girl in tow. Only two of the boys turned out to be his sons; the others were friends who’d come along for the vacation.

Our now-huge group was starting to block the gangway, so Marina, Verna and I started moving in the direction of our cabin and, after an only slightly awkward pause, Jordan extended his arm for a handshake, wishing me well with a nod and, “Maybe I’ll see ya around.”

And see me around, he did.

Authentically Aurora

“That Person”

I was just “that person.”

There are lots of versions of “that person”, like that person who picks their nose in rush hour traffic. And that person who takes the last chocolate chip cookie at a party. And that person who asks you why you’re not married (don’t be that person, especially the week of Valentine’s Day).

I was just “that person” who hears a playful comment from someone else and throws back a serious, depressing, I’m-offended response that makes the other person feel terrible about themselves.

Cruise ship…I wrote that intro last week as I was getting ready to go on my weekend cruise to the Bahamas. I didn’t have time to finish the post, what with last-minute packing of pink bikinis and whatnot, but here’s what happened.

In preparation for vacation, I tried to check in online, but I kept getting an error message from the cruise line’s website. I tried checking in on Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday. Finally, on Wednesday, I conceded that I was going to have to call and talk to an actual human being. I hate talking to actual human beings.

When John the Cruise Concierge picked up the phone, I explained that I was going on 4-day cruise and was having difficulty with my booking. He talked me through all the usual online troubleshooting scripts, until we finally realized that Marina – the friend who’d booked the cruise for our group – had entered my birthday wrong (incorrect month, day AND year), so my passport number wasn’t being validated.

When John and I realized that my friend Marina had entered my birthday wrong, he joked over the phone, “She doesn’t know your birthday? Are you sure she’s really your friend?”

I knew he was kidding, but I was sensitive to his comment partially because I was stressed out about not being able to check in, partially because I was afraid he was going to think I was a fraud and wouldn’t help me, and partially because I already felt a bit odd about the cruise due to a lack of closeness between Marina and myself.

Marina was my fitness instructor about five years ago. We never really talked outside of quick small talk before and after the workout class. We did go out to dinner a couple of times in the past few years, but we don’t really know each other very well, so I was surprised when she asked me to celebrate her 32nd birthday with her by going on a cruise together.

I’m not sure how many people she asked, but only three of us were going on the cruise – Marina and some girl Verna who I’d never met before. Verna is a 40-something mother of three, and the reason Marina reached out to “the girls” to celebrate her birthday is that she’s getting ready to file for divorce from her husband of eight years. Not exactly the posse I imagine when I envision a Bahamas cruise with my girlfriends. 

Unfortunately for John the Cruise Concierge, I explained all of this to him in a very long run-on sentence. “I’m not surprised she doesn’t know my birthday – I mean, we don’t really know each other; we were just in a fitness class together, and she was trying to find girl friends to go on this cruise with her because it’s her thirty-second birthday, and she wants to celebrate her birthday but not with her husband because she’s about to file for divorce even though they’ve been married for eight years and have a two-year-old daughter, and I guess she doesn’t have a lot of girl friends since she’s been focused on trying to fix her marriage and raise her daughter, so she ended up asking me – a single twenty-something – and the other woman going is a mom in her forties, so it’s going to be an interesting group with me and two moms, and you’re right; I guess we’re not that great of friends after all.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence before I heard John whisper meekly, “I am so sorry.”

Now poor John the Cruise Concierge feels terribly about himself and is going to go home and drink a lot of alcohol and need to go on a cruise himself to recover from the conversation I just thrust upon him with my anxiety, social awkwardness and blunt delivery. Sorry, John the Concierge. I was just “that person.” 

Authentically Aurora