Saturday, June 15, 2013

Savannah Travelogue, Part 3: At the Pool, In the Room, On the Internet


At the Pool

My boyfriend and I have the rooftop pool to ourselves on a Friday evening. I have that feeling I had in the cushy club car (in which we were also alone) of the train we took down here from DC the day before, of incredible luck, of uncanny luck even, as if it’s a trick, as if we’re being surveilled and at any moment a SWAT team is going to burst out from behind the topiaries and the shadowy pillars of the smokers’ cabana. But it also feels inevitable, right, as if we’re actors in a movie with stark, Edward Hopper set design.

We ease into the pool from opposite sides, my boyfriend down the stairs in the sun and I down the submerged metal stepladder in the slowly growing segment of shade at the other end, to keep my pale skin out of direct sun. After flailing around and chatting together, we amuse ourselves separately.

I float. It’s one of my favorite things to do, maybe the most calming sensation in the world to me. Alley-oop and I’m weightless and horizontal, a shallow mountain range, like a translucent coral reef that doesn’t stand a chance at high tide, only my face and my water-lapped, half-bikini-topped breasts and a bit of my tummy and my knees above the surface, still in terrestrial air.

I close my eyes and hear the familiar blubbing nothing, the druggy dreamlike underwater orchestra of my boyfriend’s movements and the faraway bubbling from a vent somewhere. I look straight up at blue sky, dotted with faint black outlines (worms, dartboards) that either everyone sees when they look at bright light or that are indicative of some degenerative eye problem I have. I love this, looking up and seeing nothing but pure cloud-free sky, and then I notice: there’s an early moon out, a wispy sickle, looking out of place and lonely.

I close my eyes and try to ignore the forlorn moon, then I open them again and try to just look up at the sky. See only blue.

In the Room

On Saturday morning my boyfriend goes downstairs to grab us some free hotel breakfast-to-go in the last 10 minutes before the staff starts to pack it up, and I get up and go into the bathroom to plonk in my contact lenses and brush my teeth. I’m wearing a pajama ensemble that's glorified underwear -- “boy shorts” and a hot-pink camisole with hearts all over it. My hair is wavy and chlorinated from the pool. I like pool hair, carefree mermaid hair.  

I see our things scattered around the hotel room, this gypsy home-for-now that we’ve become acclimated to, that we’ve made acclimate to us surprisingly fast, and remember that this is part of why I love to travel. Toothpaste tube, camera-battery recharger, bottle of Coke and some pocket change, bikini hanging from the shower head to dry. My suitcase -- my boyfriend's grandfather's, technically, vintage-cool like the other "retro" luggage we saw at a thrift store here in town -- flopped open like a mouth to reveal a jumble of rainbow-bright clothes. Newsprint magazines of local weekend entertainment listings, leftover paper menus, glossy brochures, relics of our tourist exploits, tossed on the desk or the loveseat. Cords everywhere for portable laptops and phones. I’m a bit messier here than I am at home, a bit less clutter-averse, and I wonder if that’s some primal, territorial thing, if I’m leaving my temporary imprint on this decorously anonymous hotel room.

I think about other hotel rooms, and about entire relationships I’ve had that took place primarily in hotel rooms. Every hotel is a secret graveyard of such relationships, and most people who pass through the graves don’t even know it.

On the Internet

I’m connected to the hotel Wi-Fi again, and it makes me think about a patient hooked up to an IV. I remember the times my sister and I have traveled together, once to London and once to Rome, and how, in Rome especially, we would perfunctorily see the sights but could hardly wait to make our way back to the Internet cafĂ© we’d discovered, to check our e-mail and log into Facebook.

I’ve often wondered how it would be if people were allowed to travel to some glamorous or adventurous place on the condition that they couldn’t make a peep about it online – no Facebook posts or pictures, no online photo galleries, no (ahem) “travelogue” blog posts. What if you could go – but you couldn’t tell anybody? Isn’t half the point of going to be able to, well, brag about it later? What part’s left over when you take that part away? I’d like to think that what’s left over is the search for personal enrichment, for deeper empathy with a particular new-to-you swath of the human race whom you weren’t jostling up against before, for a reinvigorated sense of wonder at the variety of the world’s cultures and topography and ecosystems. I think I'm right about that, and I hope so.

My boyfriend and I had vegetarian Mexican food for lunch at a hipsterish joint where the waitresses were clad in nerd-chic (high-waisted Urkel shorts, Buddy Holly glasses) and I drank a lime-flavored Jarritos Mexican soda. The sunlight near our windowside seats filtered through the neon green of the condensation-covered bottle, and I wanted to take a picture of it to share online later, but I didn’t. I guess it just seemed smug and braggy, and I didn't want to be like that.

I don't know why I'll sacrifice my own harmless happiness for some feeling of self-importance, some idea that I'm being original and not just another sheep. I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, and I don't mean to rain on the parade; it's just that something in me sees everyone else at the parade, waving and cheering and throwing confetti, and something in me wants to turn away.

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