Henry walked on the sand and let the warm Caribbean Ocean refresh his bare feet. He had purchased some shorts and t shirts to wear as well as a pair of flip flops. He also bought a couple of pairs of light pants and several shirts. He didn’t know what he was doing there other than running away from himself.
As the sun began to set he decided to sit down on the sand. He was thinking on overdrive now and couldn’t stop.
“Why Am I here and not at home?”
“How come no one even gives a crap about me…is anyone wondering where I am?”
He thought about Michael and Pamela – felt that old familiar pang of missing them.
“I let it go…”
He let his head fall and he began to cry. Not just a sniffling cry but a cry like a form of release – letting out all the hurt he has been numbing all these years.He lay back and let it all out – like a dam breaking down during a hurricane – the water, the tears just overwhelmed him.
The cheating, the lying, the hiding and the wasted years. The cowardice and the medals of dishonor he has pinned on his own chest.
He cried for his naivety. (How could he have been so trusting?)
He mourned for his courage which had died so long ago. (Why?)
He bled for the lost time he spent like a turtle with his head in his shell – protected but never experiencing life, love, feelings…a prophylactic worn to protect himself from people who only seemed to hurt him. A prophylactic that broke him down into a flaccid soul.
He fell asleep and awoke when the music from the bar began to play its after dinner music. He woke with a jump, unsure of where he was he felt cold and confused. He stood up, got his bearings and headed back to the hotel.
He walked up the six stairs where the pool was, there were a group of college aged kids there, some in the pool and others sitting, drinking in chaise lounges. Laughter, taunting each other, celebrating their youth in bright colors. He walked passed them up another six or seven stairs towards the entrance to the hotel. At the elevator there were plants with pink flowers and signs pointing towards a Spa. The elevator announced its arrival with a ding. Out stepped some more kids in bright colors while he, in black and white, walked in as the only occupant of the elevator. The doors closed and it began its ascent.
When the doors opened at the lobby there was a scream and a cry for help.
Henry lay on the floor of the elevator, face up with blood running from his nose and eyes wide open.
“Mr. Stevens, Mr. Stevens,” Fingers snapping, “Mr. Stevens, can you hear me?”
Henry opened his eyes.
“Mr. Stevens, do you know where you are?”
He nodded, side to side. Then tried to speak. “No.”
“You are in Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital in Aruba. You seemed to have a concussion. Do you have any friends or family with you here?”
Henry just stared back at the man – didn’t know the answer to his question.
“I don’t understand.”
“You are in Aruba, The Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital. You were staying at the Ritz Carlton-“
“I remember…Pam and Michael…I am sorry…” He closed his eyes.
The morning came and Henry was poked and prodded. Blood tests, blood pressure and blood sugar.
“Can I leave now?” Henry asked.
“The Doctor will be here in an hour or so – he will check these results, have a look at you and then decide.”
Henry knew if they looked at the results they would not let him leave. He had to leave on his own. He stood up, took the plastic bag which contained his clothes and went into the bathroom. He quickly changed and fixed his hair to look unlike the patient he was.
It was an easy walk out the door as no one stopped him. He immediately found a taxi dropping off some people and he made his way back to the hotel. It was only a 10 minute or so ride but it seemed to exhaust him. When he got to the hotel he paid the driver with a twenty dollar bill and went to his room.
He realized that he couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel too much longer – so he scheduled a check out for the next day. In the meantime he went to have lunch by the pool area.
He sat down at a table beneath a bamboo umbrella and drank an iced coffee concoction. He watched the girls; not much older than his daughter’s age, walked around in bikinis and stood in the pool drinking umbrella drinks. He watched as one girl sat alone at a table across the room reading “The Fountainhead” and drinking out of a coconut. She looked up as she sucked in the straw and saw him, smiled and went back to Ayn Rand.
His food came and he ate voraciously – seemed like a week since his last meal. Ask the waiter what the girl reading Ayn Rand was drinking, ordered her another and one for himself.
She stood up, motioned him to come to her. He nodded and motion her to come to him. She smiled, brought her book, bag and drink and walked towards him.
Henry greeted her with a question. “Howard Roark – what are your thoughts about him?”
“Well, Roark never compromises or deviates from his principles. He has a strong belief system and the world can isolate him and deride him – but nothing sways him. I want to meet a man with half of his backbone. Half of his strength to not give a shit and to stand by his ideals.”
“Hmmm; I take it this is not your first read of ‘The Fountain Head?'”
“Not really – I am kind of an Ayn Rand expert.” She smiled.
“That is not an easy expertise to have – also not so popular among the popular crowd.”
“I never have cared about what people think.”
“Like Mr. Roark?”
“I can relate to him and so many of her characters. The inner strength to live a life based on ones own ideals.”
“The Selfish life?”
“Some say ‘selfish’ is a bad word – it depends on how one defines it.”
They spoke for over an hour, moved the conversation to the beach, walked along the shore line and found their way back to the bar and two coconut drinks.