By now, you’re probably wondering. “What the hell, Stacy? I thought you were going to tell me the tale of two Arubas but so far you’ve just cycled from misery, to happy insanity, to abject misery back again.”
What can I say? Life’s a wild ride sometimes.
The falling out I had with my father when Ivo and I were in New Jersey – while not the first we ever had – was by far the worst. I was outraged that he’d gotten a credit card in my name. He tried to gaslight me into believing that I agreed to it and, subsequently, became outraged at my outrage. My outrage was tempered by self-loathing by the way I’d allowed myself to be manipulated. His were mired in panic because none of his ‘get rich quick schemes’ were panning out the way he’d planned and he was going broke faster than should have been fiscally possible for someone who’d, so recently, liquified a considerable set of assets.
Full disclosure: my dad and I didn’t have anything in common except for our shared love of self indulgence. Booze, decadent food, frilly coffees, cigarettes – basically anything that’s bad for you were the only things that bound us together. You’ll notice that all the things I listed are both; relatively superficial and very expensive – an apt analogy for our relationship – which was nothing, if not shallow. Maybe I was, too. I don’t want to say that I used to be soft and spoiled…so, I’ll just let you reach your own conclusions.
The last interaction I had with my father, before I left the States, was a screaming match on the phone which culminated in me vowing never to speak to him again. *Spoiler Alert: I did* This presented a whole new series of complications since Ivo and I’d been planning to stay with him until we got our own place. I’d been – to what one of my Aunts charmingly (but inaccurately) referred to as: ‘Ivo’s compound’ several times to meet his family and observe his livestock (yes, livestock. Hold your horses, I’ll get to it), but never looked at it with the critical eye of a potential tenant – since I’d been anticipating living on the ’tourist side of town’. I’d never even seen the interior of his apartment before the day I moved into it.
In Aruba, like so many other tourist havens, there’s a distinct difference in the way the island is presented to visitors vs. the island natives know. I was only mildly aware of this before I found myself so abruptly thrust behind the local line. That is where my anti-Cinderella story truly begins:
The day Ivo and I flew from New Jersey to Aruba was an unmitigated disaster. We missed our flight and had to take the next one, which included an overnight stay in Hot Springs,Texas that, yours truly, had to pay for with the last of her cash. Neither one of us were happy campers.
Finally, a day and a half after we left Jersey, Ivo and I arrived on Aruba. A friend of his picked us up at the airport and took us to my new domicile. After introducing me perfunctually, Ivo and his friend chatted in rapid-fire Papiamento and I leaned back in the backseat of the truck smiling to myself – thinking that I’d pick up the language in no time. I also remember thinking that, after our hellish time in New Jersey, things could only go up from there.
BAHAHAHAHA!!!! Omg, you guys…I was so, so wrong about both of those things.
My ability to speak the Papiamento above a third grade level didn’t become clear as a fallacy quite as quickly as my assumption that things couldn’t get any worse. That was revealed the moment we stepped into Ivo’s apartment and my inner, over-privileged Princess died a thousand agonizing deaths.
My new home had three connecting rooms and smelled like what I’d later come to recognize as ‘sweaty goat’. It was at least 127 degrees in the apartment, which had been closed-up long enough for a large troupe of dust motes to choreograph a dance routine, which they performed on scant afternoon sunbeams, to the cacophonous symphony of the barn animals that lived 20 feet away from my new back door. Did I mention that I’m highly allergic to animal dander? I immediately broke out in hives and burst into tears.
Later that evening, as I unpacked the two suitcases that held all my worldly possessions (while intermittently crying) a solitary question burned through my mind – as if on a buzzing neon sign board: WTF have I done to my life? Within days, I came to regret every decision that led me to Aruba and found myself, irrationally and incessantly wishing I could turn back the hands of time.
The events that followed are scandalous to the point of unbelievability. They involve betrayal, a boat, litigation, mental instability and a ring that caused almost as much trouble as the one Frodo was tasked to take to Mordor. I seriously considered passing these events off as fiction, until a dear friend convinced me that those stories are biographical gold and should definitely be told. I’ll write about them one day when I’m five fingers deep into a pitcher of margaritas and can ignore my self-diagnosed imposter syndrome long enough to pen my memoirs.
I’ll be skipping over several months (for the aforementioned reasons) but I’ll tell you that my initial impressions of living on a rock were unfavorable at best. I used to joke that my island’s slogan ‘Aruba: One Happy Island’ should be changed to ‘Aruba: Only the Strong Survive’ and there were many, many days when I didn’t think I would. These days crescendoed into a day I, less than affectionately (or grammatically), recall as ‘the worstest’.
On this worstest of days, Ivo came home (late) and found me sitting, in the middle of the all-purpose room, on an upside-down soup pot, sobbing inconsolably. He didn’t know that I’d already been chased by a dog, taken a wild guilt trip (courtesy of my dad) and had been sitting on that pot, terrified, for over 2 hours – waiting for him to come home and kill the 7 inch centipede I’d cunningly trapped under it. He also didn’t know that that was the first centipede I’d ever seen in real life and (back then) I was completely entomophobic.
In my mind, the bug that was scuttling furiously against its metal prison, under my ass, had superpowers. I was sure that if I dared to stand up it would use a fraction of its creepy legs to throw the pot against the wall and relentlessly pursue me around the house – Michael Meyers style.
There were many things I could have used at that moment in time: psychotropic drugs, a snifter full of Everclear, physical therapy for my cramped legs, psychological therapy for my irrational anxiety…pretty much anything but the exasperated mockery I received from my betrothed as he casually killed my creepy nemesis. I made up my mind at that moment. Even though I had nowhere to go, no money to get there and no prospects once I arrived – I was done. Done with Aruba, with Ivo, my father and all the accursed events that led me to that abysmal moment in time. Like a bratty kid on a playground, I was taking my ball and going home!
Later that evening, as I suspiciously looked in every corner for vengeful kin of the fallen centipede, I wondered if my actions were being affected by PMS. My polycystic ovaries only granted me between 3-4 highly irregular menstrual cycles a year, so missing a menses was never cause for alarm in my world – I never even kept track. However, on this particular breezy, evening in late March, I realized that I’d been in Aruba for almost 5 months and never once had the need to buy feminine hygiene products.
The very next day, I turned a pregnancy stick blue.
Stay tuned, Lovelies. The best is yet to come!
P.S. I’ve received some truly awesome comments on this story. While I’m too much of a dork to figure out how to respond to them (apparently my brain is incompatible with WordPress), please know that I treasure them.