Many of us who have experienced the end of a relationship can relate to Paul Simon’s song 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, which aptly describes that urgent feeling of desperation behind finally breaking free – in the easiest, fastest, least messy way possible. The same could be said for island-dwellers who are preparing to depart their rock of residence for a little while. I find that leaving your island can often stir up similar, leaving-your-lover-type feelings.
Every year we take a break from our rock during the summertime and Christmas (Husband is a teacher, so we work around the school year). Whenever I’m getting close to leaving, something interesting always happens to me. It’s similar to that feeling I get when I have to pee: the closer I get to the bathroom, the stronger I have to go. Or, to continue with the same leaving-your-lover analogy as above, it’s like that moment in a relationship when everything the other person does is suddenly so damn annoying that you’d rather stab your eardrum with a Q-tip (Girls reference!) than listen to the person for one more day. The funny part is that everything that’s annoying you now is something your lover has always done; at one point, you found it endearing, but now, it’s just f*cking intolerable.
I experience the same lover distaste for my island at the end of every school year. The quirks that make me laugh, shake my head in humor/horror, and provide me with writing fodder most of the year are the same annoyances that threaten my sanity come June:
THE DRIVING DRIVES ME CRAZY
Driving in Santo Domingo is a type of preparation for life. What is it that Sinatra says about New York? “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…” Also applicable here: if you can drive on these roads, you can drive anywhere. Normally from September to May, it makes me feel quite skilled to be able to hold my own alongside some of the world’s most insane drivers – most of them here are trying to cut you off from the lane next to you, instead of patiently waiting behind you. But by June, I’ve traded in my sense of accomplishment and instead, between the wacky driving and running into those headed the wrong way down a one way road, I’m lucky if I get home without having attacked someone via middle finger and shouted sailor-esque curses their way.
THE SLOW-PACED INEFFICIENCY
The speed in which things get done here is the epitome, the very essence, of why its inhabitants are so very laid back (well, not in driving, but in all other areas). Dominicans live life the way they get shit done… at a very s-l-o-o-o-o-w pace. They are in zero rush to do anything important, nevermind something mundane like wrapping a present or making a cup of coffee. In turn, you mustn’t be in a rush to do anything either. Americans (particularly those from the Northeast) whose lives are on continuous fast forward tend to have the hardest time adjusting, though once you are on the other side – once you slow down – you understand why island living is happy living… except at the end of the year. When June rolls around, the slowness is so un-effing-bearable that as I wait 25 minutes for a 3-minute egg, I daydream about pouncing on someone’s back like a rabid hyena and spastically howling, “Could-you-just-hurry-up?!!” I have to physically hold myself back from snatching things from people and getting behind the counter to do whatever it is they should be doing myself.
THE LACK IN GLARING FOCUS
It also seems that the closer I am to leaving, the less my rock seems to have. The other night we went bar hopping in the Colonial Zone, one of the bigger touristy sections of Santo Domingo. At our last bar, I asked Husband to get me a water. He came back with a bubbly soda water.
” I wanted a regular water.”
“Yeah,” he agreed.
“That’s not a regular water,” I said to him, as if he was taste deaf.
“I know. They don’t have water.”
I stared at him blankly. I wish I could say my blank stare was because I was surprised, but I wasn’t. I could have made a big stink. I could have thumped my chest and yelled, What bar doesn’t have water?!?! But I knew the answer would be: the same bar that doesn’t have beer either. The bartender even opened up the empty fridge in a “scout’s honor” attempt to prove that they were, in fact, out of beer. (Not sure what irony is? The bar is out of beer. That’s irony.) That battle was a battle I didn’t want to fight so I settled for ice chips like a dehydrated hospital patient and with a rodeo lasso of my hand I said, “Pack it up. We’re out.”
THE UNBEARABLE SUMMER HEAT
Then there’s the weather. When people learn that I live on an island, inevitably the first benefit they point out is the beautiful weather. But here’s the thing with the weather coming into summer – sometimes it just feels like Hell on a hot day. It can only be summed up by a replica of a picture I’ve seen somewhere on the internet:
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So at what point do your lover’s annoying ways necessitate a more permanent escape route, at what point do you get on the bus, Gus and leave for good? For me, I can tell you undoubtedly that point with my island is NOT NOW. As it is in all relationships, you have to prioritize: what are your deal breakers and what are the things you can grin and bear? These quirks – as annoying as they can be in this season – aren’t enough yet for me to make a new plan, Stan. Sometimes you just need to vent. These ugh-nnoying gripes do not outweigh the many ahhhhh-mazing moments that come with island living. There may be 50 ways to leave this lover, but I can’t think of one reason why I would.
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