I don’t know if I’ve ever posted how I met my friend and fellow author Nicole Castle, but here’s the short version. I liked Chance Assassin so that got us talking, and she invited me to join her on a trip to Cancun, which is where I met her for the very first time face to face. We’ve been going on these trips ever since, every March. This year was my third invitation, and for once I was looking forward to it. I get anxious about traveling but oh my god, this year…
About a month ago I was hospitalized (kidneys hooray!), my father’s health began failing so fast that we all realized he’ll be leaving us sooner than we thought, my husband was having anxiety for the first time in his life because of a poor work environment and my older son was being bullied at school (Still is. Lawyers are the next step). My mother in law decided to surprise me with a sudden and unwanted bathroom renovation at this precise moment, so I ended up busier than I’d ever been while both of our bathrooms were torn apart. My younger son began acting up because of the stress and my mother began to leak blood like a sieve.
I needed a vacation but because everything here in New England was held together with hope and stubbornness, I wasn’t sure that I should go. It was my mother who convinced me that I should. Whether or not she was right, I’m undecided. I think… haha nope.
Here’s the story for the entertainment of others!
Misery in Los Cabos with Nicole Castle –
The journey began when I was felt up by a Logan TSA agent when the machine beeped on me for the very first time. Since Logan is one of those airports where you do not fuck around, I usually end up making myself look suspicious because I’m far too eager to do whatever they want. Cooperate? FUCK YES I AM COOPERATING SO HARD! I don a state of mind where if I display anything but freakish excitement they’ll think I’m up to some shit, so I make sure I am as enthusiastic as goddamn possible. Not only did I beep, I beeped on the upper inside of my thigh. *Knowing smile and slow nod* Yeaaah. A woman who sounded like Dr. Girlfriend from Venture Brothers who smelled like peanuts and had the alluring qualities of a treasure troll quickly approached and explained what she was planning to do: slip her hands under the edge of my underwear and feel around, then feel my butt and inside of my legs. How did I react? I nodded and put my hands behind my head and smiled at her, then invited her to go ahead. You know, I’ve never imagined an expression like the one she gave me. She seemed stunned when she asked if I was comfortable doing that right there in front of everyone in the security line at 2am. I think my response was something along the lines of it was her idea so I wasn’t letting her back out now. So, to the muffled chuckles of her coworkers, this poor woman groped me, and then had to listen to me crack jokes about how if she wanted a cigarette after that I had a spare for her.
Bonus; the seventy-three year old woman behind me also beeped and received the same treatment! The smile she gave this employee was even creepier than mine.
After experiencing the sexy allure of being partially stripped in public and groped by a woman half my height with a hygiene problem, I was tired (satisfied?) enough to sleep through most of the ride to Houston, which for anybody who’s never been, is a massive airport. Sadly, I run funny. Add to my funny run the fact that I hadn’t eaten since 2am, had all of my possessions strapped to my back like I was planning on camping for the next decade and have a habit of smoking nonstop before getting on a plane. I knew I would have to speed walk. If I dared to run I feared I would drop dead. I attracted a few stares as I marched to the closest sandwich shop like a mobile hoarder and did the unthinkable: I grabbed a sandwich from a cooler and ate it like it needed to die violently. All of this while scurrying poorly towards my next gate. I saw the time, risked everything and ran, only to end up at the correct gate, doubled over and having a Duncan moment. And my plane wasn’t there. It was running behind. I had this image in my head where we went to board and just fell off of the end of that tunnel thing onto the pavement, and I wasn’t proud of how hard I laughed at that. I guess the hope for me to make it there on time had come true, but so had the hope that maybe the plane would wait for me to get there if I got lost. Forty minutes were spent catching my breath, during which time I called Sasha to see how my little one was treating her. He was being good, and that upset me because he’s always terrible for me so I spent the remainder of my wait grumbling to myself about how bad I am at being a parent.
Bonus: was able to lose some faith in humanity! A woman who clearly had asthma was panting as loud as me and when she went to check something at the desk a spring breaker loudly and rudely asked her if she was sick, then spat that she can’t get sick because it was her spring break. The woman informed her that she was having an asthma attack brought on by stress, since she was heading to Los Cabos to bury her brother. The young twit continued to try and humiliate her, but was silenced by her friends before everyone else got involved. <- this comes up again later.
On my second solo plane ride of the day, I spent my time talking to another person who was traveling from Boston, who – Are you ready for this? Was a super tall and wiry ginger who towards the end of our conversation shared a story that implied he liked to roller skate. If you don’t know why that had me internally rolling around giggling, let me know and I’ll personally send you a copy of The Disassembled Life of Duncan Cole. Green eyes and if memory serves he was eating candy to try and get his ears to pop. Yeah, I refused to ask his name because I want to believe it was Dan. He even looked similar to how I’d imagined the character, ha! When ‘Probably not Dan but dear god that’s strange’ went to the airplane’s bathroom/closet of turbulence terror, I got caught in a conversation with the young man sitting near the window closest to me until we arrived in Mexico.
For anyone who has never gone to Mexico I love the way they do Customs. They have you push a button. If the light turns red, they’ll check your bags and ask you questions to make sure you’re not dangerous. If it turns green? Well, you’re FREE TO GO! It’s like they really can’t be bothered to give a shit if everyone is smuggling something. My customs guy was so busy commenting on my Captain America shirt that he actually asked me what color I got because he wasn’t even pretending to pay attention to his national security job thingy. I said green and he bid me a good vacation. Sadly, I’m honest, because this would’ve been a much better story if I’d gotten the red light instead.
After a harrowing drive to the resort (there may have been bodies in our wake), I was told I’d need to wait fifteen minutes for them to finish cleaning our room. That didn’t sound unreasonable so I left my bag with them and went to have a smoke, and thirty minutes later was informed that it was ready, but they could no longer locate my bag. I found that hard to believe since the fucker weighed more than it rightfully should and was so overstuffed that the seams were strained to their absolute limit, screaming for merciful death every time I zipped it. The room had coffee rings on the table and a blue pill of unknown origin under the edge of the bed when my bodybag and I finally arrived. It makes me wonder what the hell they had to do in there. Were there bodies? Projectile vomit? They’d been in there when I arrived and took double the estimated time to finish. They didn’t touch the table or the floor, so what did they do exactly? I dropped my things on a chair, opened the door to the balcony to wave some of the frigid air out into the wild to fend for itself, made myself pretty and promptly fell into an exhausted nap so that I could time travel to Nicole’s arrival.
*drum roll* Nicole woke me up when she came in and I have never been so damn happy to see anybody! Usually on these trips we have a eating itinerary that makes me wonder how we are so thin, so I’d waited for her to begin.
Afternoon tea (which usually doesn’t include teas, just more food)
And whenever possible Midnight Snack.
This is why I diet before going on vacation. I will work out and eat healthy because I plan ahead. I only had four days to eat like the damned, and the clock was ticking. We were heading to the buffet when we spotted the pool bar. I asked her to get a plate of nachos while I went for a burger, because Nicole is a vegetarian but thankfully doesn’t seem to mind if I eat as many animals as I can find, because let’s face it, it’s not happening. I love animals and the cuter they are the more delicious they taste. The burger was the size of my head: it was the first to die. She’d coyly saved about three nachos from her own massacred plate to ask if I wanted any but I wasn’t feeling up to it after eating that burger so fast that I probably should’ve worn a smock and offered her an umbrella. Somehow she was able to eat my cut of the nachos. Like that person who will eat a whole pizza but leave the last slice, you know, in case you wanted some.
We went to our first dinner function, which went by without too much of a hitch. My throat and ears were burning but I don’t fly often so I figured that it was from the plane and brushed it off. At this point I’d been awake for almost twenty four hours with only that pitiful nap to break it up, so we went back to the room early, and that was where I stayed. Not by choice, but necessity. Nicole went to change only to discover that WHOOPS they’d never delivered her checked bag to the room. She went to hunt it and by the time she got back I had a problem.
My stomach is my worst enemy. It took me almost two years to realize that my bitchy whore of a stomach was actually what was causing my anxiety because I have a rare side effect of acid reflux disease. So rare that my doctor was freakishly excited that I had it and he could catalogue it from one of his own patients (the sadist). When I have any issue with my stomach, it causes me to have panic attacks. I’m not talking feeling antsy, I’m talking IMPENDING DOOM HIDE UNDER A TABLE AND CRY LIKE A BITCH panic attacks. I’m taking ambulance rides and EKG panic attacks.
And so began our sorry descent into what I will just bluntly call Shit Madness. I could be coy, but really there’s no point. Guess who shouldn’t have eaten that sandwich at the airport? Or maybe it was the burger, I have no idea. I was sure I hadn’t come in contact with any impure water, because Nicole taught me well when we met in Cancun. All I know is that I told Nicole I wasn’t feeling well, and after the first fifteen or so trips to the bathroom that this poor unfortunate woman had to share with me, the panic started. Within a few minutes I was sobbing and weaving incoherent apologies for things and situations that I don’t even remember. I might’ve apologized to her because I like the color green, I have no idea. To make matters worse, she then tried to figure out how to comfort me and when she awkwardly patted my head I snatched her hand and dragged her into the bed with me like a vampire collecting a victim, then made her spoon with me. Which worked out great because that air conditioner was making both of us so cold that our noses were running.
And so it came to pass that Nicole Castle and I huddled for warmth in Mexico watching Storage Wars and reruns of House. She made a joke that I’d finally gotten her to sleep with me, I told her that she had to notify my children of my love if I was found dead in the morning, she responded that she would CPR the shit out of me, I countered that it wouldn’t be necessary as there was nothing left to help her achieve that goal… Good times.
I really am the best traveling companion, I don’t know why more people don’t take me places.
By morning I was so sick that I wanted to go home because nothing is quite as scary as being sick in another country a half day away from your children. Turned out that I was too poor. When I called my husband he was too poor too, and bitch that I am I laughed at him for it, like I wasn’t equally as impoverished as he was. Remembering that we had an eating schedule but recognizing that I wasn’t going to take part in it, I made sure Nicole knew she should go to breakfast, and she was kind enough to bring me back some toast. I ate in bed and covered myself hatefully in crumbs, glowering at Bear Grylls from Man VS Wild because we watched an episode where he got diarrhea and halfway through climbing a waterfall dropped his pants to let loose. Mocking me, the smug jerk. Nicole slipped back in the bed with me (it was too cold to sleep in separate beds and we needed all blankets with both bodies to survive) and we had a moment where we both sort of looked at the shrapnel from my obliterated toast and then at each other. I lazily shoved as many crumbs out as I could and tried to let her sleep because she’d watched over me through the worst of my panic. She’d been prepared to CPR the fuck out of me with the skills she’d picked up in sixth grade. We briefly contemplated switching beds but resigned ourselves to nap in my breadcrumbs like a narcoleptic version of Hansel and Gretel.
Nicole stole more bread to feed me lunch and we decided to try and get out of the room. I have no idea why. We both dislike crowds and noise, sand, the smell of tanning lotion, we didn’t want to swim in the ocean where we were because the beach was a 45 degree angle into the largest waves I’d seen in awhile and I burn stupidly fast. She mentioned that she wanted a pina colada. My friend who guarded me from my demons through the night wanted a drink, so goddamn it, she would have one! Or… not. We went to the bar and after 15 minutes of waiting, often as the only people there, the bartender didn’t serve us. More than that, he would stare at us for a few seconds, then busy himself with cleaning glasses, only to serve the next people that came up to the bar. It took another employee asking him why we hadn’t been served to get a answer why: he was only serving people who were at one specific location on the thirty foot bar and we were about five feet to his right. I was too sick to cause a scene, but Nicole removed my chance to try because she said she wasn’t going to give him the pleasure of making us conform. Feeling like a rebellious American, I agreed and we went back to the room, but I still wished I could’ve at least gotten her drunk as thanks. That way she could puke on me and we’d be even.
By dinner I was convinced I was well enough to try and eat. That plan backfired when I had to weakly stumble back to the room again, retreating from the sustenance I needed because I wagered I needed the facilities more. Much to my surprise she returned defeated as well, since they weren’t letting anyone take bread back from dinner. I had to get up. So, pale as hell and looking like death, I put on the warmest clothes I had and went to dinner with her, where I was thwarted by the all Mexican buffet. It may sound like a Mexican buffet is common in Mexico, but at the resorts we’d been to there was always a huge variety of choices. Never had I been faced with so many foods that could take my personal hell and make it worse. Nicole got me a bowl of chicken broth because I was too goddamn dizzy to do that, and I had to spit my first sip back in the bowl because they added so much spice even to that, that I couldn’t have it. The waiters slowed and stared at me when I grabbed three pieces of bread, dropped them on a napkin and choked them down with water, because my face was likely one of murder. I didn’t want to risk missing my breakfast if I didn’t feel better by then, so we quietly devised a plan to smuggle some more bread. I was wearing a fitted hoodie that hid very little, but with my hands in my pocket I was sure I could conceal some bread. But what to use as a distraction to get past the guard at the buffet? Nicole, our fearless writer of fearless assassins, pulled a Vincent and filled a disposable cup with popcorn, then made a show of eating it as we walked out so that even if they did stop her, they would never catch me. That’s right, we stole free bread. And we got away with it by distracting the authorities with popcorn. Thug life.
My panic was only an occasional problem at this point, but after panic attacks comes a brief few hours of depression. Giving in to anxiety makes me feel weak and pathetic, and knowing that I’d ruined our vacation wasn’t helping. The only reason she and I go to Mexico and Jamaica is to see each other, and I’d seen the toilet more than her and she’d only seen me at my absolute worst. I turned on the television and smiled a bit when she came to bed with me again, because she didn’t have to do that. Not many people would. But I appreciated it. Somewhere around the two hundredth ad for ‘Kilos Muertes’ she dozed off, so I turned the tv off, shimmied down the bed and turned off the light, and I resolved not to wake her for any reason. Then she stole all of the blankets. Undeterred, I slithered lower in the bed, where the blankets were tucked under the mattress and wouldn’t move. By morning I was cuddling with her feet, but I’d succeeded because she slept like the dead.
When asked if I wanted to take a shower I elected to refuse general hygiene (unsure why) and grumble from bed, but I did agree that I should probably eat something other than bread and joined her for breakfast. That’s when I discovered that I couldn’t breathe. She pointed out that I was a smoker, but I hadn’t been smoking much, what with being chained to the bathroom and bed. Not to mention I’d been able to breathe two days before, so having such a sudden onset of COPD seemed unlikely. I was gasping for air like a fish out of water by the time we made it to the buffet and guess what? Nobody would wait on us again! We waited at least twenty minutes in an uncrowded hall for someone to see if we wanted coffee, tea or water, and nobody came. We could see them waiting on everyone else, though. I got myself a plate of honeydew melon and watermelon, then quietly commented that I guess I wasn’t going to have any water with my breakfast since the only fountain drinks available were juices that I wasn’t touching since they could’ve been made with unfiltered water. I wasn’t taking any more chances: Montezuma’s curse could go fuck itself. At that exact moment a manager happened to be walking by the window next to us, which I hadn’t even realized was open, and he popped his head inside of it and scared me half to death, checking to see if he’d heard correctly. I gave him a bewildered nod and within seconds a young man came to our table to pour us water, shaking so badly that I felt like a jackass for saying anything at all. Once I had fruit in me, I went for an omelette, offered to give Nicole half of it and then proceeded to eat it all anyway. Thankfully she didn’t seem to care, as she’d foraged and found a plate of sweets that had her name on them.
At this point I could no longer lift my arms over my head I was so weak, but I’d brought iron supplements with me because I’m anemic and on occasion it helps. I warned Nicole that they can and often do give me anxiety because they give me energy so fast that it startles me, and we agreed I needed one. It was worth the risk and she was prepared to deal with my madness if necessary. The tv in our room was fucking with me, because no more than fifteen minutes after starting on an episode of House it turned out that the thing that was shutting down the character’s system was that he had too much iron in his blood and it was causing organ failure. A sign that Nicole knows me well: I only gave her one scared glance and without uttering a word to her about my thoughts she informed me that I was fine and I needed to shut the fuck up. This was where I started to have a bit of fun, because that got me laughing.
I’d been trying to stay away from cigarettes since I already couldn’t breathe but my anxiety was getting bad again and I was pretty sure it was withdrawals, so I went on the balcony to have one, and that was probably the most fun we had the entire trip. Sitting on a balcony and talking about our books. I told her about my new story idea and she told me about one of hers, we bickered about the Chance Assassin series and Duncan and I reminded her that I wanted Miko in print so that I could cuddle with him after a fashion. We were having enough fun that we somehow managed to ignore one of her friends knocking on the door for what must’ve been fifteen straight minutes, only to then receive a passive aggressive text about it later on.
Then came the function that we were there for. I wasn’t feeling great but I was determined to go even if I passed out, because the event we were supposed to attend was important to her. We put on our smashing eveningwear and heels while watching batman, then went upstairs, where we both were exhausted by a long wait to go into the ballroom. To understand why this next part makes me so irate, I need to explain that in Jamaica we attended an event where they brought out four hundred steaming plates of shrimp and I learned I was extremely allergic to it, because my throat closed up instantly and I had to run from the ballroom and wait outside until the entire event was over. I’d had a mild allergy a few years back but it had apparently gotten so bad that I couldn’t be around the steam from it. Cold shrimp was fine, but I hadn’t even known that the steam could do that to me. I’ll give you three guesses what dinner was. Again.
So, gasping for air I left her there again and went without dinner for awhile. When my blood sugar tanked so hard that my vision blurred I asked someone where I could go to get food and they directed me to one of the restaurants that was inclusive for that evening. I changed back into my Captain America shirt, triple checked that the ‘do not disturb sign’ was on the door, then went downstairs and had more fruit and bread since that was the only thing that didn’t make my body want to expel my fucking bones. When I returned to the room the sign had been taken and slid under the door, and housekeepers had done a turndown service. Maids broke into our room to leave us mints, which was a bit puzzling and entertaining, since I can only imagine what they thought. There were two beds but we’d only been sleeping in one, where all the blankets were piled. My underwear and bikinis happened to be the clothes that I’d knocked to the floor when getting my eveningwear on and there were balled up tissues and empty water bottles surrounding the bed. If we also consider the wounded moaning I’d uttered on that first night, I think I now understand why everyone that attends these events assumes we’re lovers. It probably didn’t help that as soon as she got home, she had an itchy throat, running nose, fever and the inability to breathe. Yeah, turned out that was a virus. GO ME! I can only hope that everyone thinks we were making out because the truth is so embarrassing and disgusting.
Remember that lady from my flight to Los Cabos? The one who was going to bury her brother? She was sitting next to me on the flight back to Chicago. I was able to tell her that if it had come to it I would’ve had her back and I made another friend out of it. Then came my breathless gasping dash through O’Hare, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. I beeped again. This time the guy who was there saw me chuckle and listened when I explained that on this trip the machines had been out to get me, and he had me go in again but advised me to relax. I passed fine. He concluded that I was inadvertently so tense that I was throwing the machine off. Thighs of steel, evidently.
Bonus: the flight attendants on both flights home also did not wait on me, pissing off the people next to me in my row.
I went to Los Cabos weighing 124 pounds. I came home at 112. Four days. Nicole says that nobody waited on me because I’ve become so thin that they can’t see me anymore.
I’m not entirely sure how this post got so long, but I guess I have some thoughts here. I mean, going on a vacation with a friend where everything goes perfectly makes some good memories, but not always good stories. We’re writers, Nicole and me. We like stories, and most of ours come from a shred of reality. Oddly this time I mirrored fiction, living a scene that one of her characters experienced in CA3. Don’t think for a moment that I’d want to relive this trip, but at the very least, I got a good story out of it. A friend that can take you at your best is still a friend, but a friend that can take you at your hysterical pants-shitting worst? That’s one hell of a friend. Not that many people do this sort of thing for me, so I guess what I’m saying is that I often jokingly tell Nicole that she’s lucky we’re ‘bro’s.’ I never really admit how lucky that makes me. If it had been almost anybody else, I would’ve had an even worse time.
Also, Los Cabos can just fall into the ocean for all I care.
Work updates to follow after Easter ;)
S. K. <3