I wake up at 6:20. It looks as though the rain has cleared.
I head over to the Beach House to see if I can get onto their internet today.
The sky is a couple of shades of pink and purple.
I snap a few photos, setting up my computer, but suddenly, within 20 minutes, it is pouring again. The large rain drops splatter quickly and heavily across the porch and sand. I look to the horizon and see nothing but angry, deep grey clouds. The waves look choppy again, surf crashing out into reefs 200 or so meters off shore.
Shit, I think, there’s no way we’ll be able to dive today. I’m devastated that it’s going to rain all day.
Doug’s head suddenly pops out of a sliding door, slowly and curiously at first, until the head extends into a full body and he steps out. I’m surprised he is up at 6:20.
What time do you start drinking? I say. I have no schedule, he says. I didn’t drink for 3 weeks this month. Some days I never start.
I have a hard time believing him.
He offers to go inside to check the weather, but when it rains, all technology tends to be a wild card. There is no cable, no telephone, no internet. Give it some time, he says.
Ugh, I said. I just really wanted to dive today.
I write for about an hour, and when I look up again, the only sound of water is the sound of the waves crashing across the beach. The sun is starting to clear, and the dark clouds have given way to fluffy cumulus clouds. It is clear again and I can see at the second dock, Coconut Tree Diver instructors rolling vats of something onto the boats, preparing them for the day.
See I told you, just give it half an hour, Doug says, appearing again, out of the many adjacent sliding glass doors. Figuring out where Doug will stick his head out of next is a bit like playing that arcade games with moles that pop out of holes. You know his head will pop out somewhere, sometimes slowly or quickly, but you’re never really too sure where. Sometimes, he even psyches you out.
Doug brings me a glass of the amazing orange juice, explaining that he likes to put it into the goblet because it’s the shape of the orange.
Wow, I say, taking a deep sip of the refreshing nectar, there’s not even vodka in it this time.
Did you want some? He asks.
No! Not. At. All.
We head to the Blue Channel with Jose in the morning and finish off our certifications with some more mask clearing exercises. Jose practices blowing water rings and we swim about The Channel, abundant with coral an life.
We get back to shore around 2:30, and finally conquer our fears of jumping off the pier. If six year-olds can do it, so can we!
Famished but armed with a sense of accomplishment, Jason and I end up for lunch at undoubtedly the island‘s most touristy place: Eagle Ray.
The restaurant looks like a huge lodge sitting on stilts above the water. And, because it happens to be yet another cruise ship day, while Jason and I sit waiting on fish fajitas and a cheeseburger, we see at least two groups of tourists, identified with the numbered stickers on their shirts or neck lanyards, move through, taking a shot of undoubtedly cheap ass rum and watching a “native dance” out on the deck. Some poor local is wearing a headdress and mask, dancing to a beating drum.
If the cabby was right, then this is absolute bullshit. There are no indigenous cultures on Roatan now period. What the hell was this supposed to be?
But the tourists, in brightly colored button downs, tube socks and sneakers (some sandals) and straw hats clap gleefully.
Outside, the sun is gleaming on the water. I can’t believe that it was torrentially down pouring just that morning.
I order a diet coke and am surprised when they bring me a coke zero.
Wow, I didn’t even know they had that here, I say to Jason. I look down at the glass bottle and see rust stains down the side. Apparently no one orders this.
I’m supposed to be back at the dive shop by 4:30 for my night dive, but when we leave the Eagle Ray, we walk past a small floating bar… “the only mobile bar” the sign on the street says, with an arrow pointing to the bar. Underneath, it reads “1 lempira shots of rum”
Let’s go! I yell to Jason, trotting down the pier leading to the floating bar pontoon. It literally looks like a 2-story raft, complete with port-a-potties (safely tucked away) behind wooden doors, and a dj booth on the 2nd level.
Jason and I sit down. What’s the deal with these 1 lempira shots? We ask the bartender, an older dude with crazy blonde shoulder-length curly hair and a left nipple ring. He only wears shorts, no shoes and his shirt hangs wide open.
Captain Perry at your service! he says cheerfully and tells us there are 1 lempira shots when you buy a drink. Sweet, we say, and order 2 Port Royals and 2 shots of rum
I don’t even know what the shit they poured was, but it looked beyond cheap.. Completely clear. I hadn’t seen clear rum since… the states perhaps. The stuff is terrible and burns the entire way down for a nickel…again.. You can’t complain.
Where are you from, an older Indian dude yells from across the bar. Judging by his sticker and tube socks, I assume he’s from the cruise ship.
Chicago, I yell.
That’s funny, Jason says. They only get half a day to explore the island and these guys say fuck it and go to a bar.
Have you got the time, I say, and I glance at a watch nearby. It’s already 4:15. Shit, I say. I have to be back to the shop in 15 minutes to watch a night diving video.
The walk down the pot-hole filled dirty road is bumpy at best. Actually, it sucks, and my buzz doesn’t help to stabilize anything.
I roll into the dive shop dressed in jeans and a tank (at least my swimsuit is underneath).
Monty, I’m ready to watch that video.
He takes me upstairs to the airconditioned offices and we see that 3 people are already watching the video.
Am I late, I ask.
What time did I tell you to come here, like 5:30? No. Then he glances down at his watch. Well, it’s’ 5:40.. Okay yea, you are, he says.
I am 20 minutes into the 23 minute video about night diving when a British fellow working for the dive shop runs up the stairs.
Do you have laundry? He asks.
Yea, I say, breathing a sigh of relief that it is here. We had dropped it off the morning before and it should have been here long ago.
Do I need to go get it now?
Yea, it’d be best, he says, she we pause the video and I run downstairs only to realize that I gave 300 lempiras to Jason for drinks and my lunch and had about 40 lemps left… 2 dollars.
Shit, I say, when I go down there, identifying the trash bag of laundry that belongs to me. Will you hold tight for a minute so I can run back, I say.
Sure, he says, so I take off in a full sprint for my room, grabbing Jason, my camera and 500 lemps along the way
Even though it is only across the street, by the time I am back, they are already loading gear into the boat. I quickly pay the man and run upstairs to finish the video.
It’s a jerk off general.. Just an overall review. When I get back downstairs, EVERYONE is already in the boat. Oh, not this shit again, I think to myself and execute the world’s fastest strip down and gear gathering.
It is dusk when we head out to the water. John hands me a flashlight and Monty tells me he will be my buddy tonight. Thank God. John is an instructor. I feel better instantly.
As we coast out to the Blue Channel, the night quickly falls dark. It always surprises me how damn quickly the sun sets.
It’s going to be nearly a full moon tonight, John says. Man, look at that thing.
We look up to see that moon is indeed nearly completely full.. Only a small crescent remains unlit. It casts a bright glow on the now-black water.
Don’t turn the lights on, warns Monty. I know your video tells you to do it but it attracts the jellys.
From his shaved head and his ‘arrgh-y’ accent, you can almost picture him as a pirate. Aye matey.
We plunge into the dark water together, and with the light of 8 or so flashlights, it’s not so scary going down. When we hit the sandy bottom, I can see everyone, as well as the coral formations surrounding the sand.
Monty calls that it’s time to practice using our compasses. In the dark, I am terrified and can’t find my way to north. John grabs the back of my BCD and guides me. Dammit, I think. I fail.
We explore the Blue Channel as a group. Illuminated by nearly a full moon the colors underwater are bright, made even brighter still by our flashlight beams. A woman in our group is equipped with an underwater camera and she is furiously snapping photos while both kicking us.. And coral.. In the face.
John pulls me back by my BCD, signaling that we should let the crazy woman pass. Idiot, he writes on his board, shining his flashlight over the letters. I try to let out a laugh on my bubbly exhale.
There are lobsters at night, crawling out of holes. The lights reflect off shiny spots on their shells and we can see into their little beady eyes. The fish are busy swarming, feeding, swimming.
We swim around coral, underneath it, and just when I start to feel comfortable, I look below to the upward sloping coral and suddenly notice that we are ascending…. And fast. I see coral all beneath me. The water gets shallower and shallower and I have no idea how or where to descend. I see John’s light underneath me. We need to descent. I can almost see the moon through the water overhead
Crap I think. I try to let all the air out of my BCD, following John’s descent to the bottom. I see his bright lit flashlight sink deeper and deeper into the water. Soon I don’t see it all all.
Fuck! I think. I am panicking and hyperventilating. I shine my flashlight below. All I see is coral beneath my feet.
Fuck fuck fuck! Where do I even descend?! I can’t descend into a bed of coral.
I am gasping into my ventilator, full blown freaking out and before I know it, I feel my tank surface. I jerk my head up and suddenly, I am above water, staring at the boat in the distance and black water lapping against me.
Remembering what Monty had said about jellyfish and attracting them with lights, I shine my flashlight to the sky and wave it about furiously. Shit! I think. And I’m probably going to get stung. Where the hell is John.
Panick subsiding, I float on the surface, unwilling to descend on my own. I figure, after all, that your dive manual tells you that when you lose your buddy, you should surface and find each other on the surface instead.
Within a few minutes, I see the glow of his flashlight grow brighter and brighter. As I feel more bubbles surfacing, I finally begin to relax. He is coming for me.
To my surprise, two heads pop up on the surface. Hello
Is everything okay, John checks. Are we ready to descend?
Yea, I think so, I say.
Is it cool if I just go with you guys, the other guy says.
Of course, John says and the three of us descend comfortably into a swirling mass of bubbles.
I check my air. Still at 1300 PSI, so I am good, but the other guy it seems is low on air, so after a 3 minute safety stop, all three of us surface and swim for the boat. I am only thankful that I haven’t been stung by a jelly.
Jason is the only one left at the dive shop when we get back to shore. He is chatting with Reid’s parents, smoking a cigarette.
Give me a drag of that, please, I say.
How was it? Would you do it again?
Yea, I think so.
That’s funny. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard that tonight.
To be sure, I add, I did have a panic attack halfway through.
Finally, after many a lame night, tonight’s a night for some bonafide drinking. We pregame a bit in our party cabana and hit up Captain Perry’s floating bar, the Reef Rider, for more 1 lemp shots.
Captain Perry has a deal with Shark Cave and the Noodle Shack where you can order food and they’ll deliver it straight onto Perry’s floating bar. Excellent. We get three orders of noodles with curry and peanut sauces and take a few shots of cheap rum with a Port Royal back. The noodles are the most delicious that I’ve ever tasted.
Bisch shows up for a minute on his way down to Sundowners.
Hey Bisch, what does your face book say?
Earlier in the day, when Tree had logged into face book to check on some pictures, the account had logged straight into Bisch’s.
Hmm, what to write, Tree asks, and we all shout suggestions. Finally he settles on David M “is loving life.. Diving.. Sucking cock.” Apparently P.J. was not so amused when Bisch asked to log into facebook because apparently, he liked penis. What’s more, when Bisch had gone to log out a couple days ago, P.J. had pulled the plug on the computer before he had an opportunity.
It’s fine, P.J. had said. You’re signed out.
Are you sure, Bisch had asked.
Yea, P.J. assured, and lo and behold, he hadn’t been signed out after all.
Since the big boss was to blame, the big boss announced that moving forward, there was no more facebooking.. or any personal usage of the work computer.. anymore.
Bisch has a beer and says he needs to head to Sundowners for a few. I ask him to tell John to get here so I can buy him shots. As far as I’m concerned, John has saved my life tonight.
When the crew returns to Perry’s, the torrential rainfall returns, and we all climb the ladder up to the second story lounge behind Perry’s DJ booth to light up a splif.
Eventually we head to Nova and the Dive. Each time my beer is gone or my rum empty, Alex offers a refill. Within 20 minutes at the Dive, Reid is dancing like an asshole and I am spilling rum left and right.
Cyn, please walk me home, I say, and she holds onto me as we make our way back amid puddles of potholes.
Back at the cabana, I somehow manage to pull out my contacts and change into PJs. To my surprise, Alex also shows up at our cabana 20 minutes later.
I asked you not to go anywhere, Alex says.
I know, I say, that’s why I left.
I am asleep within 10 minutes but he stays for a splif with some of the others. Or so I am told.