Pisces at night…

4 Apr

pisces_by_yuhon-d2vql3pPisces at night…

My best friend Shawna was having a mid-life crisis. I suspected it was just another mid-week crisis in the 39th winter of her discontent. But she needed to talk and she was buying the drinks, and when those planets align, I show up.

We met at Thursday’s, a club for the perpetually single. When I arrived, she’d already ordered their happy hour special, a giant margarita in a fishbowl you could drown a sad monkey in.

“What’s up?” I slid into the booth, signalling a waiter that I also wanted a gallon of green oblivion.

“Donald Trump will destroy civilization.” She plunged her straw into her margarita and made a giant sucking sound, like a toilet bowl swallowing an engagement ring.

“That again?” Never mind that Canadians were immune to his braggadocio, when America barfed out the window, there was always collateral splatter.

“I need a vacation,” Shawna said. “No TV, no WiFi, no cellular, no radio even, if such a place exists.”

“How about a yoga retreat?” I pulled from my winter coat a flyer that had been pressed into my hand this morning by a tanned young lady as I entered the subway. She’d been wearing a Lululemon ensemble in pastel orange that stood out among commuters dressed in black parkas and crotch-high snow boots.

Shawna read the folder’s highlights. “Seven days of nutritious vegan cuisine. Miles of crystal beach. Yoga classes morning, noon and night. Cabins at the water’s edge. Silence you can cut with a knife. Individualized detox programs.”

“Work’s slow this month,” I said. “I could take next week off.”

“God knows I need to decompress,” Shawna said. “I’d also like to get in shape, lose some weight, flush out my liver and find peace of mind.”

“That’s asking a lot for a one-week vacation.”

margarita-day“All or nothing.” She inserted her straw and drained her margarita.

The waiter arrived with my margarita and a large nacho platter on which a small animal had been shredded on a bed of cheese and drowned in sour cream and salsa. A sacrifice to the gods of wealth and matrimony who’d neglected us.

“This is like, ten thousand calories,” I said.

“I’m not eating it all by myself,” Shawna said.

“I thought we were trying to lose weight.”

“We’re going on a vegan fast next week.” She carved a deep wound in the flank of the nacho platter and signalled for another margarita. “Carpe nacho, honey.”

~~~

Our flight left early Saturday morning and we were in Cuba by noon. The yoga retreat was far from the airport, nestled within a palm grove right on the beach. Our cabin veranda faced the ocean.

“I hear people talking German next door.” Shawna emerged naked from the bathroom after a quick shower. “Now all we need are some Italians.”

“Uh-huh.” We’d had some good times in Cuba. Although Americans were denied the pleasure due to longstanding travel sanctions, we’d partied with many Europeans. Especially that year with Gianni from Bologna, the thought of whom triggered quivers of nostalgia for Shawna.

“The salami of my life,” she sighed. This was an old joke between us, although a sad lesson in destiny and depravity for her.

“Let’s not go there. This week is meatless – just fruit and vegetables.” I checked my watch. “Anyway, it’s time to meet the other participants.”

“Do they have a nude beach here?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Maybe just as well.” She gripped her belly roll. “I have to lose this first.”

“That’s the nacho platter from the other night,” I joked. “I think it likes you.”

~~~

The retreat commandant was a muscular woman named Kristina Von-Something-Unpronounceable, like the phlegmy bark of a dog that needed a vet. She outlined the week’s program. Then we all got weighed, drank a gallon of lemon water and swore an oath to obey the retreat rules – no alcohol, meat, eggs, dairy or grains.

Then she led us through half an hour of calisthenics, some light cardio, a yoga session and a brisk walk five miles down the beach and back. It was dark by the time we returned to our cabin, dog-tired and bladders bursting. We took turns in the shower and flopped exhausted on our beds.

yoga - peacock“That was brutal,” Shawna said.

I nodded. That’s all the energy I had left.

“Did you pack anything to eat?”

“We’re fasting, remember?”

The program had demanded we arrive at the retreat on an empty stomach. We’d thought it was because they wanted to greet us with a yummy Caribbean vegan banquet. Instead, we’d been forced to drink the lemon kool-aid and taken on a death march halfway to Havana and back.

Hungry and exhausted, we set a new record for going to bed (alone) so early on a Saturday night in Cuba.

Sunday breakfast buffet was all fruit and nothing but the whole fruit, so help me god.

“I was hoping, maybe a nice bowl of cereal,” Shawna grumbled.

Hearing this, Kommandant Kristina paused in her patrol of the cafeteria’s perimeter to lecture us. “Cereal contains gluten. Milk contains fat. Here we are having only fruit.” She raised her voice so everyone within five tables could hear us getting reamed. “These Canadian girls think they are bears, stuffing themselves to bulk up for the winter.” She shook her finger at Shawna. “But you are not bears, you are pigs.”

“Hey,” Shawna said. “I don’t deserve to get fat-shamed.” She raised her T-shirt to flaunt her moderate midriff.

Kristina grabbed a fistful of Shawna’s belly roll and squeezed it hard enough to make her eyes pop. “You will thank me later.”

“Okay,” I spoke up. “Leave her alone.”

Kristina gave Shawna’s belly a slap and resumed her patrol. On the other side of the cafeteria, she caught someone with a bowl of yogurt and started screaming about excessive mucus in the gut.

“Cheeses, what a nazi,” Shawna whispered.

The rest of the week went by in a miserable blur. Although it felt like a concentration camp, we were actually looking pretty good. We’d been walking, running, swimming and doing yoga eight hours a day. We’d dropped ten pounds apiece, and were tanned, toned and absolutely glowing. We were also going out of our minds.

Friday it dawned on us – we were going home tomorrow and we’d been six nights in Cuba without a whiff of alcohol. There was something wrong with this picture.

“Let’s break out tonight,” Shawna said, “and check out the action in town.”

~~~

The town was Terra Buena, which we’d passed on our drive in, just a few miles down the road. Right after our afternoon yoga session, we went AWOL and made a run for civilization, or at least its Cuban equivalent.

It was hot and by the time we were halfway there we were parched. Houses were scattered here and there, well back from the road, but nothing that looked like a place to buy a drink. Then we came upon a road-side shanty with a sign that read, Cold beer and psychic readings.

“Cheeses, it’s a sign,” Shawna said.

sadieWe entered a one-room shack partitioned by a turquoise curtain and some fishing nets. An old woman in a green dress with a seashell pattern sat in an ancient club chair with her feet on a coffee table.

“What kind of beer do you have?” Shawna asked.

“Poseidon,” the woman said. “Ten dollars.”

“Are you crazy?”

“It comes with a psychic reading.”

Shawna took a twenty from her wallet. “This better be good.”

“You must be Shawna,” the old woman said. “And your friend Doris.”

“How do you know our names?” I said.

The woman went to a fridge in the corner and fetched two beers, opening them with a church key hanging from an overhead rafter. I glanced up and saw a parrot looking down at us. We sat in a pair of plastic chairs opposite the coffee table. The beer was so cold I was speechless for a moment before I could ask the woman her name.

“Senora Electra.”

She looked at Shawna and rattled off her life history. She knew everything – her two broken engagements, her miscarriage, her battle with the bottle, Gianni from Bologna, her stash of weed under the bathroom sink. But she told Shawna she’d soon have a spiritual epiphany, renounce her old ways and become a bride of Christ.

“A nun?!” Shawna laughed so hard that beer came out her nose.

Senora Electra turned on me. She did a quick recap of my life too – never married, a frustrated artist who sang in the shower, my numerous failed love affairs with itinerant musicians, my erotic dream diary…

“How do you know all that?”

“Is she going to become a nun too?” Shawna chuckled.

“No, but she will soon meet two men who will change her life.”

“Two?” Shawna joked. “Can’t I have one?”

“No, these are twins and they come together.”

“They come together?” Shawna winked at me. “Now that sounds kinky.”

“Enjoy your evening,” Senora Electra put her feet back up on the coffee table.

“Can you recommend a good restaurant in town?” I said as we got up to leave.

Los Dos Peces,” she said. “I recommend the barracuda.”

~~~

The restaurant was on the harborfront, at the end of a rickety pier that looked like the next hurricane might take it away. The place started to fill up right after we arrived, a mix of locals and tourists. We had margaritas and shrimp tacos to start, then the barracuda for me and octopus for Shawna.

Tango-Buenos-AiresA band set up and the dance floor was soon crowded with people doing the tango or something that looked suspiciously like sex, except they kept their clothes on. Shawna and I danced and started running a tab on a long string of tequila shots.

We were having just about the best time of our lives without men when two brunettes hit the dance floor right next to us. They were beautiful, and if I weren’t so straight, I’d have gone for either of them. In fact, there was no way to choose between identical twins. Glossy black hair from a shampoo commercial, eyes the color of blue sky, high cheekbones, leggy, curves in all the right places. To judge by their figures, they looked like college girls.

Anyway, the four of us bumped hips every now and again, and alternated dance partners. They were both pretty looped and having a blast too. We all quit the dance floor at the same time. Turned out they had the table right next to ours, vacated by another couple just before we’d hit the dance floor.

Their names were Anuka and Cylla from Hamburg. They’d just got married three days ago and were here on their honeymoon with their husbands.

“Cheeses,” Shawna said, “Aren’t you too young to get married? How old are you?”

“Twenty-three,” Anuka said. “What about you ladies? Are you here alone or with your husbands?”

“Oh, we’re not married,” Shawna said.

“Divorced?” Cylla’s eyes shifted between me and Shawna, calculating our ages and maybe coming up on the dark side of forty which, for a 23-year-old was like having one foot in the grave.

“We never found any worth keeping,” Shawna said. “We like to just hook them and reel them in, see what kind of fight they put up, and then throw them back in the water for some other sad girl to marry.”

Perhaps sensing how truly desperate and fabricated that response was, Anuka was diplomatic enough to change the subject. “Do you like fishing?”

“Only if someone else puts the bait on the hook,” I joked. “Why do you ask?”

“We rented a boat. Today we went down the coast a bit. Tomorrow we’re going fishing. Maybe you’d like to come along.”

“We couldn’t do that,” I said. “It’s your honeymoon.”

“It’s no big deal,” Cylla said. “We’ve known our husbands for a year.”

“And if you’re lucky, you’ll be married for at least couple more years,” Shawna joked before I could kick her under the table.

twins - bikinis4Anuka and Cylla had a good laugh. Either they knew it was just a joke or, somewhere in their 23-year-old heads, riding atop those spectacular bodies, they couldn’t imagine anyone would ever divorce them. Maybe they were right. Maybe we were the cynics. But I remembered when Shawna and I were 23 too, and we never felt – or looked – quite as jaded as we did tonight.

As if reading my mind, Shawna downed her tequila and signaled for our waiter to bring more. Just then two handsome young men sat next to the German twins, bearing four large tropical drinks of unknown potency.

Speaking of potent, the very sight of these guys took my breath away. They were like Nordic gods – tall, broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, with sculpted jaw lines and bodies from the centerfold of a fitness magazine.

“This is Pan, my husband,” Anuka said, “and this is Cylla’s husband, Pontus.”

“Are you kidding me?” Shawna said. “You married twins too?”

We introduced ourselves. These guys were such gentlemen, they not only shook our hands but they rose from their seats and kissed us on each cheek. I think I wet myself … just a little bit.

Our next round of tequila shots showed up right on cue. We all clicked rims and drank our poison.

Well, it was a memorable evening. Or at least what I remember of it. We hit the dance floor a few more times, all six of us, and there was quite a bit of rotation. Anuka and Cylla were pretty cool chicks, and they had no problem sharing their husbands with us on the dance floor. Maybe it’s a European thing. Maybe that and the fact we were just about old enough to be their mothers.

After closing the bar we all went down to the docks to see the boat they’d rented. It was a small cabin cruiser that slept six. It was a muggy evening and we were all kind of sweaty, so Cylla suggested we take the boat out where we could anchor offshore and skinny dip to cool off. Under the influence of more alcohol than we could recall, everyone agreed this was an excellent idea.

We cast off and motored out into the bay, the six of us as drunk as pirates and passing around a bottle of rum left over from their afternoon cruise. We dropped anchor and before you could say, Tits Ahoy, we were all in the water.

At first we leisurely circled the boat, the newlyweds occasionally closing in for a clinch and, to judge by the shrieks of excited laughter, a bit of underwater groping. Shawna and I paddled around, keeping our hands to ourselves. I’m a pretty good swimmer and swung a wider radius around the boat but Shawna, growing tired, headed back to the boat to catch her breath. As it turned out, Anuka and Cylla weren’t Olympic candidates either, and went with her.

octopussy2They were less than ten feet from the boat when Shawna let out a horrible shriek. “Octopus!” she screamed. She scrambled over the gunwale. “It grabbed my leg.” She peered at herself in the moonlight. “I’ve got a chain of hickeys around my thigh. You guys better get out of the water.”

Anuka and Cylla, spooked by her near-hysteria, joined her aboard. Maybe I was too drunk to be afraid, or just comforted by the presence of Pan and Pontus who’d followed me as I circled the boat. We continued our leisurely swim. The sea was dead calm, the full moon directly overhead. Three large seabirds, probably pelicans, passed overhead. It might have been an omen, but I was having too good a time to think about what it meant.

Pontus bumped up against me from behind. His hands briefly cupped my breasts, then descended my waist to seize my hips, pulling me tight against him. I gasped as we docked. Maybe I struggled, but not enough to break his hold. We bobbed awhile. I felt his legs treading water, and he was so powerful I let myself go. When he finally tired, Pan took over, embracing me face-to-face. We kissed and I tasted rum on his mouth and it was intoxicating. Buoyed up by his strength, I wrapped my limbs around him and went along for the ride.

“Hey,” Shawna called from the distant boat, “aren’t you guys getting tired? You should come back aboard.”

“Yes, we’re coming,” I answered, and a few moments later we did.

Back on the boat, Shawna showed us her hickeys. It looked like a vampire had tried to suck blood from her leg, leaving a trail all the way from her knee, up her inner thigh and almost to the doorstep of her lady temple, as some Asian erotologist might have put it.

“Does it hurt?”

“Not anymore,” Shawna said. “Anuka rubbed some kind of ointment on it.”

“No, that was Cylla,” Anuka said. “But I kissed it to make it better.”

“You certainly did,” Shawna blushed.

It was too late to walk home so they took us back to the resort, running the boat right up to the beach, close enough for us to disembark in waist-deep water. We hugged and kissed everyone goodbye, slipped overboard and walked back to our cabin.

“What the hell happened back there?” I asked Shawna.

“I’m not ready to talk about it,” she said.

~~~

Back in Montreal, life resumed its familiar routine. Well, mine did anyway. But Shawna gave up drinking for Lent and never resumed. She started going to church on Sundays, all the major holidays, then twice a week. A rosary appeared around her neck. She built a little shrine to Jesus in an alcove of her apartment. She cancelled her memberships to dating sites and deleted the Tindr app on her phone. Her wardrobe shed its colors like a tree in autumn, until she wore only black. On the rare occasion that we still got together, no longer for drinks but for fish-and-chips on Friday, she no longer regaled me with stories about her sex life, but quoted passages from the Bible. I could see where this was going, but that boat was going to sail without me.

twins 7To keep in shape, I joined the Y and went swimming three times a week. After years of saving, I bought a condo in a building with an indoor pool. Shortly thereafter, new tenants moved in down the hall – Russian twins, Igor and Ivan. Turns out they’d once been contenders for the 400-meter relay event. We often met up, by accident or divine plan, in the pool late at night. They had good form, and were definitely well-synchronized in the relay department. They’re so similar I can’t really tell them apart but so far, that doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone.

~~~

Alan Annand is a writer and astrologer with the moon in Scorpio.

Find his New Age Noir series and other mystery novels at Amazon, Apple, Barnes&NobleKobo and Smashwords.

AA_Astrology

 

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