My absence in cyberspace has been intentional.
When I was young, I thought it would be great to grow up and live as a hermit. I had read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and figured that was my calling: to exit polite society, dig out the heart of a tree, and live there with my wild falcon friend forever. No taxes, no crowds, no commuting, no smog. Just nature.
This last chunk of my time wasn’t quite that austere, but it was relatively unconnected, unless you count the 24 hours of wifi my husband and I paid for (on tourist rates, go figure) so we could double-check our return flights to London since we had gotten the news of Qatar’s sanctions via BBC News International and were worried Doha would be an island of going nowhere, even for prepaid customers like us. Fortunately, Qatar Airways could still sneak through their no-go airspace restrictions by flying a convoluted route that brushed Iranian air (the joy) and whifferdilled above the Gulf for a while, lending me a great view of oil and gas platforms burning dark orange blips against the moonlit water as I listened to an airborne concert of Coldplay though my cushy headphones.
Despite our no-electronics-honeymoon intentions, we did scan the television headlines for big stories. Qatar and its desert politics aside, the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey held our attention one evening before dinner as we watched what will undoubtedly be history in the making. I’m not very political, but I am certainly interested in things that make America look stupid and embarrass every sane person within it, so I listened to the back-and-forth of important people in my home country thousands of miles away, challenging the challengers out loud when I disagreed with something. I frequently shout at the T.V. for various reasons, but this time even my husband had to agree with me.
Even with those two breaking news stories (actual breaking news, not something like the President has choked on a pretzel), we had a gloriously tranquil honeymoon. We watched as other couples and families went to dinner with their smartphones, refusing even to interact as food and drink were placed on the table. We watched a man play Candy Crush intently on his phone even though, three feet away, the most brilliantly turquoise water on planet Earth kept rushing in waves to say hello to the deck he was occupying. We watched a woman perfect a selfie at a table even though her guy friend was otherwise eating alone. And don’t get me started on the loud Canadian lesbian couple, though those two northern stewardesses were at least hilarious and friendly, eh?
We ate and slept and read. We snorkeled. We swam. We showered and napped and drank Cokes on our deck. We played cards (we’re both terrible losers). We watched geckoes and crabs scuttle around the resort. We talked about many things. We drank white wine while waiting for the sunset. We commented on the sea life below us, especially as it swam past. We people-watched. We guessed what nationality guests were. We watched a Chinese toddler take control of the buffet line and fill his plate with an endless supply of omelettes. We went to the spa, twice, and canoed on the Indian Ocean. We woke up early one morning to venture out to see nurse sharks feeding on chum (we were in a boat; we’re not crazy). We took silly selfies. We watched the local heron stalk the short-order cook. We commented on how many people seemingly wanted the heron to stab them with his foot-long bill as they harassed him for an ever-closer picture. We discovered the resident bat and immediately nick-named her Batty Boom-Boom. We lamented about the one-man “live band” who couldn’t carry a tune and was tone deaf. We called him Flatty McFlatface. We nearly cried at the exorbitant tourist prices on everything the island had to offer, and then added 12% Goods and Services Tax. We followed a pair of manta rays from our pier. We enjoyed the turndown team’s clever towel-origami, leaving us such presents as a bulldog and an elephant, and two swans touching beaks in a heart-shaped kiss.
Twenty-three months is a long time. “Belated honeymoon” barely begins to describe the wait. As much as I’d fantasized about having an English country wedding followed immediately by two weeks in some exotic place, we were lucky to spend Friday before the wedding to practice our dance together. And Monday was a work day. Life happened. Our house needed painting and organizing. Graduate school beckoned. Night duty called. Grocery shopping and weeding and driving lessons interfered. One year passed more quickly than we imagined. And so we set our sights on the two-year deadline. We’d go somewhere before that line, even if it was close to home.
I’d rather have had it this way. The man I spent almost two weeks with in the Indian Ocean is not the same man I married. Is not the same man I dated. And I’m not the same woman. We’ve both changed and grown and matured over our time together. We are more attuned to each other’s quirks, pet peeves, inclinations, and temperaments. We are more aware of each other’s moods. We are quicker to argue and quicker to make up. We are more playful in public and less concerned with society’s stern gaze. We discuss things more. We hide less. Twenty-three months has given us time to explore each other, live with each other, learn together. It wasn’t a fantasy we waited for; it was exotic reality.