@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Some Guy Named Ron
It’s my last day in Aruba. With an evening flight home to New York, I have the morning. There’s a spot about two miles away from the hotel I’m staying that, allegedly, has some really great snorkeling. Forever a loving daughter of Mother Ocean, snorkeling is an activity that never bores nor ceases to amaze me, observing an entirely different and enchanting universe beneath the blue sea.
All the comedy shows were fun, so I’m in a good mood, even though I’m tired when I wake up. So tired, I half think I ought to just order in some room service breakfast: french toast with berries; dressed in the Marriott robe that’s too big for me, making me look like a kid again.
But the adventurous side of me disagrees. The side that has caused much of the joys in my life, though also responsible for it’s share of dejection. Just the day before, myself and the other comics went to a natural pool where we were jumping off a reef cliff into crystal clear water. And that’s the person I have always aimed, wanted, and found most fulfilling to be: the girl who jumps off cliffs.
Plus, this could be the last time I’m ever in Aruba (I hope not!). Get out of bed. Boca Catalina is the name of the spot and it’s about two miles away. A two mile run is nothing. I ran at least two miles every morning anyway, however, I ran in the other direction. Because the other direction is smooth sand… the direction of Boca Catalina is exposed reef. This would be no sweat if I brought sneakers. But I didn’t. I wore boots on the plane (for the shows), of course packed sandals, but I decided my snorkeling gear was more important than sneakers. After all, running barefoot on the beach is bliss for me.
So, I’m wearing shorts and tank top over my bathing suit. I have an arm band with my mp3 player which also holds my room key. I’m carrying a small plastic Barnes & Noble bag that holds a water bottle and my snorkel and I’m off. I run as long as I can on the sand beach, but then I’m forced on the dirt road. Occasionally, the dirt road was too painful, so I’d run on the side of the paved road. Other runners pass me. They give me a suspicious look. If someone is running on the pavement, barefoot, one could surmise they are running away from something.
This doesn’t hurt my feet too bad. I have gross callused runners feet. You could shave off a part of my heel and I wouldn’t even feel it.
The sign “Boca Catalina” came to much a relief to me. I wasn’t sure if there would be a sign. Otherwise, I’d just be calculating my running pace for two miles. I take off my shorts and arm band mp3/headphones and put them in the plastic bag. I take out my snorkel and drink some water. I put my plastic bag under a tree hoping no one throws it out or steals it. Though, the thing I’d be most pissed about losing would be my Bose headphones.
It’s early morning still. There are three other people on the beach. A middle aged couple, and a middle aged man wearing a neon yellow rash guard that says, “Turtle Magnet.” I assume he is a tour guide or works for a hotel.
I’m dripping sweat from running here, and a blister on my toe next to my big toe on my left foot has torn open (again) and is bleeding, slightly. I wade in the salt water which is both stinging and relieving my blister, eavesdropping on the other beach goers. My eavesdropping quickly turns into being part of the conversation. The woman, as she told me, had some sort of respiratory issue and was afraid to snorkel. I quietly nodded, ready to jump into the water just to not talk to these people any longer. Additionally, I’m excited to snorkel the reef.
The husband and wife (from Indiana) decided not to go out. I learned they were staying with the “Turtle Magnet” who is from Holland, and has retired here and runs a sort of “bed and breakfast” with his wife out of their home for tourists.
His name is Ron.
Ron says he’s going out anyway, after all, this is the time of year (and best time of day) the turtles are coming to lay their eggs, so there are turtles beyond the roped off area for snorkeling.
“I’m going out there anyway,” he says to the couple, then he turns to me, “do you want to come?”
I consider for a second or two, and then I agree. I’m going in anyway as well, and I would love to see some sea turtles. He asks me if I’m a good snorkeler. I tell him yes. But I think, I’m a surfer, bitch, I’ll swim circles around you all day.
So we start swimming out to sea. It’s only then I get a little nervous. I don’t even trust some of the people I love, and now I’m swimming out to the middle of the ocean with some guy named Ron that I just met three minutes ago. I figured the odds of him drowning me were pretty slim. The couple from Indiana were still on the beach. Other tourists starting gathering on the beach. Plus, he runs an out of home tourist business so it wouldn’t be in his best interest to drown tourists.
Once I was over the that, I was actually a little spooked at how far we had swam out. I stopped at some point and asked him, “how much further?” “Not that much further,” he said. If I were by myself, I would not have swam out this far. Not because I’m afraid of the ocean or sharks… because I’m afraid of getting run over by a boat. But this is where Ron was also especially helpful. He had a diver flag, so as long as I wasn’t too far from him, we probably wouldn’t get run over by a boat, which would probably we an awful way to go. Also, I was once dangerously close to being run over by a boat while snorkeling in a channel in Puerto Rico where you weren’t supposed to be snorkeling and that shit was terrifying.
It was Ron who pointed out the first turtle and I was thrilled! They’re so cute and magical! Seriously, turtles are a fucking miracle. When baby turtles hatch, less than 10% make it to the ocean to live more than just a few minutes. A turtle hatching is a blood bath. Their first experience of life is Normandy Beach. Birds come swooping in, chomping into the baby turtles. Crabs eat them. Even when they make it to sea, birds still pick them off, as do larger fish. Human babies are not miracles. An adult sea turtle is a miracle.
I dive to get a closer look, but I scare the turtle a bit. Ron claims to know all the turtles personally by the designs on their shells. Okay, Ron. Sure. We see three more turtles, and while they watch us with a weary eye, they are not too afraid of us. We’re all at peace together. Maybe it’s because Ron knows them so well. Maybe they know Ron by his neon “Turtle Magnet” rash guard as he knows them by their shells.
After swimming with the turtles we head inshore towards the reef. Sometimes Ron will motion for me to surface every so often and he’ll point out a type of fish, sharing a bit of knowledge about the creature. It’s then I decide that Ron is pretty cool. He loves this. He does this every day and it never tires him. It brings him both peace and happiness, the ultimate combination. What we should always strive for, what few people really know.
Ron points out a scorpion fish that blends in so well to the reef, I would have never noticed it. They are suction feeders so they seldom detach from the reef. But they’re the second most deadly fish in the world, and if you step on it, you’ll be dead in 10-15 minutes if you don’t make it to a hospital.
Is this how you kill me, Ron? You push me into the scorpion fish and I writhe in pain from the venom until I die? You sicko.
Ron did not do this. Probably didn’t even think of doing this. Clearly, I’m the sicko.
Then, I thought, maybe that wasn’t such a bad way to die. Though ten minutes in horrific pain is a long fucking ten minutes, at least it would be over in ten minutes. If (when) I’m suicidal again, I could come to Aruba and step on a scorpion fish and end it all. But then if I come to Aruba, “one happy island,” I’ll be happy and peaceful and I won’t want to end things. WILL THERE BE NO END TO ME WANTING TO END THINGS.
In truth, there will be so many endings (which beget beginnings) before the final end, and a lot of people believe the final end is not really a final end, and I’m tired of debating that, because I don’t think it really matters anyway. If there’s something beyond the physical world and atoms and matter and cells, it would be so far beyond our comprehension. Snorkeling in the ocean proves this. It’s a whole other world that is nearly beyond all comprehension that so many different types of creatures could exist and be so beautiful despite the tragedy that only ten percent of baby turtles make it.
My wish, for myself, for my loved ones, for strangers too, is just to be happy. But highs always come with a price of lows. Maybe peace is worth more than happiness. How could we ever know for sure. Maybe the sea turtles know.
[Ron actually took video of the sea turtles and I make a cameo; click HERE]