The following is my diary from a week I spent at a Club Med resort located in Turks and Caicos, a small chain of magnificent islands in the British West Indies. I originally wrote this diary for Details magazine, but they chose not to publish it. I’m not sure why they didn’t go for it, but I think I didn’t file the kind of report they were looking for.
Day 1, July 2
I’m on the plane, just after a shaky takeoff. Having my usual fears of dying. The seats of the plane are old, like 1970s furniture, which is not very reassuring. Other than dying, my chief concern is how I will get sunblock on my back, which, I guess, is dying-related.
Unpacked and in my room. Will go to the beach. The ocean, an uncanny blue like Peter O’Toole’s eyes in Lawrence of Arabia, is quite beautiful. The compound is essentially a festive college dormitory, but with a beach, outdoor bar, and pool.
Nearly had trouble at the airport. The passport guy asked me why my eyes were yellow. I noticed a poster warning about SARS. I said, “They get that way when I’m tired.” He studied my passport some more. Then he said he’d be right back. I was worried that he thought I was a drug-addict with hepatitis and wasn’t going to let me in.
I didn’t want to explain that I have Gilbert’s Syndrome; I thought it would sound too ludicrous, but I didn’t think he’d leave his station to consult with superiors… He was gone almost five minutes. The whole line was stalled. This was serious. I had a stupid smile on my face when he came back, which is not the kind of face to have around passport guys; it makes you look nervous and guilty. He said, “Can you tell me again why your eyes are yellow?”
“I have Gilbert’s Syndrome,” I said. “It’s a benign, genetic condition; I’m missing an enzyme in my liver, so when I’m tired, my eyes get yellow.”
I was telling him the truth, but I felt like I was lying. Who speaks of liver enzymes to passport-control guys?
“Oh, all right,” he said, and stamped my passport. “I thought maybe you had yellow fever.”
So he let me in to his country to spread Gilbert’s Syndrome, which I guess I could do if I got someone pregnant and passed it on to the child.
Spoke to a petite, pretty Sri Lankan woman from LA before dinner. She invited me to sit with her by the bar. I asked her what she thought of the place.
“If you want to get laid,” she said, “this is the place. If that’s what you’re looking for. I’m not. I’m here to scuba. Also, it was cheap. Chicks fly free to Club Med.”
“Yeah, that’s why I came. A free ticket is too good to pass up… It’s my last night tonight, so maybe I will kiss a cute boy.”
I wondered if this excluded me. Probably. I’m pale and bald and the rings under my eyes are so deep they reach the back of my head. Anyway, I can’t do any kissing. I have a girlfriend and I’m off booze. Who comes to Club Med under these conditions? No one. I shouldn’t have accepted this assignment.
I left the Sri Lankan and went in to dinner. I sat with a group of twentysomethings. Conversation was dull and innocuous. One guy had second-degree burns on his feet and was walking around in socks filled with aloe. I had to avoid his fate and be diligent with my sunblock.
After dinner, they had what’s called a “Foam Party.” They fenced off a little area by the pool, about the size of a squash court, and set up some kind of Willy Wonka machine that emitted huge gushes of foam ‹ soap bubbles and maybe sperm from the male staff. The idea was for people to dance in the foam-sperm.
I took off my shirt and went in. At the entrance, the foam came up to my stomach. My shorts got damp. Girls were in bikinis. They were all wiggling about to the music. The occasional bikini bottom rubbed against me, lubricated with wet foam.
To get the full experience, I thought I should go to the source of the foam—a big drainage pipe propped up on a ladder—and stand beneath it. So I did. Here the foam was up to my shoulders. There were about a hundred of us packed into the pit.
Then a new gush of foam was ejaculated. The foam poured over my head.
I couldn’t breathe.
I couldn’t see.
I sucked foam into my lungs.
I made a panicked, forceful push to get out of there, like someone trying to escape a burning nightclub. It was hard going. I was blind.
I really felt like I was going to die.
I was drowning on soap bubbles and staff-sperm.
Somehow I got out of the pit.
An hour later, I’m still coughing up soap.
Day 2, July 3
On a quiet, beautiful beach, under an umbrella. One beach is noisy; this one is quiet.
About ten yards away is an attractive topless woman.
Day 2, July 3
On a quiet, beautiful beach, under an umbrella. One beach is noisy; this one is quiet. About ten yards away is an attractive topless woman. I am ashamed, but when she walks by I ask her if she could put sunblock on the middle of my back. She’s Jewish. A fellow Jew. I notice the “chai” on her necklace. I think of saying, “Chai,” instead of “Hi,” which would be a good opening line with a Jewish girl.
From yesterday, I have a burn spot in the middle of my back the size of a serving tray. I can reach the tops of my shoulders and my lower back, but not my middle. She rubbed the lotion on; it was rather sensual, but then she said, dismissively, reading the label, “Fifty?”
“I’m very fair,” I said like a milquetoast, which I literally am: a white piece of toast. I figure I need fifty. In one minute I would fry, so fifty gives me fifty minutes without frying. I wish there was an invention that would enable shy people to put sunblock on their backs by themselves. A spatula would work, and the association with frying is apt. This place should be called Club High School. The cool people, with their beautiful bodies and tans and large capacities for liquor, hang out at the noisy beach and the pool. I’m some kind of artist-snob. I’m ugly and poor but snobby. Everyone here seems so bourgeois. They’re burghers. I wonder if that word is related to bourgeois. Or rather they’re like burgers—human burgers frying themselves in the sun. If a bunch of dermatologists came here they’d be hysterical.
Bourgeois. Burghers. Burgers.
Last night I was woken up at 4:50 a.m. by shouts of “One more!” and “Take it off!” My room was next to the after-hours bar, Sharkies. I went to see what was happening. Five girls were lying on the bar, all in a row, like slaughtered fish. They all looked like Monica Lewinsky—chubby but with nice faces. The bartender was pouring vodka down their throats from a bottle with a spigot. I was worried the girls would die from alcohol poisoning.
Guys with cancerous tans and dyed blonde hair were urging the girls to take off their tops. Several of the girls did expose their bras. But none of them flashed any boobs. I staggered back to my room.
This morning I asked to be shifted to the other side of the compound.
I have a doppelgänger here. There’s a weird lonely guy whose nose is attached in a strange way to his lip, like a bird. He wears a baseball hat, is bald underneath, and is completely white. He wears sneakers and socks on the beach. He hovers around the edges of things and talks to no one. I should talk to him. Be friendly. I should talk to all the lonely ones. But I can’t.
Day 3, July 4, Independence Day
I went to the nurse and asked her to put sunblock on my back. She’s in her fifties, blonde, and covered in cancer-freckles. She applied my sunblock with a rubber glove. My own sense of germ-propriety agreed with her use of the rubber glove. Also, the humiliation of it appealed to me masochistically. Confirmed my utter-loser status here.
To celebrate the 4th, they released all these red, white, and blue soy balloons, which are environmentally safe. Vegetarian seagulls can eat them. The balloons looked beautiful in the sky, like a gigantic DNA helix.
My body is completely falling apart. I was at the beach and felt this lump on the back of my head. I decided to squeeze it. A clear fluid, like baby oil, came out. The lump was reduced in size by about 60 percent. What the hell was that oil? Was the thing a zit or a cyst? Probably a combination. A zyst.
Then my crotch began to hurt. I have massive weltish jock itch from sitting in a wet bathing suit for three days. Luckily, I packed fungus cream for the preexisting jock itch I have in my ass, but I’m almost out of the stuff. Will have to ration it between my ass and my crotch. I don’t know how much more pathetic I can become.
When I told my girlfriend a few weeks ago that I have athlete’s foot in my ass, she said: “Which athlete?”
At five-thirty there was a softball game. I watched it briefly. My doppelgänger was playing. He was actually picked last. Then he nearly struck out. With two strikes, he hit a weak grounder to first and ran heroically but didn’t make it. At least he hit the ball. If he had struck out, I might have had to kill myself.
I’ve been watching a Twilight Zone marathon. There was an episode where a beautiful woman lived in a world of ugly people and so she was considered hideous. That’s kind of like me and the doppelgänger. Except we really are ugly.
Day 4, July 5
Went to the nurse again this morning, but there was a young, pretty one today. She said: “You are very white.”
This wounded me a little; I thought I had some color. I’ve gone from alabaster to pale. She didn’t a wear rubber glove, which was nice, made me feel quasihuman.
The place is putting its spell on me. Despite my best intentions, I feel happy. Sat on the beach and read. Kept thinking to myself the insipid banal thought: “This is the life.” Then I went snorkeling. On the boat to the reef, I met a lively cute girl, K., a brunette with a nice figure. She put sunblock on my back. Not a nurse! She said, “I love the smell of this stuff.”
“It smells like a creamsicle,” I said.
“I want to eat your sunblock,” K. said.
She asked me to be her snorkeling partner. Her crotch, underwater, as I swam behind her, was very appealing—the necessary and lovely parting of her legs.
I spotted an enormous stingray and two six-foot nurse sharks. Supposedly they don’t attack. It was scary, but K. was intrepid, following them, so I had to as well.
I had dinner with K. and her friends. They told me that everyone was fucking on the beach at night. Then K. told me about this girl who was sharing a room with another girl —this girl didn’t come with a friend and they housed her with a stranger. To save money, some people share rooms. So every night this girl could hear her roommate masturbating. I said to K., “What did the girl say it sounded like? There was moaning?”
“I asked the same question,” K. said. “She wasn’t moaning. The girl said it sounded like this—” and with that K. took her lower lip, pinched it, and shook it back and forth, recreating the sound of a clit being stroked rapidly. All the girls laughed.
After dinner, like every night, there was entertainment. Tonight there was a sweet competition between four couples to elect the best couple of Club Med, like King and Queen of the prom, continuing the theme of “this is high school.” But everything is high school. Maybe everything is just fucking life and high school was a part of life. A couple from my home state of New Jersey won, which made me proud. There are a few people from NJ. Most of the people are from Canada, New York, and LA. Three countries.
I’m watching a Planet of the Apes marathon.
I’m going to call P. Been missing her. Looking forward to talking to her.
Day 5, July 6
Had a terrible phone call with P. last night. A fight. It lasted an hour. She’s upset that I’m at Club Med. Feel all hungover from the fight. God only knows how much that phone call will cost.
K. and her friends left today and the doppelgänger left. All my friends are gone.
Day 6, July 7
Had a deep-tissue massage on the dock by the water. A lot of unhappiness and stress was released. I kept crying out in pain. I screamed: “I confess!” The sweet female masseuse laughed.
All day I swam, the light shining in the water like sequins.
They’re really converting me. The yellow has drained from my eyes. I feel healthy.
The Club Med ethos is a bit forced: the staff shouting at us all the time to make noise, to clap, to be happy. It’s summer camp for adults. But it sort of works. If you act happy, your brain starts to believe you’re happy.
Day 8, July 8
I’m in the airport, waiting to go. All I did yesterday was swim and read. Quite blissful. Got the bill. That phone call cost $150. Oh, well. It will be good to see P., to not be alone. In the van here to the airport, I was with three very pretty women. As we left Club Med, all these people were there saying goodbye to the women, crying. No one was there to say goodbye to me. Hardly anyone knew I was there for a week. Except the nurses. It reminded me of summer camp when I was thirteen. On the last day, everybody was weeping, parting from their friends. I had made no friends. So I took a picture of two beautiful girls to show my parents, to pretend that I had made friends. It depressed me to remember this. I was a loner and a loser back then. But at least I’m consistent, and I prove the fact that people don’t really change.
But I must be changing a little. When we got to the airport, I helped the women with their enormous bags and they were very grateful and friendly. They almost acted like they wished they had met me sooner, which was a minuscule victory. But the real sign of growth is that I didn’t ask to take their picture. I don’t have to pretend, anymore, that I have friends.