The choice of drinks was beer and “Margarita’s” but the kind made with something that looked like neon green Kool Aid (or Freshie as we called it in Canada), bile colour and sickly sweet. We all switched to beer after the first sip. The kids were lined up for a dance contest and each one did a solo to that insidious “Gasolina” song. Carter performed the robot, the worm and the stanky leg and blew the tiny competition out of the water. Soon he was chasing little Marco from Chiuaua around the boat, neither noticing the language barrier. The rest of us shivered. I was chosen as one of the women to humiliate. They had four of us sit on stools and then lean back onto eachother’s laps while they took the stools away. My big head apparently caused my head’s lap to collapse. Big laughter.
The sun slid below the horizon, but no one but me seemed to notice. The moon appeared on the opposite shore, a gigantic fiery ball, rolling along the tops of some tiny seaside hotels, whose windows blazed with the sunset. Photos don’t do it justice, but I snap many anyway, though my hair flaps in the sea wind.
A second humiliation as I was forced to dance with a scary dude in a mask known as the ghost pirate. Seemed appropriate somehow, an ode to Arron. I won a shot of tequila for my efforts, but didn’t claim my prize. Perhaps it would have warmed me up.
A plate of appetizers appeared, for which we paid an extra five dollars. The flimsy foam plate contained four unpeeled shrimp, a dollop of ketchup, three toothpicks skewered with ham and cheese and topped with a green olive, a blob of tuna salad and a package of saltines. Only later would we be grateful.
Finally, it seemed the ship was heading for port, our treasure chest full. As we neared shore, there was a slight shudder, a glide. I heard the engine kick back. I looked up at the pirate captain, but he appeared calm and smiling. He saw me looking at him and winked. I looked over the side and could see the indigo water below churning, foggy with sand. The shore did not float past. The neon sign of a restaurant on shore remained stationary. We were grounded. No one else had noticed our dilemma, so I turned to my sister, whose three year old was asleep on her chest. Her eyes widened with the news. Soon, the rest of the pirates and
victims passengers were aware of our plight. My brother-in-law seemed jubilant, excited almost, chatting amongst the men, making new friends, sharing a common peril. The pirates looked resigned, all now talking on their cell phones, updating their New Year’s plans.
We sat, cold, tired, hungry stuck on a sand bar laughing how it seemed a suitable end to a strange year. 2009 had caused us all to grind to a halt in one way or another. The kids kept warm playing tag and ungluing the shimmering baubles off the fake treasure chest. The pirate captain leaned over the rail and smoked another cigarette. Some of the younger men climbed to the top of the boat and set off fireworks, apparently part of the regular pirate festivities.
We admired another cruise boat, one that had an indoors, longing to be inside its warmth, watching its large screen TV. For a while, it seemed to be coming to our rescue, until it became clear that it too was grounded on the sandbar, rocking sideways awkwardly like an ailing goldfish in its bowl.
We waited an hour for the monstrous blue moon (two full moons in one month equal blue, an incredibly rare occurrence) to work its magic on the tide. And then, gently a series of waves bounced us, the pirate captain started the engine and it took us all a minute or two to realize we were once again moving, the neon sign disappearing to our right, the narrow channel’s shore only feet from the boat.
As a final encore, the harassed looking waitress emerged from behind a door clad in a bright pink hula skirt with a fake coconut bikini top and performed a strange dance, part hula, part salsa, looking cold and bored.
It was a New Year’s eve that none of us will forget — a strange epilogue to a strange year. But that sunset, the fiery moon and its rescuing tide, the children dancing and the hula/salsa dancer combined in the most surreal, or perhaps just Mexican of ways, to provide us all with a kind of optimism for the year to come.