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by Fred Vogel
The moment De Oro stepped into the warm tropical sun, flashbacks from the previous visit stirred in him. The sweet smell of the pineapple factory, the dark green grass swaying at the edge of the pristine beaches, the myriad of blues and purples that layered the ocean, all brought back fond memories. De Oro had booked a room in the same faded pink hotel that he and Norine had stayed previously.
He gazed down from the room's balcony at the hundreds of sunbathers who had claimed their territory earlier in the day. Sea birds glided over the multicolored sailboats that bobbed in the unspoiled waters. He unpacked, showered, and ordered room service, all the while stealing glances out the window at the preparations for the evening's luau. The cool, soft grass that bordered the beach was a carpet for the white-linen tables and the portable bars. He dozed off to the peaceful reverberations of the ocean.
He awoke early and claimed a spot on the beach. Wearing baggy trunks, and at the mercy of the unforgiving morning sun, his flabby brown skin quickly began to toast. He read the newspaper amid the gentle rustling whispers of the palm pods and the constant lapping of the waves. By the time the beach began to fill with hotel guests, De Oro was on his way back to his room, the victim of a painful sunburn.
Later that afternoon, De Oro walked gingerly across the street for an early dinner.
“My now, this place has surely grown,” he said to himself. “Look around at all these people. And some awfully pretty women, if I may add. Now Norine, don’t you go worrying. You know you'll always be my number one lady."
“You know nothing you can say can upset me, you old hound dog.”
“Norine?” De Oro said, turning around.
“Expecting somebody else?”
“Norine.” De Oro repeated, as a relief, not as a question.
“Let’s say we take a stroll down to that little restaurant that lets you cook your own steaks. Remember, De Oro?”
“Indeed I do. Steak it shall be, with baked potatoes and all the trimmings.”
They walked arm in arm discussing the ways of the world. De Oro enjoyed keeping Norine up to date on current events. Last year while in Tahiti, Norine was tickled pink to hear that a man of color was going to be residing in the White House.
Arriving at their destination, De Oro opened the door for an elderly couple, then turned back to Norine, who was nowhere in sight.
“You damned old fool,” he chastised himself. “Letting your mind get the better of you.”
Having lost his appetite, De Oro meandered back to the hotel, where he crawled into bed and relived the few precious moments he had shared with his wife of thirty-seven years.
“Good night, my lovely lady.”
Sunburn prevented De Oro from spending any more time on the beach. Sightseeing and reading under an umbrella at the hotel’s pool had to suffice. His imagination acted up at other times during the vacation - Norine made a brief appearance on the Pearl Harbor tour as well as at the Polynesian Cultural Center. De Oro knew full well it was his mind playing tricks but that didn't stop him from relishing every moment.
On the last evening of his vacation, De Oro attended the luau on the hotel grounds. He left a seat empty on his right, just in case. He enjoyed the hula dancers, the fire dancers, and the local fare, except for the "white sticky stuff".
It was after his second Mai Tai that Norine joined him.
“My, isn’t this lovely, De Oro?”
“It most certainly is," he answered, before adding, "Norine, I'm leaving tomorrow and I want you to come with me.”
“Don’t be silly. We’re both leaving tomorrow, unless you gave my plane ticket to one of those pretty hula girls.”
“Norine, please, I’m serious. I need to be with you for more than two weeks a year.”
“Excuse me, Sir. Are you alright?” the lady seated across from De Oro asked.
“Yes…I’m fine,” he said, regaining his senses. “I must have been in a daze or something. I'm truly sorry.”
“These drinks can play tricks on you,” the lady assured him, slurping from a straw in a coconut.
“I believe that to be true,” De Oro said. “If you'll excuse me, I have an early flight in the morning.”
“Yes, I am. I am, indeed.”
De Oro already knew next year’s vacation would be to another of their favorite destinations - Cancun. He'd reserve the same beachfront condo they had stayed in on their previous visit. "She’ll know right where to find me." They both had enjoyed relaxing under a palapa on the soft, white Mexican beaches, reading, and sipping Margaritas.
Only fifty more weeks and he would be reunited with the love of his life. De Oro rode the elevator to his hotel room and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.
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