When James and Ashley left on our fourth day on the island, I threw my I love you over my shoulder as I braced myself to run through the streets in a tropical downpour. I seriously hate goodbyes. If there hadn’t been the need to brace against the rain, I probably would have had more time to think about how sad it was that I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d see them was. I’ve never been one of those people who gets stuck to home, who wonders what I’m doing every time I get back on the plane to Sydney; but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to look my loved ones in the eye and tell them how I really feel every time I walk away. I guess on some levels, I’m still an avoider when it comes to matters of the heart.
I planned my second dive accordingly so that an extreme high would follow what I knew would be one of the lowest lows of the trip. So I ran away from the goodbye and changed into my shorty wetsuit.
When I surfaced, feeling that same high as the day before, the lightness in my head was attributed to more than just excitement. I was feeling slightly nauseous. At first, I worried I’d had bad air, but the truth was that I knew too well that feeling in my head and the heat rushing through my body. I was hungover. And diving hungover is not recommended.
I decided to head back to the hostel and have a nap, since I didn’t have anyone to meet for galavanting around the island, and it was pouring anyway. As I laid down on my bunk in the empty four-bed dorm, the door opened and in walked one of the girls who worked at the front desk of the hostel.
You’re getting a roommate.
It could have been perfect timing, my family had just left and I was alone again. It couldn’t be a bad thing, right? When he came in a few minutes later, he introduced himself and promptly took himself outside to smoke a cigarette. All travellers smoke, so I didn’t judge. We got to talking, about where we’d travelled to and what we were doing in Honduras. For a while, it was a fine enough conversation, he’d been travelling around SE Asia and lived in Singapore for a bit.
Then, he started talking about how he’d been in jail in Singapore, my guard went up slightly, but I decided to hear him out. We all make mistakes after all. Basically, the story was, or at least the one he told me, that he’d gotten drunk and tried to enter the conductor’s cabin of a subway train. When reprimanded, he’d thrown a fit. He struck me as being too old to defy authority in the midst of too much alcohol. This was something I’d done in my early 20s before I’d properly been able to understand for myself when I’d had too much to drink.
Although wary, I kept the conversation going, I even accompanied my new roomie on a walk to the shop so he could buy booze and Coke and I could get some soap and juice.
We kept talking, he insisted I drink a Jack and Coke, even though I insisted I was far too hungover. I politely sipped the drink before setting it on the bedside table as he looked away to rifle through his bag.
He produced a tiny baggy of cocaine and poured a line out on the small chest of drawers next to his bunk.
I laughed. It was still early in the afternoon.
In hopes that he was gearing up for a night out, I casually asked whether he’d be heading to Sundowners, the backpackers bar across the road.
No, think I’ll stay here tonight. Party tomorrow, though.
Great, so he just planned on snorting lines and drinking a bottle of Jack in the room that only we shared. Fantastic.
I gradually stopped talking, picking up the copy of Shantaram that I carted through four countries and began tidying my things in preparation for my departure the next morning.
He did try to get me to go out after a few more drinks. I insisted he go right ahead, but I was hungover. He didn’t leave. It was around 8 pm, after he spent an hour or so lying on his bed staring at the wall in silence, that I had a sudden had the thought that there was always that chance that a backpacker couldn’t be trusted. Next time he stepped out to smoke a cigarette I gathered all of my money and valuables and stuffed them under my pillow where I returned my head and continued reading.
The next time he left the room, he was gone for about 30 minutes, enough time for me to doze off. When I awoke I was still alone so I switched off the light, glad he’d decided to go out and mingle with fellow partiers. I’m not sure how long it took him to come back, but he didn’t waste any time switching the light back on. It was the door that woke me, but I laid still in hopes that he would realise I was asleep and switch the light back off, or better yet, leave the room.
Instead, I heard him rustling around near his bed. Then that same telltale soft intake of air as he continued to snort lines off that chest of drawers. I moved a bit so he would know he’d woken me.
Which light do you prefer?
I looked at him, squinting into the brightness of the room.
I’d prefer none. It’s midnight. I understood at 10 pm, but now it’d be great if you could do that somewhere else. I kept my squinting gaze fixed on him.
I guess I could go outside or something.
That’d be great. I rolled back over and listened as he switched off the light and shut the door behind him. I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night. I knew that I wouldn’t feel comfortable until I was on that plane to Nicaragua.
I don’t know what time he came back in, although I did wake at the sound of his key. Being a light sleeper is sometimes a blessing. Sometimes you need to know where your fellow travellers and roommates are at all times.
In the morning, I didn’t bother being quiet as I packed my bags up. I moved my things out of the room as soon as I could and sat sending messages to my family until it was a reasonable time to head to the airport. As I walked back to use the toilet one more time, I noticed my roommate sitting in the hammock on the common deck, beer in hand as the clock rolled around to 9:30 am, staring ahead at nothing with that same creepy gaze. I didn’t bother saying goodbye, or even giving him a second glance as I pulled my backpack onto my shoulders and headed off to the taxi that would take me to Nica.