By Isabel Sina
A trio of leisurely palms sways gently in the balmy tropical breeze, mere feet away from the shell-strewn shores of the Gulf of Mexico. I greedily inhale the salt drenched air while admiring the masterfully crafted Tiki Huts, standing courageously in the smoldering Florida sun. Determined to return to their homeland with a chocolaty tan, sun oil polished tourists from England and Germany, whose own dreary summers seem to have made a Faustian pact with the weather gods, roast peacefully in their yielding beach lounges. The mood among the crowd is giddy, and I can’t help but adopt their cheerful, relaxed attitude.
While squinting against the sun to make sense of an unfamiliar shape on the horizon, I reassure myself that today is indeed the third of September 2011. Eleven years ago, almost to the day, my obligations to the Tiki Resort Motel did not allow me to play the role of a mellow and unconcerned tourist, but instead prompted me to don a pair of oversized shoes and consequently act as its overworked and somewhat underpaid mistress.
Naturally, the desire to acquire one’s own little piece of paradise represents a rather common and overly idealized fantasy, but it simply made sense at the time. The Tiki was a dream come true that slowly but surely turned into a modern version of Dante’s notorious inferno— the type of nightmare wherein elevated serotonin levels, caused by a hyper fusion of blood to the brain, wreak havoc and force one to awaken in the wee hours of the morning, soaked in cold sweat, vowing never again to indulge in another late night serving of the Outback’s celebrated Aussie Cheese Fries.
The vexatious Tiki comprises ten one-bedroom efficiencies, each equipped with a full size kitchen. Speaking of gluttonous consumption, the amount and consistency of crumbs, muck, gook, grime, and other venomous culinary residues which had taken up residence there was appalling. Repulsive substances were slithering alongside the tired looking Formica counters, worn stainless steel pots, and murky wine goblets. The ten messy kitchens were not the only reason I started to develop a wicked latex allergy. The alarmingly unsanitary condition of the bathrooms prompted me to invest in a biohazard suit, which was shipped with a set of germ-impervious rubber boots and a tight fitting gas mask. Cleaning a bevy of raunchy toilets and scrubbing the relentless soap scum off the shower walls, made me repeatedly question my decision to buy this purported “piece of paradise.”
One of the guests had the annoying habit of repeating the ominous phrase “when angels dare, the devil cannot help but notice.” Strangely enough, he was right on target with his gloomy prediction— the devil was a quotidian guest at the motel, one who, to paraphrase an old Eagles’ song, could check out any time but preferred never to leave.
Lucifer arrived via a host of ingenious aliases. He once disguised himself as an extended family from the East Coast, determined to circumvent the rigorous no pet policy. These cunning guests tried to smuggle in their two-pound miniature Chihuahua by hiding the tiny canine in grandma’s elephantine Gucci bag. This same family later decided to misappropriate the five-foot porcelain bathtub by converting it to a giant pig-roasting device.
More demonic mischief materialized: six rowdy, pheromone-propelled spring breakers, stimulated by too many rumrunners, tied the king size bed linens into a knotted rope in order to swing tarzanesque from the second floor balcony into the Gulf of Mexico. Satan’s infiltration was not the only one to which the resort was subjected–in the summer of 2001, an Act of God produced a flood of biblical proportions. Tropical storm Gabrielle came barreling in, dumping tons of water and sweeping the Tiki clean of all traces of enchantment. Even in the wake of this saturation, a severely crippled and soggy hut gamely carried on by candlepower and kerosene lamplight.
Edward de Bono once said, “A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.” Many strange and extraordinary events took place during my ownership of the Tiki, events which I will never forget even though I often wish they could just “unhappen.” That, however, was then; this is now.
I am no longer the enslaved owner of a resort motel in Fort Myers Beach, long past its prime as a superior lodging establishment. If I choose to do so, I can enjoy my time as a paying guest, ravage the linens, sear a pound of greasy bacon on the timeworn stove, and leave soap scum creations on the tiled shower walls. Conversely, I can behave in a respectful and polite manner out of consideration for the new owners and their many challenges ahead.
As I scan the horizon and contemplate my alternatives, the German tourists signal me to come over to their place of refuge. A bald, burly man in his early sixties with a somewhat familiar face asks me: “We have been coming here for years. Do I know you from somewhere?”
Isabel Sina has a passion for languages and words, and grew up with her head buried in books. Having studied graphic design, and having taken a number of literature and writing courses, she decided to combine the two. In a nutshell, creative writing and design are her passions. Her goal is to inspire, to bring stories to life, and to create characters that jump off the page.