by Patricia Kay
Storyline focus focused on the challenge of life journeys which require acceptance.
The Bentley pulled up, edging the curb with the motor humming softly as if to not disturb the port, which had already been jolted awake. The darkened windows blocked the shadows of porters, the outline of a convoy of luggage, boxes china, sacks of flour, crates of wine, and the ship towering monstrously above the orchestrated activities. He folded the newspaper, glancing one more time at the headlines, placed it into his briefcase behind his portfolio and in front of the typed folders each with a name, 8 names memorized, nicknames equally paired like a wine with a dinner, ahead 10 days at sea. Fingering the gold clasp with his manicured nails, he felt the cool breeze on his forehead as the passenger door opened, the opened trunk stood readied to dispose of its contents, and he slid slowly across the leather interior. His journey begins and mentally applied his thoughts to a checklist of what he must do today, as he walked slowly towards the gangway. Leaving his 3 pieces of luggage, 4 suit bags two filled with a tuxedos for each evening, his metal train case, one tennis racquet, one set of putting irons, his tripod, and the wooden crate with 8 wrapped presents, each in plain white paper entwined in multi-color raffia. His briefcase strap rested on his burnt red silk shirt, bumping his khaki pressed trousers as he grasped his boarding pass, passport, and driver’s license in his right hand. As his sandaled feet left the metal gangplank, he entered the carpeted ship, porters nodded knowingly at him directing him to an awaiting elevator. Rolf, the concierge, touched his sleeve, handed his room key, held the mirror lined elevator door, and pushed floor 10.
As the doors closed, he glanced at his face tanned with brilliant gray piercing eye, capped glistening white teeth, smooth skin leathered gently by his weekend sailing. He tweaked a piece of grey tipped hair over the black spot over the arch of his ear. The barber had snipped it recently, he waited for the bruising to fade into the yellowish healing hue and found the blackened skin obvious.
The 10th floor had a cathedral silence as no other passengers were permitted to their suites for yet another hour. Room K 1094 was 4 suites before the aft deck, between both sets of elevators and between the Sunset Bar and Movie Theater which was located on the ninth floor. Requesting a quick access and exit to the Sunset bar was a necessary requirement of his job.
As he opened his door, the brilliance of the suite deck sliding door filled his room outlining its contents, as one might outline a coloring book picture. A soft leather green couch lined one wall, facing a 40-inch flat screen television, a stereo system with surround sound plucked soft tones of baroque strings. A crystal hanging light resembling a seashell hung between the coach and the suede love seat. A complimentary wet bar faced the couch. In the corner the four-poster bed was covered with a maroon down comforter, circular, triangular, square, rolled, oblong, and pillows tumbled from the headboard in an avalanche of neutral tones.
Smiling he placed the awaiting drink to his lips. After all these years crushed ice covered with fresh squeezed orange juice, slid down his throat as if to welcome and remind him that his services were appreciated. He passed on the triple creme blue cheese and rye-crisp crackers, but placed a handful of frozen sugared grapes in his hands as he walked to the deck. Still holding his briefcase, he looked down as ant figures walked across the dock, into the ticketing hangar building which swallowed the passengers, processing them past cruise line staff whose signs directed them to numbered lines, check-in lines, photograph lines, security baggage check, while hollowed announcements welcomed, reminded, directed, advised and warned repeatedly. Which of the 8 tiny figures were to be his to pamper, to alleviate their insecurities, to elevate them to a regal status, to listen to what brings them happiness, to listen to their life’s journeys and to do it all in one day without any resulting binds of commitment. He would be their escort, enveloping them in laughter, conversation, sympathy, encouragement, humor and reminding them of their beauty through his words, touches, eyes, soft kisses, and focused attention.
Tonight was his night to learn where his ladies cabins were, to call each one and introduce himself, and to make plans for a there assigned day. His suite, and phone number, and personal name were confidential, his escort name was Lawrence. Ladies could only contact him or leave messages for him through the front desk; a rule that always was a challenge as the week progressed. His job required him to spend no less than 6 hours, nor more than 12 hours with each lady. As if a fable, his evening ended each night at 11: 20 PM, where he must return to his suite, alone. He walked to his brief case, entered the lock combination, and pulled out the 8 folders. Each titled one name-no last name, no date of birth, no ethnicity, no address of residence.
He laid them down in a fan as if announcing in a poker game “full house”. Each escort date had a brief questionnaire to complete if they chose which included why they were on the cruise, what they would like to do on their escort date and anything special they would like to share about themselves with the escort. Included in the folder was the signed agreement acknowledging their understanding of their escort date limitations? Randomly he picked the first folder. Catherine
Catherine }wrote “ I am radio contest winner, who had won this cruise by listing the song which was played each day at 11:07 AM. I had to list the songs for two weeks, submit one entry and was part of a random drawing. My name was picked out of 10,000 entries. I have never been on a cruise, have never flown and I am traveling by myself. I really have not dated very much as I come from a small town. I would love to spend a day having breakfast, going to one of the classes on how to fold napkins, go to a wine seminar and finish with a fondue dinner.
Sharon wrote: I am a widow traveling with my 8-year-old son. I have brought my husband’s ashes with me and would appreciate if you would help me with a ceremony while we are at sea. He died while I was pregnant with my son, so my son never met him. I have signed my son up for the Cruise Kids Camp so once I know when I will meet you I will arrange for him to spend the day at camp.I was hoping we could meet in the chapel and talk. However, you can help me to make the day a part of the closure I have long needed, I would appreciate it very much.
Ann wrote: I am from England and have traveled the world more times than most people on this cruise. I do need to let you know that I have just completed my third rehabilitation for heroin addiction after a short jail sentence. I would like to spend the day going on an off shore excursion where I can just walk on a sandy beach, have a picnic lunch, and shop for some souvenirs-specifically musical instruments. I should not have any alcohol during our date, should does not mean that I won’t. I am traveling with my sponsor as we are attending a rehabilitation workshop on the cruise.
Georgette wrote: I work 24/7 for a financial company. I am traveling with my mother who is 85 and the cruise is a birthday present to her. I know that after 2 days of bingo with her, I will need some male companionship.
I have never been to a spa in my lifetime, partly because of my weight and partly because I am embarassed because I know nothing about what goes on in a spa. As I have been divorced twice, my former husbands and I barely talked to each other let alone tried out new things. I hope that the spa is not a sexual atmosphere, well but that I am not sure I would not mind it.
I would like to learn how to dance a basic waltz. I brought a beautiful gown to wear for the Captain’s Exclusive Dinner and I would like to dance that evening.I love champagne…
Chantel wrote: I recently retired and I am on the cruise with my cousin who lives in a different state. She owns a tea shop and sells herbal remedies of which I would be interested in learning more about. I know that there are several classes offered on the ship, but I did notice on the port tours that there is a village where the waters have healing power. I noticed also there were several symbolic stones and fountains which I would wish to experience. As one gets older one worries about their body and health, and although I have been very healthy I feel that I should visit the village.
I do not have fancy clothes, just basic casual clothes. So I would rather leave the ship than attend a ship function. Please let me know what kind of shoes I should wear, I only brought two pairs.
Tessa wrote: I cruise often and enjoy the company of a man, especially a good looking man. I would wish for dinner in the Executive Club, with you in a tuxedo and me wearing my jewels. I would like to go to one of the shows, I specifically enjoy classical music and I would like to meet one of the entertainers. I despise the Broadway shows with the scanty outfits and bare breasted women. I prefer a Pinot Noir wine, as well as oysters and flaming desserts. I would love to end the evening with some port on the deck.
Gwen wrote: I am a vaudeville actress and weary from shows, audience, and rehearsals. I do not want to see any shows on the ship, although I would like to learn how to play the tables in the casino. I also need to stay in shape so I workout every morning and would like to either walk the deck with you or go to the gym. I do think a little time with a trainer would be beneficial as I have had a few back strains, lately or perhaps I could use a massage. As I am known in the industry I will be wearing a silver wig, straight and pixie cut, as I prefer to stay anonymous. I would enjoy one of the buffet nights and eating alone with you somewhere vs in the dining room- I do not know if you can arrange that. I would like to know if you like to sing. And if you do I would love to do some Karaoke with you after the Karaoke bar closes.
Sally wrote: Nothing special about that except I am traveling with my adult children celebrating one of my son’s wedding anniversaries. Actually they plan on renewing their vows during the cruise. My husband is traveling so they all decided I needed to request you. Now I have no idea what that means, as I am a married woman. But I do love to go to art shows, I love to learn about the history of the countries we are visiting and I would love to dance. I understand there are several dance nights this cruise, 50’s, Cowboy Showdown and a dance competition. I would like to do anyone of these, and had my family promise they would not bother us. But I cannot guarantee that. My husband said he is OK with all of this, meaning you and me on a date. And as he does not dance, I do not think he would mind if we entered a competition. I brought 3 ballroom dresses, which I would like to match with whatever you have brought to wear. I am tall so I did not bring high heels.
Lawrence stacked the folders. He has met his dates through each file and tomorrow he will meet with the concierge to make their dream dates come true. Each one must now be scheduled, personal invitations sent to their room to include where he will meet them and what the date will include. Nothing out of the ordinary he thought as his fingers traced the edge of the folders, but he was concerned about shore excursions, which may require an undercover security escort.
He placed his briefcase on the wet bar , closed the verandah door glancing one more time at moving spots on the ground when, his doorbell sounded with notes of a saxophone.