Our condo in Fajardo, a town on the country’s breathtaking northeastern coast, was lovely. We had a panoramic view of the ocean and palm trees—and our airy apartment had everything we needed. When the toilet became a little volatile one afternoon, Isaac decided to buy a plunger, and when he came home, he realized we already had one. Two plungers: now that’s the lap of luxury.
I was left alone to babysit Lillian one day. We had masses of toys at our disposal, but for two hours, she was interested mainly in three things: a book called Huggy Buggy, a tin that once held a deck of Seinfeld playing cards, and my facial hair, all of which she endlessly studied and put in her mouth.
Eventually, I picked her up and we wandered around the apartment. She became fixated for 20 minutes on a doorknob; a used plastic cup on the kitchen counter; and her own thumb. All of which begged the question: Why did we bother to lug an entire Toys ‘R Us store with us all the way to Puerto Rico?
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We went for a hike in El Yonque, Puerto Rico’s famous rain forest. It was gorgeous, full of massive trees and weird animals and rushing waterfalls. After we’d been on a tough path for two hours, someone spied a cold-looking body of water to our right. On the other side was what must have been the most beautiful waterfall in Puerto Rico. The only thing in between was a bunch of treacherous rocks.
I stuck to the path. No way was I going in that freezing water and falling on my ass; besides, waterfalls are a dime a dozen here. Everyone else reasoned similarly. That is, everyone except Sarah. Before I could invoke her doctor’s orders to take it easy, she and her massive belly made their way across the rocks, carefully but confidently. The rest of us, able-bodied but weaker of will, watched her frolic in the waterfall from the safe side of the pond.
This is one tough woman.
The next night we went kayaking in Phosphorescent Bay with a bunch of other Americans who’d also read about this oddity of nature. The bay was pretty cool, but . . . well, I don’t know what I was picturing, but it didn’t emit more than a few sparks of light when you put your hand in it. Otherwise it was dark like any other bay. Far more disappointing was the kayaking itself.
Sarah sat in front and I was in back, but she got winded so fast that I ended up doing most of the paddling and all the steering. Which meant that we kept ending up in trees hanging over the banks. This led to all kinds of petty squabbling—"What the hell are you doing?” … “Jeez, quit splashing already!” … “No, I said left!"—and we fell way behind the group. Which included children and senior citizens.
A tour guide noticed we were going nowhere fast, and hitched our kayak to his kayak to get us caught up to everyone else. He may as well have hitched my testicles. Every party coming the other way had some kind of smart-ass comment: “Aw, man, what happened?"… “Hey, your arms broken?” … “Enjoy your tow,” et cetera.
I grew annoyed at Sarah, who was enjoying the tow, cheerfully discussing the ecology of Puerto Rico with the tour guide. Gone was the strong, determined woman who braved slippery rocks; in her place was a chirpy girl content to be coddled. When we reached the rest of our group, Ben and Ursina, who have the combined athletic prowess of Danny DeVito, were among those waiting. “Where were you guys?” Ben asked. “We thought you were lost.”
Sarah repeatedly apologized to me for “ruining the whole thing,” and the sorrier she got, the worse I felt. Here I was, expecting my very pregnant wife to go kayaking when on some days she had trouble with a flight of stairs. I apologized too, and called a moratorium on apologies. The lesson was clear: When we’re talking about a pregnant woman, strong on Monday doesn’t mean a damn thing on Tuesday.
The next night was New Year’s Eve, which was a dispirited affair. We had dinner at 6, halfheartedly played board games around 9, and everyone was in bed by 10. Except me, who watched TV until midnight, at which point a bunch of fireworks and gunshots woke Sarah up. She rubbed her eyes and declared that her feet were really uncomfortable and was there anything I could about it?
I wish the 22-year-old me raging in a dance club over doing shots of Jim Beam on New Years Eve 1994 could see the 32-year-old me earnestly rubbing lotion on his wife’s feet 10 years later. I doubt they would have much to talk about.