So I get this opportunity of a lifetime—an invitation for a trip to Aruba with free lodging, thanks to my lifelong friend (and I do mean lifelong, since she was two and I was one when we met which, BTW, makes me one whole year younger, a fact she lorded over me in our youth and which I lord over her in our senior years) Ginger who, with her husband Bill, owns a condo there. Right on Eagle Beach.
Once I got there, there were big decisions to make: how late to sleep in, which beach to loll around on, how many pina coladas to have before lunch. Heavy stuff. The word ‘paradise’ is over-bandied, but this came pretty close, especially since I’d just left 17 degrees and four inches of new snow in Chicago.
We got to the pool this one particular morning, making great fuss over securing beach towels to our lounge chairs with colorful plastic parrot-clips. Sun block: slather, slather. Shades, check. Sleazy novel, check. Are those angels singing? Yes, melody riding on the island breeze.
Right about the time I’m getting to the chapter where Slade finds out that Bridgett’s chin is actually an implant and he is seriously considering calling off the wedding, Ginger chirps, “I’m hungry. I sure wish someone would make me a sandwich.”
I, basking in the tropical sun and gratitude over her invitation into this glorious place, jump up and offer to run up to the condo and do the Dagwood bit.
“What kind do you want?” A simple question, right? It should take me about 15 minutes tops.
“Um, let’s see, “she contemplates. “We have ham and turkey, Gouda and Swiss. How about a turkey and Gouda, with mayo and lettuce and butter.”
“Got it,“ I say and head toward the condo.
“Wait!” she cries. “It has to be put together in a certain order.”
“OK, what order?”
“Sourdough bread, then butter, then lettuce, then Gouda, then mayo, then turkey and more lettuce, then the sourdough.”
“BBMGLTLB,” Got it.” I step away.
“No! You got the mayo and lettuce mixed up,” she says.
“Why is the order so important?” I ask, sorry the moment it was out of my mouth, remembering the time when we were five and six (did I mention she’s a year older?)and I got a fifteen-minute explanation about why her bedroom clock was set ten minutes ahead of the actual time so that if she was running late getting ready for something, she could take comfort in the fact that she was actually ten minutes ahead of where the clock told her she was and thus ensuring her prompt arrival at said destination.
Back to Aruba: “Well, duh! Because the lettuce keeps the butter from sticking to the Gouda and what would be the point of having lettuce between cheese and turkey? It’s illogical.”
“What happens if I make it upside down—with the lettuce and the mayo on the bottom?”
“I’ll know if you do.”
I get a flashback to when we were kids living in Detroit across the street from each other. Did I miss this side of her back then? She seemed so normal when we would sell Kool-Aid on the front lawn. We had agreed that first the pitcher was filled with water. Then the Kool-Aid was added. Then the sugar (the olden days). Then ice. Simple.
At this point I should explain that I have always enjoyed yanking her chain. I say, “OK, let’s see if I have this straight: sourdough bread, butter, lettuce, Swiss, mayo turkey and more lettuce, then bread.”
“Right. No! Gouda, not Swiss. We are in Aruba, after all.”
“Oh, sorry. Butter, lettuce, GOUDA, then mayo, turkey and lettuce.”
“All on marbled rye.”
She pulls her shades down and gives me that ‘I’m barely tolerating you’ look I first saw the day I surreptitiously floated a water beetle past her in our kiddie pool.
“Ok, ok, I’ve got it straight.” Once again, I turn toward the condo.
She calls after me, “Don’t forget to cut it on the bias. I’ve seen how you cut your sandwiches all right-angled.”
I trot back to her chair, giving her the ‘Are you serious?’ look I gave her the day we’d ordered the hamburger platter lunch at Woolworth’s fountain and found out we didn’t have enough money to pay for it and she refused to use the money her mom had given her to buy potatoes on the way home.
I’d had enough. She was winning this battle of wits. I sauntered over to my beach bag and pulled out a small pad of paper and a pen. “Here, draw me a diagram of how you want your sandwich,” I said, entertaining the urge to include real sand.
Her face lit up, and she got right to work. Before long, she had a diagram that could rival any architect’s skyscraper proposal, including a stack of ingredients floating vertically, as if by a ghostly presence. On the top of the diagram floated a piece of bread, with a picture of an old man holding a pan.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That’s a picture of a Gold Rush miner in San Francisco, where they invented sourdough bread. It’s to help you remember.”
Beneath that rested a small square with a little cow smiling next to it. Obviously, butter.
Then a raggedy leaf drooping from a bunny’s mouth.
Then a circle with a little Dutch girl next to it, complete with Dutch girl hat and wooden shoes. Gouda.
Then a shape reminiscent of an amoeba I saw under a microscope in ninth grade. “You want an amoeba in your sandwich?”
She grabbed the paper and squinted at it. “That’s a blob of mayo,” she asserted.
“Then why’s that icon for the Internet next to it?”
Again, she frowned at her list. “Anybody could tell that’s an oil well. Mayo’s made from oil.”
And finally at the bottom was a neat square divided in half by a precise diagonal cut.
Grabbing the diagram and scurrying up to the condo, I quickly assembled said ingredients in said order, cut saidly diagonally.
Delivering it, I was paid with a big Aruba smile and a heartfelt, “Thanks!”
I settled back with my novel, hoping Slade will cut Bridgett some slack with her chin issue.
“Ahem,” comes from the next chair.
I look over at her.
“Remember when we were about seven and we were playing Parcheesi and I said you cheated and threw the board up and scattered all our pieces?”
“Well. I know you didn’t really cheat. Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” I counter. “Actually, I did.”