Anyplace Else(2)

By: Kim Fielding

But the waiter was unfazed. Maybe he was used to angsty mainlanders. “Thirty-six is a good age. And this is a good time of year. The solstice, right? The sun is reborn and all kinds of surprising things can happen.” He gave his widest smile yet. “Enjoy your drink, Mr. Beaudoin.”

Grant, with only limited success, tried not to watch the waiter walk away. His resort uniform—floral shirt and khaki shorts—was too baggy for Grant’s taste, but the man had long legs, tanned and muscular. The type of legs Grant could imagine wrapped— Jesus. He needed to stop drinking, stop fantasizing about sexually harassing the waitstaff, stop… wallowing. He needed to get a life. The solstice, the waiter had said. Rebirth. Maybe a good time to turn over a new leaf.

And speaking of leaves, the lush greenery of the nearby trees suddenly appealed to him. Filip never did anything halfway, and he’d chosen a resort with expansive grounds that included a couple hundred acres of rain forest. The brochures and website gushed over the variety of plants and birds guests could discover if they strolled the winding pathways through the trees. Grant decided now was a good time to see if the claims were true. He needed a break from the sun anyway.

Just as he slurped the final dregs of his drink, the waiter reappeared with the bill. “Nothing else for now, Mr. Beaudoin?”

“I think I want a little exercise. Take a gander at the local flora and fauna.” He waved toward the rain forest.

“That’s an excellent idea. That place is special.” He handed Grant the bill.

As Grant added the tip and signed, he said, “That’s what my brother’s fiancé says. It’s why he chose this particular resort, I guess.” Filip had grinned at Grant and explained in his thick Croatian accent that certain locations on the planet were magical and therefore well suited for occasions like weddings. Filip also claimed to be some kind of Slavic wizard. He could get away with saying things like that without seeming crazy—he was so vibrant that all his flights of fancy became believable.

The waiter took the bill and the pen from Grant. “It’s why I work here instead of somewhere else. But you should go see for yourself.” His smile was mesmerizing.

Grant nodded and stood, stretching out the kinks from his long sojourn in the cabana chair. Relieved his legs were steady, he smiled back. “Thanks for the advice. And for being patient while I whined at you. I’ll see you later.”

“It’s my pleasure.” And the kid actually winked.

The crushed shells of the walkway made a pleasant little noise under Grant’s feet as he walked toward the trees. A tiny bright bird flitted around him, chirping as if to urge him along, and the wind carried the sweet scent of nectar.

“I’m not in a frigging Disney cartoon,” he grumbled to himself. His fairy godmother was not going to appear and bibbidi-bobbidi-boo him into a happily ever after. He was going to tromp dutifully through the goddamn rain forest, and then he was going to return to his room, down something from the minibar, and take a goddamn nap.

The shell path became soft loam as he entered the rain forest, and long branches arching overhead seemed to welcome him in an arboreal embrace. The sounds of the Pacific hushed instantly, replaced by the slight buzz of insects and the rustling of leaves. Light filtered greenly through the canopy, falling so artfully on splashes of bright tropical blossoms that Grant wondered if the rain forest had been landscaped for that effect. Yet the place didn’t look landscaped—everything grew in the unplanned, wild way only nature could achieve. In fact, if it weren’t for the carefully maintained trail, Grant could almost imagine himself to be the first human setting foot here.

He walked slowly, stopping frequently to examine a twisting vine, an oversized leaf, an eruption of flowers, an iridescent beetle trundling up a tree trunk. He’d always lived in the city and rarely paid much attention to the plants and animals; he’d never even owned a houseplant. He couldn’t name anything he saw in the rain forest, but that was all right. He could enjoy the scenery just as well without knowing what to call things.

The path must have twisted a great deal, because he wandered for a long time without exiting. He might have suspected he was lost, except there were no turnoffs or other trails. He actually wouldn’t have minded getting a little lost since the peaceful rain forest had driven the miserable thoughts and self-pity from his mind. He felt… content.

He gently stroked a tree’s bark and closed his eyes. What would it feel like to lie down on the springy vegetation and let all his troubles slip away? Things would grow around and over him, covering him in a living blanket. Grant Beaudoin—organizer of training sessions, approver of vacation time, mediator of employee disputes—would sleep forever, nourishing the rain forest with his body. That was a type of rebirth, right?