It was our first day in Croatia, and our tour itinerary for the whole extended weekend contained the following items:
(1) Get hammered on the beach.
(2) …That was basically it.
We aren’t stressful travelers.
Our first order of business was to get some sunblock. We aren’t stupid. It was the middle of the summer, and I wasn’t about to get roasted by the heat of the great shining star we all share the sky with.
Near some scuba store, Kelly talked to two random girls sunbathing on a concrete slab (I don’t know) and asked them where we could buy some.
Most of the fun adventures I get into in life involve me convincing random strangers to go along with something I want (or the other way around), or bulldozing my way through the Fun Police into places I shouldn’t be.
Not this time. Kelly is one of my best friends in the world, and she’s got the same “grab life by the balls” attitude I do. I felt very confident about NOT being the charisma leader of the team this time, which is ultimately the goal whenever I go on vacation.
And boy, did she pull through. I didn’t hear any of it, but somehow Kelly walked away from that conversation (they spoke fluent English) with the two future-skin-cancer girls straight up giving her their bottle of sunblock. Kelly offered them some money, but they seemed satisfied.
She then gave someone like $10-20 worth of whatever monopoly money they use in that country to provide us with a ride to the beach. It was the second random stranger that day who Kelly had convinced to give all four of us a ride somewhere. I had indeed passed the torch of “designated figure-shit-out person” on to someone else.
Kelly is one of my best friends, one of the few people in the world who I would willingly go on vacation with to some random country. In fact, when she first asked me if I wanted to go, I couldn’t even have picked Croatia out on a world map. I still can’t. Probably not even with multiple choice.
She brought along a work friend of hers, Cameron, who also brought his wife, Tricia. All around solid people, who I would definitely travel with again (what is this, Yelp?). Cameron told some joke about Soviet pizzerias where “everyone gets the same toppings” that had me rolling. I guess you had to be there.
So the four of us get to the beach, find a nearby bar, and start drinking. Well, we had started right at 7-8 AM when we all woke up, but now it was time to get serious.
Conversation is approximate, as I was focused on my deliciously gay blueberry drink:
Tricia “I can’t believe how nice people are in this country! This is amazing. That woman just gave us a ride across town. And those girls who gave us the sunblock!”
Kelly “I just have an aura about me where people trust me. Maybe it’s because I’m short. But yeah, the people here seem to be really friendly!”
Cameron “Maybe it’s both.”
After a few, we laid out on the beach and applied our anti-sun cream. I was such a good little boy — I pretty much bathed in that stuff.
The next couple of hours consisted of us periodically wading into the water for a bit, and then heading back to our towels to take naps. And continue drinking. I had a school of fish swimming circles around me for at least ten minutes, and I kept checking out some hot older woman over on my left. (Whatever. I don’t need your judgment. I have mommy issues; what more is there to say?)
It was a glorious afternoon. Usually I wouldn’t go into detail writing about how great of a time I had chilling on a beach, getting drunk in the sun, and checking out lots of topless girls, because there just isn’t really anything to talk about. It was simply a relaxing experience.
No paradise could last forever, though. Tricia was the first to begin pissing on the parade. She was having that ‘I’ve been sitting under a heat lamp’ feeling that I also experience sometimes when I get sunburnt. She took a closer look at the bottle, and from what she could tell, the sun cream we were using was for aftercare. For after you’ve been in the sun.
Being invincible and never wrong, I called bullshit. But still, if this was true, we had been under the sun for a VERY long time. At least a couple hours in the direct overhead sunlight.
Me “If that isn’t sunscreen, we need to get out of the sun. NOW.”
The four of us went to some nearby restaurant, ordered some pizza for the group, and sat under some patio umbrellas. I preached my “drink lots of water” speech that I always ramble endlessly about in conversations about alcohol consumption.
A couple of us were really thirsty, a couple were feeling nauseous, Kelly was slurring her speech a bit, and I did feel a bit dizzy. The overall problem was that it’s difficult to differentiate the symptoms of sun poisoning as opposed to just drinking a lot of alcohol and little else for hydration the whole day.
We felt skeptical of Tricia’s theory, and remained hopeful that we had not just fucked ourselves. Well, I was anyway. Kelly was drunk enough to fall asleep on her pizza, and I think Cameron actually WAS sleeping a bit in his chair. I felt if I could just express enough doubt, the universe would align itself around my certainty.
Got back to our Airbnb, which was nice and cheap enough that I probably could have just stayed there forever if I didn’t have to go back to playing military for a few more months. I had somehow managed my entire 7-year military career without any major behavior incidents (other than the ones detailed on this blog that I obviously never got caught for); let’s not go AWOL now.
For the first couple of hours, I felt okay. I laid on my bed and played Fallout Shelter or whatever on my iPad for a bit. Had a beer or two!
But then it started.
Tricia started throwing up like it was the middle act of the movie Cabin Fever.
Cameron got a lot redder; he had begun to show signs of redness even at the pizza place.
I looked like a fucking Christmas lobster. Top of my head included, because I had already started balding four years ago.
Kelly, who was in the worst shape of us all at the restaurant, seemed to be doing the best out of all of us.
I finally decided just to Google it. I researched the name of the lotion and the company that made it and found the exact product line.
It’s basically just fucking lotion. Tricia was right; it IS for improving skin moisture after you’ve been in the sun. What is the point of that? I had held out hope because the number “5” prominently displayed on the bottle meant it was at least SPF-5, which is better than nothing.
That also turned out to be a lie. It was SPF-Nothing. The number meant that it had Vitamin B-5 in it. What the fuck even IS that? Was I putting carrot semen on my legs?
This was when I realized we are all going to die.
We had NOT been shy about getting sun while we were quite literally napping on the beach. We weren’t under any trees or shade whatsoever, because we had that sun lotion. I had lathered so much of that shit on my arms, legs, chest, face, neck, ears, nose, brow, EVERYTHING until I looked like the girl in that one scene from Scary Movie 2. (You know the one I’m talking about; don’t make me say it.)
The whole time I was laying in the sun, I had been thinking about all the people who were gonna compliment me on my tan when I got back to work, thinking of jokes I could reply with, etc….
How foolish. Instead, I’m gonna spend the next week with the mobility and skin condition of a charred corpse, shedding my skin like a fucking reptile.
I relayed what I’d learned to the rest of the group, and they agreed that we were all basically fucked. There was nothing we could do at this point. The [skin] damage was done.
I was so pissed off at those witch doctor cunts who sold us that fucking snake oil. They spoke perfect English, and there was no way they misunderstood what Kelly had been asking them. “Here you can just have ours” and then probably snickering to themselves about dumb American tourists as we walked away. Well played. Oh yeah, people in Croatia are SO NICE. I entertained a murder spree to find them, but I didn’t really know where to start.
Over time, I got even redder, especially on my chest. Started to feel VERY warm. I went into the living room and laid directly in front of the air conditioner with my chest exposed like I was auditioning for softcore porn.
Me “WE DIDN’T EVEN FUCKING READ THE BOTTLE. WE JUST LATHERED THIS BULLSHIT ALL OVER OURSELVES WITHOUT EVEN CHECKING. WHAT THE FUCK”
Then both Tricia and I started to get VERY cold. And dizzy. Kelly and Cameron went to the store to get some more post-sunburn bullshit (what else could we do at this point?) as well as some actual sunscreen for any future sun-filled adventures. Tricia and I could barely move, so we stayed home and watched random German channels because that’s all we could find on TV.
When they got back, Tricia and I had opened the patio door to the house, powered off the air conditioner altogether, and were sitting on the couch wrapped in our own gigantic blanket burritos.
Cameron “What the hell? Why is it so warm in here?”
Shivering like Michael J Fox, I mustered a meek explanation for our actions.
Me “…We’re freezing.”
Tricia got most of the “sick” feeling, my skin alternated red and white like a Coca-Cola logo, and Cameron was sort of an average of us two.
Not Kelly. Kelly is short, pasty white, a redhead, has freckles everywhere, and as she puts it, usually gets burnt “just by looking at the sun.” Basically the fucking mascot girl from Wendy’s, and she was essentially fine.
She and Cameron had come back from the store (which was “outside” thus I would never go there) bearing various potions and elixirs for treating sunburn, moisturizing skin, and other related functions. I was in such bad shape that I would have rubbed mayonnaise on my skin as long as it had been in the refrigerator for a while.
I took some of this lotion that looked like glorified jackoff lube, and splattered a bunch on my exposed chest, trying to cover my entire body and fighting through the pain that was beginning to start from moving in any direction at all.
Me “I hope either for comfort, or for the chemicals in the bottle to overpower my blood cells and somehow kill me.”
I stayed home for the next day and a half, and we tried our best to only go sightseeing during the evenings. I bought a damn umbrella, a sun hat, and one of those Japanese geisha fan things just to survive out in the world. I felt like a vampire.
Our vacation was pretty much ruined, except for Kelly. Fucking Annie over here, and she didn’t feel a thing. Actually, that’s not true, because she did get a TINY bit of red on her back in a couple specific spots. Any time she complained about it throughout the week as a joke, I glared at her and/or threatened to push her into traffic.
Cameron needed several naps throughout the day, but he was the designated daywalker out of the three of us Afflicted Ones because he was in the least pain.
Tricia was sick a lot and didn’t eat much.
Here’s an artist’s rendition of what I looked like at the end of the second day:
My face and head were crusting over and forming scales, and every once in a while my skin would leak this disgusting yellow liquid like I’m a fucking oak tree. I suggested the name “The Red Asshole” if all the sun radiation happens to turn me into some sort of superhero.
I only wanted to go outside at night, I avoided going to the beach AT ALL for the rest of the trip even though they promised we could stay in the shade, and I even stopped drinking booze. Well, I maybe had a few beers a day, but that’s basically teetotaling for me.
At one point, Kelly and I were in my room. She was trying to take care of me, getting my pillow, a walking cane, some Gatorade, etc.
The best post-sunburn lotion we got came in a spray bottle. I’m not sure if it had any better combination of random unpronounceable chemicals than the other bottles, but the important part was that since it was spray-on, no hand contact was necessary. Our skin was in a lot of pain as it was, and violently rubbing your hands all over yourself might as well have felt like sandpaper and pepper spray.
I grabbed the spray bottle next to me, went ham all over myself, and started basically pornographically rubbing it all over my ridiculously Austin-Powers-hairy chest, stomach, and nipples. Molting like a snake and leaking yellow sap out of my forehead, I asked her in a sarcastically seductive voice:
“Hey Kelly… tell me… have you EVER been more turned on in your life than you are right now?”
She looked over at what I was doing, took a long silent pause, and said with an unknown amount of sarcasm, “I think sharing a room with you was the best decision I’ve ever made.”