March 08, 2008
Soaking off the dramamine
Our trip began in the mountains, where the air was still chilly. The road curved in and around snow-covered mountains, and we kept coming to tunnels drilled right into rock. Our luggage hadn't arrived with us, but we decided to keep driving southwest as planned and just hope that the suitcases would follow. My husband is over six feet tall, with long limbs that don't fit nicely into a cramped airplane space, and he had planned a soothing way to recover from the long flight: a late afternoon swim in mineral waters from a hot spring.
The loss of our luggage meant renting bathing suits. My husband was given a pair of black shorts that looked exactly like every bathing suit he has ever owned. I was given a floral-print swimsuit made for someone considerably more flat-chested than I am, with elastic that had long since lost any ability to hold in body parts. I was careful not to look into a mirror as I put the suit on.
How strange it felt to walk out into the cold air, look around at the mountains of snow, and then sink into hot water that smelled of minerals. Every time the wind blew across the pool of water, steam would rise, a warm thick haze of fog. I yanked at the straps of my swimsuit in an attempt at decency as I waded into the pool, but I needn't have bothered. The other people in the pool — just a few young women and some elderly couples — were mostly sitting at the edges, their bodies floating in the hot water, faces turned toward the afternoon sun, and eyes blissfully closed. I was tempted to just remove the bathing suit with the stretched-out straps and toss it aside, soaking naked in the spring water the way native people must have thousands of years ago.
My husband stretched out in the shallow water in such a good imitation of a dead fish that I felt obliged a few times to go over and see if he was still alive. I wandered about, marveling at the way the steam rose from the heated water, staring at the mountains, and squinting into the afternoon sun. At the far edge of the pool, I began a lazy conversation with an elderly couple who had lived in the mountains their whole lives, who had come to the hot springs as kids and now sometimes brought their grandchildren.
Cheerful Old Woman told me places we should be sure to see, and she was sympathetic about the lost luggage. Our itinerary meant that we were already a few hundred miles from the airport we had flown into, but I was confident that the luggage would catch up with us eventually. My husband had been making phone calls about it while we driving, and he's very good at managing that kind of thing. In the meantime, we were going to just have to spend a whole lot of time naked.
Wrinkled Old Man, who had to be in his nineties at least, grinned at his wife and winked at me. "Oh, there's lots of fun things you can do naked."
Posted by jo(e)