There is a wall. It’s made of stone and cemented together in such a way as to suggest that its presence were somehow natural, like the green and brown hills on the other side of it, but, like the bar offering bottomless gin and tonics and vodka sodas, the chicken finger and burger baskets served up each day for lunch in 3 minutes-flat, the every-night-identical buffet dinner, the always-smiling Capoeira team from Brazil, the ‘animation crew’ hopped up on Red Bulls, and like this aqua-blue swimming pool just before you, nothing here is natural.
You’re in Fethiye, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. But you know not a thing of the people who live here, or of what goes on on the other side of that wall. You were snatched from the airport by the shuttle service, transported directly to the hotel, and have since had your every whim and desire met. You were greeted in reception with plastic smiles; blue bracelets were fastened around your wrist, confirming your commitment to ‘fun, relaxation and rejuvenation of the spirit.’ There was someone to check you in, someone to carry your bags to your room and to explain how the key and the lights work. Someone to provide beach towels, someone to serve you drinks at the poolside, someone to cook your meals and bring you tea and coffee, someone to clean your room, someone to tell you about the day’s activities and someone to host them--there’s mini-golf and ping-pong, pool aerobics and water polo, samba hour, salsa hour, swing and tango.
There’s a show each night, after dinner, in the outdoor amphitheater. The MC gets the crowd riled up, while the animation crew, changed into their evening attire and looking slicker than ever, dance in front of the stage and try to make eye contact and smile at people in the audience. Always, always, always smile a big, full smile--no one cares if your girlfriend just broke your heart or if you drank a bottle of raki the night before--a single smile could be the deciding factor that makes that guest come back next summer. One of the girls in the Capoeira group, the sweetest and prettiest, nearly convinces you, with her ear-to-ear grin, that she’s genuinely enjoying herself, but then she, even she, lets her guard down for a split second and you catch it--it’s all, of course, an act--she hates her sparkling costume, hates the MC’s cheap, play-by-play commentary, and most of all, she hates every drunk and sunburnt face gawking at her from the audience. How had a pure, youthful passion for an art form come to this?
The next day at breakfast, you scan the guests stuffing their faces with mediocre buffet food, lingering on a few to take a good look into their eyes. How many hours of planning this very trip, how many water-cooler conversations about it, joyously inducing jealousy in their co-workers, how many messages sent to family members and friends, and how many posts on Facebook and Instagram--# BeachHoliday #Mediterranean #SunSand&Margaritas #SummerVacay #Paradise--how many photos imposed upon those bored and envious enough to take the bait--at the pool, in the room, on the terrace, at the beach, in the sand, in the water, at the restaurant, at the bar, in the air, parasailing #OMGSOAMAZING. But while those at home scrolling through their feeds may be duped by the projection of happiness, you can see the unmistakable pain, loneliness and let-down in the eyes peering up from their plates, looking around for the something more that they had hoped, finally, to find.
But this, tragically, was it, sitting across from someone they’d once loved, or were at least excited about, someone they’d hoped would be the final antidote to their every lack and longing, but who, just like everyone else, had disappointed them in the end. So there was just the body there, on the other side of the table, making occasional sounds and movements. Perhaps there was a soul inside but they couldn’t be certain, and no longer cared enough to inquire. What had initially been hatched as a plan to revive their lives and bring them closer together, had only made the irreparable divide between them all the more obvious--they squirmed in their seats and struggled to converse.
Just as breakfast finished, they’d determine the time for lunch, and as lunch wrapped up, would deliberate upon the dinner hour. In the midday sun she’d say, ‘it’s very hot,’ and in the pool she’d say, ‘it’s very cold.’ He would nod his head and stare absentmindedly at a younger, prettier version of his wife, sunning herself in a lounge-chair, and would wonder whether he still had a shot at fulfillment. “Should we have chicken or pasta for dinner, dear?” she’d ask. “Chicken,” he’d say, and would consider who he disliked more--her or himself. They’d play out their daily cycle until it was time to cut off their blue admission bracelets, and would return to the quiet desperation of their regular lives.
As for you, perhaps due to the beating sun or the gin and tonics, you decide that, instead of tactfully avoiding the next animation crew member who tries to get you ‘fired up,’ you’ll ask if you can join the afternoon water polo match. Perhaps, as is often the case, your own discontent has cast a skeptical hue over the whole scene. Maybe these people are truly happy, and you’re the sad one. Maybe all you need is a couple more drinks and an afternoon water polo match. But, either way: there is a wall.
Ryan made the mistake of studying philosophy. He has many questions and few answers. He once asked a seagull what it was passionate about. It squawked, snatched his lahmacun and flew away.