Flying a quarter of the way around the world was more exhausting than I anticipated. I crashed fairly hard when we got to our vacation rental. I woke up just in time to catch my friend headed for bed and in the midst of enjoying a midnight snack I heard explosions echoing off the old rock and stone buildings of Kalkara, Malta.
It occured to me that I’d been fairly out of touch with the happenings of the world, and having no context and no concept of time or, frankly reality, and remembering that Malta used to be a highly fortified island of strategic value my second thought was “Malta’s being bombed.” (My first thought was “explosions are normal right? I hear them a lot out in the county — wait, Malta’s not out in the county…”)
I googled “Malta explosions” immediately. Because if this was a planned thing they’d have a page for that. And if it wasn’t there’d be a news article, right? Unless they were bombing the news offices first!!
There were a few more explosions — that unfortunately woke up my friend — and I think at about this time I looked out our balcony door and saw fireworks. No one’s yet bombed a country with gorgeous colorful displays on purpose, as far as I know.
Fireworks. On a Tuesday. A regular Tuesday evening. They happened again the following morning and evening and became a pattern over the next several days and nights. Which contributed further to my disorientation. I felt like we were closing out the nights at Disneyland, watching the show before dragging our tired selves back home after a full day of visual delights.
This odd displaced feeling was compounded by our walks around the city, each street felt like a fabricated blast from the past. How could it be that real people lived behind such incredible facades?
On Gozo we stayed in just such a house. It looks exactly like a set from a play and I had a strong desire to write a comedic love story during our stay there.
Geoffrey enters stage left from the living room’s french doors, Bianca, nervous about a chance meeting, quickly ducks down as she’s running up the stairs, Gillian, comes out of the bedroom reading and, not looking where she’s going falls into the pool.
Walter hears the splash from above and appears on the balcony, leaping into the water below and her rescue. Rose, stealing the feed from the satellite dish on the roof pops her head over the ledge to enjoy the proceedings. By the end of the scene she’s swung her legs over the ledge and begun enjoying the life show before her.
Geoffrey races toward the stairs to grab a towel for her, trips over Bianca and the pair tumble down tucked innocently and accidentally into each others arms, primed for a romantic kiss except Rufus, the dog, has come bounding out of the kitchen with Bianca’s half eaten sandwich clamped in his jaws and decides to join the fray.
Milton blithely continues showering in the small bathroom just around the corner from the kitchen, loudly singing Ave Maria, very off-key.
It’s disconcerting to find yourself in a place that appears perfectly fabricated. Particularly if you’re sweating heavily. You feel kind of like the audience at a play, you may enjoy the delights before you, but you don’t fit the time period or the style or the atmosphere. Vacations always tend to feel a bit like expensive shows to me, for the simple fact that they’re always so far outside my normal experiences. Even when I’m experiencing the normal routine of island life — the fireworks that signal the beginning of celebrations for Victory in Malta Day — it’s surreal to me. Fireworks on a Tuesday.
There’s a relief then in coming home and sinking back into your familiar role, an active actor in your life’s production. At least here I understand where the explosions are coming from, somewhere out in a field, stage right.