Heaven to Hell in Seconds – Taking off My Shoes (Extract)

taking off my shoes

…it was moments like these that support why I stay here. This is it. It’s paradise. People dream of this.

I heard and saw my friends’ faces on the phone. I’m so lucky to be here.

Hand shielding my eyes, I stare at the incredible sunset from my beach lounger, the waves lapping against the white sand of the shore, my JD with two cubes of ice in hand – this is heaven.

Forget all the other things I experience. It’s all worth the sacrifice. That’s what other expats say.

Baptism by fire. School of hard knocks. University of life. If you don’t like it, leave.

It has been two years so far – I can do this.

‘Hey Chris!’ shouts one of the waitresses from the bar.

I turn to face her. ‘Hey June, how are you?’

‘Did you hear about Cynthia?’

‘Ur, no. What about Cynthia?’

Uh oh. This is it. I had thought the day could pass without a single bit of drama. No extreme incident. No madness that was so foreign to my way of life. But I can hear the tone of her voice. See her eyes squinting in that way, like she has something juicy to get off her chest. And it’s never nice or good when they have some gossip to tell me. Here it comes…

‘They found Cynthia’s body in St. Thomas.’

‘What?’

Now, I’m going to freeze it here. You see, on hearing Cynthia’s name, I was expecting something like a physical fight between Cynthia and her partner Murphy; they’d just had an unpleasant break up. I’d seen Cynthia a few weeks ago and she’d been downing vodka cranberries like a marathon runner drinking water after the big finish. She couldn’t compile coherent sentences and one day, she drove me to the beach explaining how much she couldn’t stand her racist family back in the States, and that her boyfriend was breaking up with her. She was a nice lady, but she was alone, and she was killing herself slowly.

‘How did she die?’ I ask as if this is another normal occurrence. In my mind, I’m shaking my head.

‘Liver failure. Really sad.’

She says the words, but I doubt she feels it. Then, she walks back into the restaurant. I’m starting to lose empathy myself. Become desensitised to the insanity I experience on a daily basis.

This isn’t paradise.

I continue drinking my JD. There’s enough for three gulps.

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