It’s our second to last day. How can that be? How can it have gone so quickly already? We’ve made so many new friends and feel so happy here. I can understand why my big sis did a ‘Shirley Valentine’ and never came home. But home does call – with our lovely families, son, dog, businesses. But the sadness of knowing it’s coming to an end soon is starting to weigh in on us a little.
Breakfast in the sunshine after another of Ina’s yoga sessions was fabulous – sitting around with the ladies who had attended the previous night’s adventures in sound healing with Kevin, we compared notes on our bizarre experiences. Everyone had seen the sounds as colours. One, like me, had seen a giant eye watching them (!), but mine had certainly been the most vivid visions of the bunch. Not surprising really as a) I’m an artist so visualisations come very naturally to me, and b) I regularly have completely off-my-tits dreams after eating so much as a tiny bit of blue cheese of an evening, so it doesn’t take much to push my imagination over the edge. But most of us agreed it was a truly incredible experience, that we’d definitely repeat given the chance.
But there were murmurs of a different sort of excitement brewing this morning. Because tonight, several of us are due to break our fast with a much anticipated soup dinner!!! What’s the difference between soup and the nightly broth, I hear you ask? Well…imagine soup being the savoury equivalent of eating a deliciously rich real chocolate pudding, and the broth being the equivalent of being able to sniff the waiter who took away the used spoon that came with that pudding after someone else finished it off. Now can you see why we’re so excited?
We’ve had to smell the soup every night since we were here as there’s nearly always someone breaking their fast on one night or another. We’ve had to see the bowls of deliciousness being brought out and presented to them. We’ve even witnessed the sacrilege of more than one person LEAVING some of their soup because they are FULL UP!!! And although my stomach has definitely shrunk this week since I’ve not eaten anything solid in five days, I cannot comprehend the idea of someone rejecting even a micro-morsel of that soup. While some women might go on holiday and fantasize about a heated affair with a sexy lifeguard, I have been having full on fornication fantasies involving licking other people’s soup bowls clean. Getting it all over my face. In my hair. Panting and moaning with pleasure as I taste. every. single. delicious. dollop. My eyes frenzied with passion. My lips and fingers covered in the creamy goodness of whatever is in that bowl of heaven.
Catholic priests would try to shame me for the wanton abandonment I feel towards the soup here. The tongue-lashing I’d give that bowl would make me worthy of a stoning in several countries I can think of. Shameless soupy hussy.
Before we could get to the soup, there was an entire day of hours and minutes to count down, beginning with coffee enemas for André and me. Not together, I hasten to add. This is not a coffee break you take as a couple like tea for two. Besides, we only have one toilet in our apartment and there are certain things even the closest of couples really shouldn’t share. Being the generous sort, and knowing how much he’s embraced the enema on this holiday, I kindly let André go first. And being particularly unselfish, I decided to give him absolute privacy for his first anal-date with caffeine by taking myself off to the lovely Katarina for a full body sugar-scrub and deep tissue massage. I’m nice like that.
While André was nescaféing his whizzwag, I was being exfoliated, rubbed, pummelled and soothed like a spoilt princess. I’ve started to feel like I deserve every single moment of pleasure I get here. I’ve become greedy for it. The island is so full of it and I know I’m going home soon. I want to fill every minute with as much gorgeousness as possible. So I AM going to have my calves squidged and my shoulders kneaded and walk out of here high on endorphins. Even if I do come down to earth with a bump when I know it’s my turn next to stick something up my bottom (for health reasons, not just for the hell of it).
Last year, my first coffee enema left me buzzing a little, speaking rather fast and my mind sparking off rather excitedly. This time, I didn’t really get any of that. I just got my butt even cleaner than it was already (and it was already fairly pristine). André reported the same thing. Maybe we had a weaker blend this time. Maybe we’d been given the equivalent of a mocha choca latté when we needed an arsehole espresso. Or maybe we were already high on the idea of soup and the aftermath of sound healing. Regardless, the third enema of the week passed without excitement or incident and we found ourselves getting rather blazé about the whole thing. Shitting yourself inside out…it’s the new norm.
What with time ticking away on our trip, I realised I had a very limited opportunity to fulfill another deeply held dream of mine. I’m not talking about the soup here. I’m talking about something I have wanted far more and far longer than any comfort food. I’m talking about the M word. Or perhaps the W word. Or possibly even the P word. To explain, I need to take you back to last year. I need to take you back to this post here. If you read to the bottom you will see that last September, when I was last in Gozo, I came on a sunset walk to the breathtakingly beautiful Azure Window. A gorgeous rock at the edge of the sea that formed a wonderful natural frame to the most incredible sunsets you have ever seen. When I saw that incredible sight, I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the scene, and I swore to myself that I would save up and bring André back here with me and I would ask him to marry me there and then at the edge of the cliff overlooking that sea. And even though André doesn’t believe in marriage and usually laughs in my face and changes the subject when I’ve dropped hints, nagged him or asked him outright in the past; I became absolutely fixated from that moment that if I brought him back to see the sunset through the Azure Window that he would be spellbound by the romance of the moment, overwhelmed with the joy that I’d brought him somewhere so divine, feel closer to me than he’s ever felt before and he would finally, willingly, joyfully agree to become my loving husband at long last.
That was my dream. That was the fantasy. I was so sure André would say yes I even wrote about my plans in my blog last year as you’ve probably read by now, giving him fair and due notice, and I’d thought about how I would try to guess his ring size without him knowing, and how I’d maybe even ask my sister to come and walk a bit ahead of us and place lit tealight candles in a heart shape at the edge of the cliff so I could kneel down the old fashioned way at sunset on the island of Gozo and ask him the big question squeezing every possible ounce of romance out of the occasion. I didn’t even mind that he knew I was planning this, so sure was I that this time it would be different.
In my imagination I’d pictured it a thousand times. I’d even imagined us going there and him pipping me to the post, knowing I was dreaming of asking him when in fact he was planning to ask ME and as I got down on one knee, he also got down and presented me with a ring too and surprised *me*. I’d imagined all the Amchara staff being in on it, and all the guests cheering as we kissed. I’d imagined holding hands as the sun melted into the sea on the horizon. It would be perfect. Instagram-worthy picture-perfect moments. Booking our trip many months ago I grinned with the excitement of what was to come to pass.
Then one morning in March, I awoke to these headlines.
The Azure Window, after millions of years of standing strong, had crumbled into the sea overnight, never ever to be seen again.
I sobbed my little heart out quietly that morning.
I told André and he giggled and said, ‘It’s a sign’, and laughed with relief that The Universe had provided him with a convenient get out clause to the awkward moment I had planned to foist on him.
I cried some more. Then soothed my wounded heart with the thought that the beautiful sunset would still be there, and I still wanted to share that with him regardless of anything else. It would be selfish of me not to share it now. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I would no longer have the courage to ask him the big question, and the chances of André asking me were about as likely as the Azure Window re-assembling itself, Transformer-stylee, into the shape of a giant pomegranate. So I resigned myself to trying to accept defeat, and make the most of the lovely trip with my sweety anyway.
So on this, the sixth day of our trip to Amchara together, I realised I had better get my skates on and persuade one of the staff members to walk us down to where the Azure Window once was, timing it perfectly for sunset, so that I could share that beauty with André and I could at least pay my final respects to that dream. My new friends at the resort helped me persuade Lovely Ina to take us down there, and to my delight she agreed. The new evening plans were added to the chalkboard in the dining room along with the promise of a boat trip around the bay if we left on time.
The downside of this arrangement is that to get the last boat, we would need to leave quite early, needing to rush our precious first soup. A thing that needed to be savoured. But it was a worthy sacrifice to make another dream come semi-true.
Evening came, and with it the best mushroom soup in the entire world. I am not exaggerating. Ground cashews are put in this soup to make it creamier and tastier. I don’t know who I need to kill to get this recipe but I tell you their card is already marked. I WILL have this soup again. I need this soup in my life. Here is a video of us eating the delicious soup. There are no words to do it justice. There were so many endorphins flowing at that dinner table that they were practically visible from space. I didn’t care that I was making sex noises in a public place. I didn’t care that I used my hands to finish the soup. I didn’t care that I got it on my nose.
If it hadn’t been for the walk and promised boat trip that evening, I could have had a nanna nap right there in my bowl of soup – passed out with pleasure. But as it was we were running a little late and the group of us scooted to the reception where Ina was waiting to lead us to the edge of the coast where a friend of hers was waiting to take us out in his little boat.
We arrived just in time, and jumped into the brightly coloured little vessel, donning lifejackets and grinning like kids on a school trip getting to sit on the back seat of the bus. By now, our little group was well bonded. We’d moved on from poo-talk and food-fantasies to actually beginning to learn a little about each other’s lives, jobs and families. Somehow it felt like we’d known each other forever. Unclogging your bowels together and sharing daily yoga can bind you like family in no time at all.
As Captain Oldguy-whose-name-I-didn’t-get chugged us around the edge of the rocks in his little boat, we were absolutely gobsmacked at the stunning scenery. Majestic, sweeping cliffs of sandstone and volcanic rock loomed out of the clear water on one side and the beginnings of the most incredible sunset wowed us on the other. Beneath us, Captain OldDude pointed out through the crystal clear waves, were the remains of the Azure Window. I peered down and could see it almost within reach. Close enough to dive down to if I’d had a kamikaze instinct for drama and pathos enough to throw myself overboard.
Like everyone else I was so happy and grateful to be there, to see all this beauty. So grateful to be sharing it with André and my new friends. And yet inside my throat, a lump was forming when I thought of my shattered dreams crumbled in the sea below me, aching for what might of been – that probably never would have been. My stupid hope still alive that maybe, just maybe André would surprise me by being the one to pop the question.
As the boat docked, a few of us crawled round the side of the rocks to sit and watch a bit more of sundown together. Some random guy who wasn’t from our group sat next to me on the rocks with a Slush Puppy to noisily sup on, and commented that life didn’t get any better than this.
With time ticking before the taxi was due to drive the group back up the hill to Amchara, we carefully climbed back along the rocks, taking care not to slip on the sharp barnacles. All the time I kept looking behind me, at the sunset, at André, back at the sunset, back at André. The same way when we come home from being out for a bit our dog looks up at where we keep the dog treats, then back at us, then back at the dog treats, then back at us. Willing the dream to come true. Pouring that longing into tangible form through voiceless communication with the eyes. Pathetic really, when you think about it. I’m a truly rubbish feminist.
It was such a stunning view though, and any sadness I was feeling was counterbalanced by the absolute joy I felt seeing that sight again, even without its famous rocky frame, and how lucky I felt that André had indeed made it out here to see it with me. And as we both had our cameras we kept snapping away at the glorious view, which got ever more stunning minute by minute as the golden egg of the sun dipped into the milky horizon sending a blaze of pink and red across the edge of the sky.
I’d hoped at least to be able to stand quietly, hand in hand with my darling, watching the sun set on that particular dream together, in silent reverence. Perhaps to share a kiss. Perhaps to share a few comforting words of love even though we both have such different views on the institute of marriage. But it was not to be as our group taxi was here and although the sun had not quite set, the rest of the group was already loaded in the van and Ina was calling out to us to hurry up. André and I were the last ones standing at the edge of the cliff looking out to sea and Ina shouted again for us to catch up with the group, so I turned and started to walk towards her.
Just as I’d started to walk away from that cliff, where I’d long dreamed of it all happening, André cried out suddenly, ‘Wait! Hang on a moment! Come back here!’ and held out his hand to me. My heart lept into my my mouth. I couldn’t speak or swallow or hardly breathe. Was it going to happen!?! Was there a box-shaped bulge in the pocket of his trousers? Was my dream finally about to come true?!!!
He grabbed my hand and led me to the other side of a large rock, from which the rest of the group couldn’t see us. My mind raced. He’s going to do it. He’s going to ask me. He’s going to get down on one knee!
And then he let go of my hand, smiled, and said casually, ‘I wanted to take your photo by the sunset.’
And this is the photo.
This is the fucking rubbish photo where I am in silhouette against the fucking sunset and you can’t even see the fucking so bad it was actually comedic moment where my poor little pathetic heart fractured into a million shards of a word that hasn’t even been invented yet to describe mega-disappointment times a zillion on a crispy bed of oven-baked rejection.
Being British, I actually tried to cooperate and smile in this photo. But if you could actually see my eyes properly in this pointless photograph you’d have seen how a little piece of my soul died that evening and know that this was NOT how I’d imagined things playing out. Like the dog’s eyes when we show her the bag of treats is empty. It’s like the world has ended…just a little bit.
After the proposal-that-wasn’t in front of the sunset-we-didn’t-get-to-see-set and the photo-that-shouldn’t-have-been, I was, as you can probably imagine, rather quiet on the way back to Amchara that night. And as André made me a cup of herbal tea back in our room, I asked him to please curl up with me on the sofa and give me a cuddle and a bit of reassurance. I told him about ‘the moment’ from my wounded perspective, and was honest with him about my shattered hopes. I sighed quietly as a little tear ran down my cheek, and said, ‘I guess if it didn’t happen there then it won’t happen anywhere’.
And André gave me a kiss and a little squeeze in his arms and said quietly, ‘Aww, Monkey, maybe we’ll find another Azure Window together one day.’
And just like that, my stupid, utterly-hopeless dream, stupidly, stubbornly and ridiculously re-assembled itself, Transformer-stylee, to fight another day. Stupid dreams. Stupid stubborn un-giveupable romantic dreams. Stupid, loveable André.
Somehow, after what he said and the hope it reignited in me, I felt OK again. I felt glad we had shared the beautiful experience together and grateful we were here at all. We decided to end our day with a fab gnatter with new friends Jo and Stephanie in the sauna and jacuzzi, making plans for our final day, followed by a couple-time bath with epsom salts and finishing off with girly face packs (well, we’ve eliminated the crud from every other orifice here, we might as well do our pores too).
Curling up in each other’s arms at the end of the day, I didn’t feel sad any more. Just hugely appreciative of everything, and very very clean. Living in sin…it’s not really quite as bad as it was in the Middle Ages.