It’s Christmas Eve in 2005 and I am packed and ready to go to Puerto Vallarta. My suitcase waits by the front door. My flight leaves at 9AM on Christmas Day and I cannot wait to get out of Chicago.
It’s been an awful year. I broke up with my boyfriend of seven years and I’ve been in a fog ever since. I lost my mojo, my school spirit, my ability to sleep through the night. I almost lost my job due to my “lack of focus,” as my boss said. But somehow I made it to Christmas Eve and I am ready to reboot my life, starting now.
I cannot wait to get to Puerto Vallarta, lie down on that beautiful beach, order myself a piña colada served out of a coconut, and kiss this awful year goodbye. Farewell, snow and ice and wind chill factor. Adiós, Chicago. Hola, Mexico!
I am packed and ready to go. All I need is my passport. I look in my desk drawer but it’s not there. I look in my file cabinet but it’s not there. I look in my dresser drawers, my bedroom closet, the kitchen cabinets, but it’s not in any of these places.
“Where the fuck is my passport?” I say to nobody, as I live alone. My flight leaves in just 12 hours.
Then I panic. I ransack my apartment, going from room to room, emptying every drawer, every closet, every cabinet, throwing the contents onto the floor where I can see it all clearly. I’m down on my hands and knees, sifting through the piles of stuff like a crazed burglar. And, after turning my apartment upside-down…nothing!
“Where the fuck is my passport?!” I yell at the living room walls. I’m sure my neighbors can hear me — the walls are thin and it’s almost midnight. They’re probably calling the police right now. I don’t care.
And then, I get an idea. My passport must be at the office downtown. I must have left it there.
I grab my winter coat, jump in my car, and race downtown. The streets are deserted in the Loop on Christmas Eve, and I park right in front of my building. I run into the lobby, and the security guy gives me a puzzled look as I’m signing in.
“I lost something and I think it’s in my office,” I say.
“Okay, well…Merry Christmas.”
“You too!” I reply as I bolt to the elevator banks.
I take the elevator to the 10th floor. The lights are off, it’s dark and silent. I race through the maze of cubicles like a trained rat on a mission, and when I get to my cubicle, I ransack it. I pull out every drawer, every file cabinet, and dump the contents onto the floor. I sift through the piles of stuff on my hands and knees. After I’ve made a complete mess…nothing!
“Where the fuck is my passport?!” I yell to the empty office.
The truth is, I have no idea where it is, and I have no place else to search. Sitting on the floor of my office cubicle sometime after midnight, I stare into the darkness and try to compose myself. Then I say out loud, as calmly as possible: “I’ve lost my passport. I’ve looked everywhere I know of, but it’s gone. I am not going to Puerto Vallarta for Christmas.” And then I cry.
* * *
The next morning, back in my apartment, I make a pot of coffee and survey the mess. Then I spot my suitcase, still packed and waiting by the front door. “Merry Fucking Christmas,” I mutter.
I contemplate how I will now spend Christmas week in Chicago. I can’t visit my family, they’re not in town. I can’t visit my friends, because they all think I’m in Puerto Vallarta…and that’s what I want them to think. I boasted to everyone that I was going to spend Christmas on the beach in Mexico, and they could all have their white Christmas in Chicago, thank you very much.
I told my co-workers. I told my volleyball team. I told George, the star hitter on the volleyball team, who is a dreamboat and who I have a crush on.
I can’t fathom telling them I lost my passport. I just can’t. I’ll never hear the end of it. I feel like the biggest loser ever. My life was supposed to turn around, starting today. I thought I had hit rock bottom, but now it seems the bottom has fallen out and there’s more rock bottom.
And then, I get an idea.
I hide out in my apartment all week long. I spend my time watching movies and reading Mexico travel blogs. When I leave the apartment I wear sunglasses and a hoodie, because I’m incognito. I leave for only two reasons: to go to the grocery store, or go to the tanning salon.
I love the tanning salon. I love lying on the tanning bed in my Speedo, grooving to my playlist, surrounded by the gentle warmth and humming of the UV lights as they slowly cook my skin to a deep golden brown. When I close my eyes, it feels like I’m actually lying on that beautiful beach in Puerto Vallarta.
Days pass. The first week in January comes. We have volleyball practice. I show up at the gym, armed with a deep tan and stories from the Mexico travel blogs. There are six courts going and I scan the gym for my team. Then I spot dreamboat George.
I’m nervous. Part of me wants to turn around, walk out of that gym, and go back into hiding for the rest of winter. But I know that won’t solve anything. I know I have to get out there and live in the world, meet people and take risks, even when I don’t feel like it. That’s what all the self-help books say.
So I walk up to dreamboat George with a smile on my face. He smiles back and asks, “So how was Puerto Vallarta?”
I say, “Muy Bueno! The weather was perfect. The beaches were fantastic. And oh! The food … so mucho delicioso!”
As I’m talking I’m thinking, is he buying this bullshit? I study his face for signs of doubt and I can’t really be sure, but I think he might be.
While I’m talking with dreamboat George, my other teammates gather round and I repeat the story for them. With each retelling I grow more confident. I add more details; a snorkeling trip, a sunset cruise, dancing ‘til dawn. Suddenly I realize: I’m actually pretty good at this.
Dreamboat George says, “I’m so jealous!” Which are the words I long to hear.
The next day, I go out to lunch with my boss and co-workers and I tell my story with confidence and panache as they listen and nod with obvious envy. As I’m telling my story, I’m actually starting to believe it myself.
* * *
I sat on this secret for 11 years.
Over time I got my self-confidence back. I got a new passport, and I got a new boyfriend. We’ve travelled together, mostly beach vacations, but never to Puerto Vallarta since I don’t like to repeat.
Last December, I was cleaning out my bedroom closet over the holidays. I spotted a ratty old jacket way in the back and I reached in and pulled it out. Just as I was throwing the jacket in the trash I felt something hard in the breast pocket. Curious, I reached into the pocket and pulled out my fucking passport.
Steve Glickman has been telling stories his whole life, mostly at weddings and funerals, but more recently on the stage. He is the co-host of “Do Not Submit” at Uptown Underground in Chicago. He has performed at The Laugh Factory, The Moth GrandSlam, Story Club, This Much Is True, Story Sessions, Tellin’ Tales Theatre, Tenx9, and other shows in and around Chicago. By day he is a software engineer. He lives in the Uptown neighborhood with his partner Mark and their imaginary dog “Ruffles.”
If you liked this story, help support Story Club Magazine with a donation. Just $10 helps to support our contributors.