"Babe, need me to do your back?" my dad asks from his lounge chair by the pool. He’s jiggling a brown bottle of Coppertone at me, my new stepmother beside him, a gigantic straw hat shielding her from the Mexican sun. My fantasy of being here alone shrivels as I walk over to him, leaving my spot at the shallow end stairs. I don’t want him touching me, treating me like I’m a five-year-old, but I know not to argue, at least not on the first day.
     My dad likes Club Med because it’s easy. Once you’re there, you never have to deal with the surrounding country, and everything’s paid for. I like Club Med because of the G.O.s. G.O. stands for gentil organisateur, or "friendly organizer." They’re the men and women who make sure you’re having fun, though most of the time they look like they’re having a hundred times more fun than any guest. They’re like camp counselors but without the Friday night services.
     When my dad took me to Ixtapa I had a crush on this French G.O., Didier. I was only twelve then, so nothing really happened, but we wrote each other. In his letter, he thanked me for letting him practice his English. He wrote, "I will never to forget the sweet young girl which is called Elise."
     At the "Meet your Friendly Organizers!" show, the G.O.s teach us the Playa Blanca song:

Hands Up! Baby hands up!
Gimme your heart gimme gimme
Your heart gimme gimme
All your love, All your love All your lah-ah-ove…

     I order a Frozen Orgasm at the poolside bar; I don’t even get carded. The drink is white and creamy like jizz, hence the name, but tastes like a vanilla milkshake. It's the best drink. I sip slowly, poking it with my straw, and scope the scene. There are so many hot, tan G.O.s here at Playa Blanca that I feel like I’m in tropical heaven. I’m eighteen, almost in college, freshly Slim-Fasted, permed, and ready for love.
     Paolo from Italy saunters past. His shoulder-length hair is a tangle of kinky streamers, brown at the roots and blond at the ends. Even the hair on his broad chest is kinky. He looks like a sex-god in a white linen suit and leather sandals, no shirt. With his pants belted high up on his waist, he’s so sexy my Calvin Klein underpants heat up just looking at him. Paolo is the head G.O. I’d be like queen of the resort if he chose me above all the other women.
     The next day, while I’m evening out my burn, Paolo runs down to the beach dressed as a nurse, in a short white dress. He's carrying an economy-sized bottle of baby oil, and offering massages. My heart starts thumping. Massages are so sexual. So intimate. What if he comes over to me? What if he doesn't?
     But then, there’s a woman, a blond woman with a Texas twang, sunbathing topless. Her boobs are huge. Paolo zooms over to her, eyes bulging, oil squirting straight up out of his bottle in giant arcs. She lies there going, "Mmm….mmm" and I think, ugh, what a sleaze. But Paolo never manages to make his way over to me. I guess my boobs aren’t big enough. They’re a 34A.
     The next day though, I set my sights on Yaron. He’s from Israel: very tall, very dark, very hot. I flirt with Yaron that night after the show, "Circus of the Stars," and it doesn’t take much let me tell you. Before I even get to tell him where I’m from, we’re making out on the dock. He squeezes me until I think I’ll shit my batiked pareo, and bulldozes his tongue down my throat until I’m ready to puke in his mouth.
     I say, "Whoa," and push away.
     "What do you mean?" he says.
     "Like, can you maybe do that a little softer?"
     "Softer?" he says. "That is not a kiss. That is a nothing. What is the point of softer? Are you going to break like a little girl? Like a tiny porcelain baby doll?"
     This confuses me. I’d thought there was a middle ground, but I guess to Yaron there’s only one way, and it's his way. My way is the wrong way. And I hate to be wrong. I step up to the challenge and kiss him with all the force I can muster, while wondering: is everybody from the motherland so rough?
     The staff’s rooms are a five-minute walk from the beach, with a view of the dumpsters. As we make our way down the squat row of dingy white stucco bungalows, we pass a couple open rooms, where handfuls of G.O.s from Mexico sit around drinking Dos Equis and talking in low Spanish. I spot a cute one, who looks exactly like Donny Gorelick, and my heart leaps a little. I wonder if his dick is as big as Donny’s, and if everyone in the world has a look-alike from another country.
     Yaron’s room has a single bed and a night table. No mosquito net, bamboo shutters or chairs made out of pink leather and dried palm tree leaves. A lizard scurries up the wall as he yanks at the knot on my pareo.
     "Do you have a rubber?" I ask, in between the kissing and groping and he says no. I tell him this means no sex with and wait for him to call me a little baby, accuse me of wasting his time, but mercifully he doesn’t.
     Just before I’m about to suck his dick, I can’t help but notice the purple rash framing his entire bikini line.
     "What is that?" I ask, pointing, but he assures me it’s nothing.
     "From the salt water," he says. "Oh," I say, and get to work.
     As soon as my lips touch the tip of his circumcised Israeli cock, he’s palming my head like a basketball, and grunting like a pig. I can taste my dinner in the back of my throat: grilled swordfish, twice-baked potatoes, three Frozen Orgasms.

* * *

     The best thing about this trip is having my own room, and the best thing about having my own room is that I don’t disturb my Dad and Shirley when I come in for the night, as long as I’m quiet. At least I don’t think so. But the next morning, over plates piled high with fixings from the breakfast buffet, my dad tells me I’d better come back to the room by midnight from now on.
     "I’m paying for this trip," he grumbles, mouth full of scrambled eggs. "Does your mother let you stay out until all hours?"
     "I don’t know," I say, pissed that he’s keeping tabs on me. "I am eighteen you know."
     "I don’t give a goddamn if you’re eighty, Elise!" he yells, losing his temper. The other diners at our table look up. "You’ll come back home when I say you will."
     "It’s not home," I mumble.
     "What did you say?" he threatens.
     "Nothing," I say, and slump down into my seat. Asshole. This is just great. Now when my dad loses his shit, the whole world can know about it. At Club Med, one of the ways they get you to mingle is by only having tables for ten in the dining room. That way you’re forced to meet new people every day.
     After breakfast though, we run into Yaron. Shirley asks him about Israel and he goes on about what a wonderful homeland it is, and how he misses his mother, father, and little sister. While he’s smiling and gesturing, he doesn’t look at me once, like last night never happened and I didn’t swallow a mouthful of his foreign spunk. He’s telling Shirley about his desire to go to medical school and help sick children in third world nations. By this point she’s looking like one of those lovesick cartoons, with giant hearts pulsating out of her eyes. When Yaron leaves, she gushes, "What a delight he is. So charming and handsome. A real gentleman," as if this is exactly the kind of man I should be lucky enough to marry. My father salutes Yaron and then steers Shirley by her elbow, heading for the beach. Maybe if Yaron falls in love with me, my dad will see how great I really am.

* * *

     There’s an adults-only picnic on a little island that we have to take a boat to get to. When we get there, my dad and Shirley find a spot way up on the beach, far from the water, and plop down. As I kick off my Keds I look for Yaron, but don’t see him anywhere. He probably didn’t come because he knew I’d be here. He probably hates me for kissing like a baby, for bothering to exist after our night together.
     We play a game where everyone has to sit in a line, boy-girl-boy-girl, knees bent. G.O.s run every which way, recruiting. Some plead on their knees, fingers laced, begging, faking tears if someone says no. They are so crazy. One guy hoists a woman over his shoulder and carries her kicking and screaming and laughing hysterically. I wish I was her.
     "We need a very very long line!" Paolo shouts and splays his golden manly physique across the sand, to demonstrate. I sidle up next to him, hoping that he’ll finally notice me. He waggles his eyebrows and says, "You are a good girl, making this a long line." He says the word ‘long’ like he’s talking about a hard dick, which I know he is and makes me horny.
     A G.O. washes an orange off with jungle juice. Jungle juice is the special Club Med drink: rum and orange Tang. He places it under the chin of the first person in the line, a fat and freckly woman, in a white terry-cloth visor and zinc-covered nose. I feel sorry for her because I know she’ll never get a G.O.
     So the fat lady has to pass the orange to the guy next to her, by placing it on the tips of his knees. He has to get it under his chin before it rolls into his crotch. If that happens, she has get it out with her chin, which means she has to stick her face in his privates. I like this game.
     When I get the orange from the guy next to me, I let it drop into my crotch, hoping Paolo can’t tell I did it on purpose. He makes this goofy clown face and then pretends he’s diving into my privates from fifty feet above. His hair tickles my thighs and I start laughing hysterically, thinking, won’t my father be so proud, when the Club Med photographer runs up and snaps our picture.
     Paolo disappears right when the sexiest game of all is about to begin, so when I see a Mexican version of Donny Gorelick, I weave over to him. The sun is blaring, I’m covered in jungle juice, inside and out, and I’m feeling happy.
     "Hi," I say, grinning. "You wanna…" I point at him and then at myself, back and forth.
     "Yes. It would be a pleasure," he says, and then we’re off. I look over my shoulder at my dad. He’s cupping his hand over his eyes, looking pretty bent out of shape. He should have played the games, to loosen up a little, but then I realize how disgusting it would have been to be playing sex games with my dad. I turn to my new G.O. and we run into the water.
     In this game, you go into the ocean and switch bathing suits with your partner. I’m wearing a bikini, so we only have to switch bottoms, which is a lucky break, because my bikini bottom is filled with sand, like a baby’s dirty diaper. I peek at his dick floating in the ocean. It’s smaller than Donny Gorelick’s, but it’s also the first soft dick I’ve ever seen.
     "What’s your name?" I ask.
     I pull down my suit and watch my pubes drift around like seaweed. After Juan and I switch I feel like I’ve suddenly become a bona fide adult, that I can hold my own with the best of them. Then I see Paolo leaping over the waves, squealing, and I feel like a first grader. He’s wearing a fluorescent pink two-piece and his partner, Texas Tits, is stumbling through the waves toward the shore wearing nothing but Paolo’s tiny blue Speedo. Her boobs bounce, practically in slow motion. I tell myself she’s just a fat cheesy slob, not sophisticated like me, but wonder if I should have switched my whole bathing suit with Mexican Donny Gorelick. If my dad wasn’t here, I would totally have done it, I decide. I press up against Juan’s body so he’ll get hard but he backs away, holding my wrists. He kisses me a little though, and his tiny moustache grazes against my lip, which makes me feel better.
     Shirley has her head buried in a Good Housekeeping magazine, but my dad throws his paper down and screws his lips up into a white line. He points at my crotch and says, "Did you play that game in the water?" I shrug, thinking, duh, thinking, why’d you even bring me here? I wish he’d stare into the sun and go blind so I could do what I wanted.
     "You could get a disease that way, you know that? You don't know the diseases people carry. We're in Mexico, for Chrissakes." I pull on my shorts, covering the evidence, and stare at the G.O.s packing up the boat. What if I’d switched bathing suits with Israeli Yaron? Would he be carrying on about diseases then? It’s not my fault Yaron stayed on the mainland. What was I supposed to do? Sit out like a crotchety old geezer and just watch? Meanwhile, Yaron is the one with the big purple rash. My dad doesn’t know shit. I know he thinks I’m a slut, but I’m totally not. It’s not like Juan and I had sex or anything.
     That night I go back to Juan’s room and we have sex. I would have used a rubber, but he didn’t have one and besides, he doesn’t have a rash on his bikini line, and he kisses really softly, unlike some people.
     Juan hardly knows any English. The few words he does know, he says he learned from watching music videos.
     "What kind of music do you like?" I ask, and he says, "Iron Maiden. Is so good."
     "You like heavy metal?" I ask, incredulous.
     "Yes. The best music," he says carefully. Someone sure steered him wrong.
     "Do you like new wave music?" I ask slowly. "You know, Depeche Mode? The Cure?" I feel like I’m asking a lost child at the mall if he knows his home phone number.
     Juan wrinkles his nose like something smells. "New wave. It is. Okay," he says. "But. Heavy metal. The hard beat. Is the best," he declares, pointing his finger at the linoleum floor. What an idiot, I think. Who is this little Mexican fucker to tell me what kind of music I should listen to? He should be begging for my advice. He should be worshipping me. But all he does is yawn, and tell me he has to go meet some friends.
     The next night, our last in Club Med, I sidle up to the bar for another Frozen Orgasm, wondering vaguely how many calories it has, how much weight I’ve gained since I’ve been here, eating real food. My thighs and stomach are bright pink, in blotches you could see animals in, like passing clouds, so I’m wearing as little elastic as possible. Even though my skirt is long, I’m a little cold, but I figure it’s the drink.
     Juan is huddled with his group from Mexico. He's talking to a girl with a killer tan, still wearing her bikini from earlier. They’re sharing a cigarette. Juan looks over in my direction, sees me, and turns back to the girl. He whispers something in her ear, placing his hand on her tiny smooth brown hip. She throws her head back and blows out a long stream of smoke. I am an ogre.
     I finally wrench my eyes away from Juan’s love-fest and my stomach lurches like the Titanic as my eyes settle on another couple: Yaron, slow-dancing with a female G.O. from Spain, a tiny barefoot vixen with short slicked hair. I take a long swallow of my drink, and shiver.
     My dad and Shirl are sitting in the audience for magic night, so there’s nothing left for me to do but order another Frozen Orgasm. And another. And another.
     I head to the disco. And see Paolo, two of them. I walk right up to him, breaking through his circle of adoring fans, and lay my hand on his beautiful bare chest.
     "Don’t you like me?" Paolo raises his eyebrows. He turns to his left and then to his right, as if one of his neighbors might know the answer. In their tight strapless dresses, cleavage spilling over, and spike-heeled sandals, they look at me like I just shit on the blinking dance floor. I wait, swaying. Paolo smiles down at me, gently takes my wrist from his chest, and replaces it at my sunburnt side.
     "Isn’t it a little late for you to be out my dear?" he asks, and pats me on the head like I’m his little sister. If I could show him what I know, he wouldn’t be patting me on the head. He’d be palming it like Yaron did.
     My dad is banging on my door.
     "Elise? You up?"
     I open the door, squinting into the morning sun.
     "You’d better be packed, Elise. The plane leaves in two hours."
     "Okay," I whisper. "I’ll be ready in five minutes."
     "You’d better," he warns. "If we miss this flight on account of you, I won’t take you on vacation again." For some reason I hear this as a punishment.
     I hobble over to the bathroom and look at myself. My face is swollen from the sun, eyes, half-closed. A cluster of tiny pus-filled blisters covers my nose, waiting to burst and peel. When I stick the toothbrush in my mouth, I cry out from stabbing pain.
     Behind my lips, on the insides of my cheeks, I count seven tiny white concave spots. Yaron’s purple rash passes before my eyes the way they say your life does right before you die. I suck on a dab of Colgate while I’m packing, sniffling, dribbling a tear or two. Then there’s another knock on my door. Has it been five minutes already?
     "Come in," I say, blotting my face carefully with a t-shirt. The door opens and it’s Juan. Maybe he’s come to apologize for blowing me off, give me his address, kiss me one last time. Instead he says, "Do you have my swim suit?" as he holds mine between his thumb and forefinger like a dirty snot-rag. While he stands there tapping his foot, I yank his Speedo from the towel bar in the bathroom and hand it to him.
     He holds the shiny scrap of fabric in front of his hips. "You stretched it out," he says. "Now what I going to do?" and shakes his head at me as if I am the cockroach that crawled across his papaya salad. I mumble sorry, and vow to eat no more than 700 calories a day for the rest of my life, until I can afford liposuction.
I stuff the rest of my things into my Crate & Barrel garment bag, not giving a shit if anything’s dirty, or sandy, or wet. My dad comes back to check on me.
     "You all right?" he asks, and I show him the sores. Maybe he’ll be nice if he sees how sick I am. Maybe he has something for them.
     He stoops over me, pulls a pen light from his shirt pocket, and peers into my mouth. "Well, well, well," he says, lifting his eyebrows. "Looks like a case of herpes, simplex one. You didn’t kiss one of these G.O.s, did you Elise?"
     I don’t know what to say, so I wait for him to start yelling. But he doesn’t. Instead he shakes his head and bunches his lips like he’s trying not to smile. As he stuffs the penlight back into his pocket I realize that for the first time this whole week, he actually looks pleased. I shoulder my bag and follow him out the door.

 

ELISE MILLER hosts and curates"East Side Oral, (the reading series your mother warned you about), at The Living Room on the Lower East Side. Essays from her memoir, "Cock-Crazy!" have been published on nerve.com and smallspriralnotebook.com. Her work has also appeared in The Sun Magazine. She’s currently at work on Celebrified, a chick-lit novel, set at an elite private school in Brooklyn Heights.