A Parting Gift
by Jessica Maggs
Last year, I was lucky enough to go on a fantastic cruise. It was for 12 days, and although that doesn't sound very long, when you can do what you like with the time, it is forever. Over the course of the trip, as well as stopping in various wonderful places, we got to know people on the ship. I didn't know this before I went, but a massive part of going on a cruise is the socialising!
Speaking of which, many of the passengers were American, and I found them to be a great fun and relaxed sort of people. (I'm from the UK)
A night or two in, I ate dinner in the Michelangelo Dining Room. And yes, it’s just as posh as it sounds. Our waiters for that evening were called Alberto and Jason.
Jason was from the Philippines, a little man with a great sense of humour. Alberto was from Romania, and was tall and cat-like, and a little quieter than his talkative friend, but with a brilliant smile. I enjoyed my evening very much. And we had a good time.
Although I ate in several places, I came back to Michelangelo many times throughout the trip, each time asking specifically to sit with Alberto and Jason. We got to know one another well, and, needless to say, their service was impeccable. I’ve never had someone pull out my chair for me and sweep a napkin across my lap at the same time!
One evening, we began to talk about spare time. Conversation came around to origami, and I was delighted to find that Alberto had plenty of interest in the subject, his speciality being napkins. Over several evenings, we showed one another various items we could make. His napkin mouse was easily my favourite, although the chicken and the bra were sources of amusement for the pair of us!
It came to my final evening on board, although we spoke little – the Michelangelo was very, very busy. I was saddened by the lack of an opportunity to say goodbye to Jason and particularly Alberto, and left a little gloomily. I also felt bad for not saying goodbye properly, although I’m sure they were used to it. But they must get so lonely! Alberto told me he worked on the ship for five months at a time, which wasn’t so bad, but he had little family to go home to. Jason, however, worked ten months at a time. He hadn’t been there for his daughter’s birthday for five years.
Imagine spending so long on a ship, full of people you come to know so much about, only to have them leave, and never see them again! Regardless, they clearly had enthusiasm for their jobs, and it showed in their skill.
Still, I thought I might have been able to catch him the next day; I wasn’t due to disembark until noon, and I knew Alberto at least worked the early breakfast buffet shift. I set off back to my cabin earlier than usual. I had an idea, and I needed time. On the way, I stopped at a shop and picked up a notepad. I hadn’t shown him much of my modular origami before, due to the time it took, but sat here quietly in my cabin, I didn’t think thirty modules would take me long...
Early morning, about 7 am. I had to be out of my cabin at 8 anyway, so that wasn’t so bad, but I still yawned and dragged my feet on the way down to breakfast. I scanned the room for Alberto, but couldn’t see him. I ate my breakfast slowly, keeping an eye out all the while. I didn’t see him, but left to go and sit by the pool anyway. I wasn’t due to disembark until noon, so I’d enough time to find him.
However, by the time it got to eleven, and my frequent trips through the buffet to look for him weren’t getting me anywhere, I began to get nervous. As a last resort, I went back to Michelangelo to see if he was there. To my dismay, the room wasn’t even open at this time. Sullenly, I wandered back through the ship. Walking through the buffet back to the poolside, it was with a start that I recognised Alberto’s voice...sure enough, there he was!
I called him, and he turned. I held out my model for him, and his face lit up. He asked if I made it, I blushed and said yes. With his brilliant smile, we embraced – he had to lean down a little to my height. Realising it was dangerously close to my disembarkation time, I left, and he was stood turning the model over in his hand. It wasn’t complicated, but I like to think it meant something to him. And I can still, years later, make those napkin mice.