• Mary Cini Warwick

Cruising

Remember boat drinks? Remember cruises and blackjack and boat drinks? Remember who matters to you most?


Some tall thoughts on sisterhood by Mary Cini Warwick


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“Come on, it’ll be fun.”

My sister-in-law Joyce was trying to convince me to go on a cruise with her. She had been given a free cruise by the Rivers Casino. Due to her love of slots, she had probably paid for this cruise ten times over, so she should go.



Me? I wasn’t so sure.

On paper, Joyce and I are complete opposites.

Joyce is married with three kids. She’s a dentist who specializes in implants.



Joyce plays mandolin with an orchestra, does Pilates, and takes French lessons. She loves science and she loves to learn.


Joyce is impressive on paper and in real life.

Meanwhile, I can’t even keep track of my Kohl’s cash. I have no career to speak of, a worthless master’s degree, a small family, no foreign language skills, and I am currently battling my inner demons to conquer outer cellulite.



As Cher once said, “You have to keep the packaging viable.”

I never would have met Joyce if we hadn’t married brothers 30 years ago. It’s worked out pretty well. She hosts most of the holidays because her house is bigger. Her gatherings are fun and last all day.


I host Thanksgiving and Father’s Day. After about twenty minutes, I can’t wait for everyone to leave.


I’m married to Bob who is three inches taller than me. Joyce is married to Jack who is four inches taller than her.


Really, does anything else matter?

Love’s a helluva thing.



I don’t have any siblings. Joyce just has one brother, so I figure she must be at least a little bit grateful I’m around.

Joyce and I have a few things in common. We both are in our fifties. We like dogs. She has a pug named Botox.



I have a yellow labrador named Hootie.



The world drives us nuts. When it’s time to blow off steam, we like to go to the casino and play blackjack.

I’m six-feet tall and Joyce is five-ten. We’re also both bottle-blond. Consequently, people always think we’re sisters.

“We’re married to brothers who like tall women,” we explain to new acquaintances who think they’ve discovered some peroxide version of the twin towers.



My relationship with Joyce ebbs and flows.

Life, you know.

Joyce and I have been through some stuff. Both of our mothers died after battling cancer for years. Joyce’s youngest son had a heart transplant ten years ago. My only child had near-fatal injuries during a school stabbing six years ago.

It’s okay now.

We are trauma survivors.

A psychiatrist once told me that joking about something traumatic is the highest level of healing.

A few years ago, I sent Joyce a card that said,

“Any idiot can face a crisis.

It’s day-to-day living that wears you out.”

She loved it.

Over beers the other night, Joyce and I discussed what should happen to our bodies after death.

Joyce wanted her ashes to be dumped in an ashtray at the casino.



I wanted my body donated to science along with a little note explaining my scars:

● Small cut on right hand from a meat slicer accident while working at K-Mart

● Road rash on left knee from falling on cinders

● Basal cell on the side of my nose from tanning too much in the eighties.




Anyway, we’re not ready to die. Cher might go on tour again.

Joyce and I once took a road trip to Cape May, New Jersey. It was a great way to forget our problems for a few days. On the way there, we fought over the radio, wrote our imaginary obits and practiced kegels.


Chick-trip highlights included a banger of a night at Carnie’s Bar, getting into a fight with an old guy at the beach because we threw the pigeons a piece of calamari



and wearing loose-fitting caftans almost all weekend.


Remember the television show Three’s Company? Joyce and I are easing into our Mrs. Roper years.



“I don’t know if I’m a cruise person. Those beds are tiny and we are tall,” I told Joyce after she pitched me the cruise idea.



“Well, we’re not going to be in steerage with Leonardo DiCaprio. The room won’t be that bad,” she said..

“I’ll miss Hootie. And you’ll miss Botox,” I tell Joyce. “Maybe they have B&B’s in Cape May that take dogs.”

“But this cruise is free,” Joyce points out.

“For you. I still have to pay something”

“It’s really discounted and we can drink for free in the casino.”

“Drink for free? Are you sure?”

“Positive.”



“I’m in.”

And so we sailed to the Caribbean. Joyce’s adult daughter Grace also went with us. The three of us shared a small room and tiny bathroom for five days without drama. We made Grace sleep in the top bunk since she was the youngest.

As the days passed, we developed a sense of community within the casino. Many of the casino regulars belonged to Aquafest, an LGBT travel group. They were a ton of fun.

We exchanged blackjack rituals and secrets with each other. Ron from Aquafest explained to us that a pair of queens is called Siegfried and Roy.



I said they were fun people.

I did not say they were politically correct.

Debbie from Tennessee won $1,500 playing slots on Monday and by Wednesday she was broke.

After a few days, the croupiers filled us in on all of the gossip. The crew’s quarters were like Peyton Place or Melrose Place, depending on your age.

Most of the Carribean was lovely but the port in St. Lucia smelled like a fart because of the island’s sulphur springs.

Joyce lost her estrogen patch while snorkeling.



By the end of the week, we were ready to go home.

Erma Bombeck once said, “There’s a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

It’s true.

Life’s a tall order.


I’m grateful that Joyce has been with me through it all.

Mary Cini Warwick is the author of Tall Thoughts on Short Order, a collection of essays available here. Her writing has been published in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and elsewhere. She lives in Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and is a member of the Trafford Writers Group.

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