Capri with Mario
Mario is just about as tan as anyone could be, with dark hair and those Italian eyes like melted chocolate. His sunglasses hang around his neck as he commands the twelve of us on the dock, oozing charisma and explaining how this excursion is going to go. Everyone obliges his jokes even though it’s far too early for laughs. Everyone but John, who is in a dark place this morning and would most likely be whimpering in a corner had he been on his own. Instead, his mouth is forced into a thin, straight line, in desperate attempts to coax strength back into his broad shoulders and embrace this Capri adventure.
Mario is our skipper for the day and John swears every skipper in the world is named Mario, although I am unsure of how many he’s met, I believe him. Mario asks for a brave soul to be the leader of the group for the day. The group consists of twelve very disappointingly dull others and I instinctually volunteer John, nudging him foreword. I look up at the exasperated horror in his eyes, remembering how ill he is and it’s too late to bite my tongue. John is the leader of the gang.
Shortly after boarding the small boat, a suicidal Mario drives us abruptly close to the cliffs and I am sure he will smash right into them. He stops below a “fresh water” waterfall pouring down from miles above us and John leans and hangs over the front of the boat, letting it pour down over his head and exorcise last night’s demons.
We are dealt a very dull and lacking hand for friends aboard. A sixty-year-old Gilligan sits to my left with a Chestershire cat smile; he laughs and shakes in his blue and white striped sailor’s outfit with his eyes closed in smiley squints as his skin slides down his face. I can’t hide my judgmental dismay as he flops around the boat with the balance of a 4-month-old infant while his skinny blonde wife cackles like an ally cat. An Australian couple much younger than John and I lay out on the boat in boredom and are about as interesting to engage as a moldy rock. A wiry, frail excuse for a boy lays down next to John in a fit of pale seasick horror as the love of his life dismisses him and checks out every other male aboard. Mario is looking better by the minute.
We fly across the choppy Mediterranean Sea, bouncing about, salt sprayed and laughing. Our neighboring passengers panic at the choppy state of the water; Gilligan tosses about the boat as seasick boy near vomits on John’s foot. Completely sure that we will capsize and not caring in the slightest if we do, John and I indulge in fits of laughter. The sun glistens off the turquoise sea and Mario cracks jokes that are lost in the wind. With the Amalfi coast at our back and a vague rock temple covered in mist ahead of us, we cut through the sea.
There is nothing that can prepare you for the majestic awe of the towering rock that is Capri, standing small in circumference but ferocious and powerful in stature in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The boat falls silent as we near the mirage, craning our necks looking up at the breathtaking, chill-producing and terrifying beauty of this island mountain. Looking like it just rose from middle earth, powerful and mighty, right in front of our eyes, this island could not possess anything but mystical powers, standing there amidst an eerie well of clouds. I stare wide eyed from the front of the boat, not daring to blink, in fear that the place might vanish at any moment right before our eyes, leaving our boat in it’s wake and us wondering if it was ever really there at all.
This ancient island standing in tremendous depths of water is a mass of limestone rock, Mario informs us; time has eroded holes beneath it and openings in its sides that have left caves that can be entered when the sea level is low. The light trapped in these caves underneath the mountain reflect off of the limestone and create an illuminating blue glowing space, which radiates in the dark caves from the water. That’s the somewhat scientific reason for this phenomenon; however I am so converted to magic in this moment that if someone told me Poseidon had banished one million tiny fairies to be trapped inside the mountain for all of time and their waling tears produced this radiant blue glow, I would have believed them.
The silent space we have all been frozen in passes when Mario docks the boat and allows us to swim in these mystical waters. The water is so salty that it seals your eyes shut and John and I laugh as we try to decipher just how deep this crystal clear expanse underneath us is.
“You know, this ocean floor here is covered with Octopus. They hide behind every rock right below you, but it’s almost impossible to catch them since the only thing you can see is their eyes,” Mario calls to us from the boat.
Well, that’s all he had to say. John is the last one left in the water, diving down in valiant attempts of catching this sneaky sea creature. We watch from the boat as Mario whispers to me that he’ll never get one and I smile, 100% sure that John will. I can just see him climbing back up the ladder and slapping down an Octopus at Mario’s feet, flashing him that sideways grin, cracking open a beer and sitting on the bow of the boat, casually telling Mario, “let’s go.” But time does not allow for John’s excursion and he has to be reeled in as we press onward.
We round the island and Mario has a terrible time trying to dock at the port, letting us off for a few hours to explore Capri, as he waits out at sea. After wandering aimlessly with our sea legs for a bit, we decide, fully addicted, that we need to rent a Vespa again and John, in his confident way, assures the renters that we will be just fine on the roads which are even more steep and narrow than the Amalfi coast. Hugging the right side, we whip around each sharp turn, climbing up the mountain, with a pair of headphones split between us; music blasting, we laugh and dance as we ride the cliffs. With swaying arms on either side, I bounce along on the back, singing each tune off key with all the heart I have and waving at passerbys.
We pull off at the top of the mountain in Anacapri at a small beach bar and watch swimmers get thrashed against the rocks with the wind. The island’s lighthouse stands among this top most point and we hike up to explore an ancient look out tower. With the wind whipping around us violently, standing at the edge of death on top of the world, every nerve ending buzzes with electricity in my ears mixing with the sound of waves crashing on the rocks miles below us and I am completely alive.
Windblown with risk still thumping behind our skulls, and a bottle of wine later, we meet the rest of our crew on the dock to wait for Mario. They shoot questions back and forth and compare shopping bags and stories of how they spent the past four hours before asking John and I what we did.
“A little exploring. Not much,” I respond, averting my gaze and then sneak a smile in John’s direction. They give a polite nod and go back to shopping chatter.
John leans over to me, “We are winning,” he whispers.