On Paradise Island stands the Atlantis, with two thousand three hundred rooms the largest hotel complex in the Caribbean. A few blocks away, in the apartments of the Ocean Club, which is somehow part of the Atlantis but much more exclusive, I get full-service treatment. Later, at the cocktail reception, I try to make as exuberant an impression as possible. If you’re not too good at small talk in a satellite state of the US, you’ll soon be regarded as a dyspeptic grumbler. “Europeans usually have the look of pallbearers”, a PR lady explains to me, and suddenly I’m able to laugh. 

The door opens and everyone looks in that direction. The grand entrance of the hotel mogul K., the boss of the Atlantis. He’s celebrating his seventieth birthday with a banquet and a twenty-five-year-old girlfriend or wife, and a show by Patti LaBelle (“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi”), which he’s having broadcast live on Bahamas TV. I start to worry that I’ll have to make small talk with him and her, but luckily a guy like that only talks to select people. 

Then again, other people are picking me out. You’ve hardly had a short break when someone careens in your direction. “How do you like the cocktail?” someone asks me every three minutes, and later: “How do you like the dinner? You enjoy the wine? Was the trip nice? First time here in Paradise?” I work up some answers: “It’s sogorgeous” or “It is most amazing!” or “My trip was very relaxed.” Amazingly, they buy this stuff. No one notices my goose bumps. 

The Ocean Club mortifies me by assigning me a personal butler. His name is Audrey, or Aldrych, or something like that. He regularly brings me strawberries with chocolate crème, and when I get back he’s rearranged everything in the room, for the better. Unfortunately, it soon turns out that he’s also folded my dirty underwear like envelopes (is that why they’re called “briefs”?) and mixed them in with the clean ones. He even smooths them out (or irons them?), so that to weed out the old ones again, I have to sniff at every single one. 

I’m on my laptop, tinkering at a story set in the Libyan desert. It doesn’t fit in here, which is embarrassing. I hide my guidebook to Libya in my suitcase like a porn magazine, so that Audrey/Aldrych doesn’t think I’m an unprincipled two-timer. 

In the afternoon he knocks, serves me some strawberries again – he seems to possess a lot of them – and asks what I do for a living. He likes my answer, “writer and journalist”: Audrey/Aldrych confesses that in his civilian life (when he’s not being a butler), he writes articles himself, for a newspaper in Nassau. 

An island tour in a stretch limousine. The chauffeur in his white gloves looks distinctly more elegant than I do. Actually, I should be the one driving him around. He climbs in all the way at the front, and I climb in all the way at the back – we are separated by approximately the world record distance in the long jump – and I sink down, nonchalant, conversant, into the leather seat in the style of Ikea’s “Klippan” sofa. There’s enough room in front of it for two people to do it on the floor, should they want to. I (all alone) cannot resist the proletarian impulse to photograph this interior. The chauffeur frowns in the rear-view mirror. 

Trip so amazing, limousine so gorgeous, dinner so heavenly (if you can say it that way), and again limousine so very great. Chauffeur: “How was your evening?”

Me: “So touching. Most amazing!”

He, warmheartedly: “At home you can kick your shoes off, man!”

Me, overextended: “Well, yes!” (I should have answered: “Great idea, man!”)

He, tenderly: “Soon you be sound asleep, man!”

Me, exhausted: “Oh certainly, man!”

I’m hardly out of the limousine when a receptionist hisses in my ear: “Enjoyed evening?”

Back in the Ocean Club of the Atlantis: all my underwear in rank and file. I could swear I stashed the Libya guidebook in my suitcase. Now it’s lying on the nightstand. 

Hotel Atlantis, One & Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas. 

Translated by Geoffrey C. Howes

From: Typisch Welt. 111 Geschichten zum weiter Reisen. Vienna: Picus, 2016.