Excerpt from ‘All Inclusive’


By Farzana Doctor

Canadian Ameera Gilbert took a job at Atlantis, an all-inclusive resort in Huatulco, Mexico, still smarting from a stormy past relationship with her ex-lover Gavin. As this chapter of Farzana Doctor’s All Inclusive begins, Ameera is enjoying a night out at the resort lounge, trying to forget about the email she had received from her boss Anita—in which an anonymous complainant has accused her of behaving in a sexually inappropriate manner with the resort’s clientele.


I caught Enrique’s eye. His leer sent a wave of heat down my chest, past my stomach, and into my groin.

“How are you, beautiful?”

“Good. Tired. Always working.”

“I know what you mean. We should go dancing again.”

“Sure, let’s do that.” But I knew we wouldn’t. I’d asked him out soon after arriving in Huatulco. A first date, I’d gushed to Manuela, who’d been skeptical but didn’t say why. We drove to a club about forty minutes away, a hole in the wall in Santa Maria de Huatulco that boasted a Reggaeton DJ from Mexico City. I wasn’t keen on the music, but I was thrilled to be with Enrique. We joined a small group of his friends, a mix of men and women, most in their early thirties, all stylishly dressed. On the dance floor, Enrique maintained a platonic distance, his body like a frowning chaperone.

Halfway into the evening, he swivelled me around and nudged me into the arms of his friend Antonio, who pulled me close for a sweaty slow dance. By the end of the song, I could feel Antonio’s erection pressed against my stomach. When I realized that Enrique was at the bar, chatting with friends and oblivious to me, I pulled Antonio closer.

Enrique and I went clubbing a few times after that, but it was always the same. I’d long given up the idea of dating him, but I knew I still dressed for him. I told myself that unrequited crushes could be fun.

He returned to his bartending duties and I scanned the crowded lounge. As I’d expected, Serena and Sebastiano were perched near the front. I had a hunch they were waiting for me that evening.

For a moment, I wondered if they’d lied about their names; this was how some swinging couples played, seeking anonymity or trying on new personas. A few stumbled over their pseudonyms, letting their real names slip during moments of disinhibition and pleasure. Some chose alliterative fake monikers like June and Jeremy, Will and Winsome. The women often favoured aliases more exotic-sounding than their own names: Sophia, Andrina, Monique, Imani, Marina. When I’d later look them up in the Oceana database, I’d learn that they were really Susan, Tammy, Dianne, Joanne, or Jen. Serena and Sebastiano were not travelling with my company, so I had no way of double-checking.

“Ameera, buona sera!” Sebastiano held out a piña colada. I briefly hesitated in my reach for the glass, remembering Anita’s letter. But Sebastiano’s green eyes drew me in. I accepted the drink and Serena’s smile widened.

We made polite small talk and I took care to maintain a professional posture. I was vigilant to onlookers and acknowledged other vacationers who passed by, because, even out of uniform, most viewed me as perpetually on duty. In fact, one lady interrupted our conversation to ask about her malfunctioning in-room safe.

I suggested that we move to a less busy part of the bar, a section with leather couches and dim lighting. Serena grabbed my wrist and playfully pulled me down next to her while Sebastiano settled onto an ottoman across from us, his knees brushing mine. The hair on his calves was thick and downy, and I stretched my legs to make full contact. I glanced Serena’s way to see if she minded and she nudged closer, pushing her heavy breasts against my bare shoulder.

Our conversation remained polite during our second drink, even while our bodies spoke a language more intimate. They asked about my job: did I like being so far from home? Where did I live and eat? I’d grown accustomed to curiosity from tourists. Most worked nine-to-five jobs, had children and pets, and suffered long winters. They pictured my life as a year-round holiday. And perhaps I’d once imagined it would be that way, too.

Leave winter behind! Take on new challenges! Competitive salary!

The Oceana employment posting crossed my inbox in early May, a week after the incident with Gavin. I was about to delete it when my mother phoned.

“How’s work?”

“Quiet. Dull. I think I need a change. Listen to this.” I read the Oceana advertisement to her.

“Well, it would be a lateral move, but if they are a large company, there might be more opportunities. There’s no room for movement where you are now.” Her tone was neutral, which I appreciated.

“Yeah, I think I’ll apply.”

“It might not be a bad idea for you to get away, have some new experiences. It would give you a bit of space from Gavin, too.”

“Well, that’s over. For good. I saw him last week at a friend’s birthday party and… well, I’m not gonna go there ever again.” I knew I sounded defensive.

“I’m glad. Listen, have you thought about going back to school? These days everyone seems to need a graduate degree. I’d be happy to help with tuition.” Her voice rose at the end of the sentence, her way of making a suggestion without imposing.

I changed the subject to an ongoing conflict with her neighbour who’d built a fence ten inches over her property line. The issue had consumed her for months. She’d sent two letters to him and had met with her city councillor. I wondered why she hadn’t just knocked on the guy’s door and talked with him directly.

Two weeks later, I boarded an early train to Ottawa for a one o’clock interview, stumbled my way through the French oral exam, and then was interviewed by Anita McLeod. I was surprised that she was South Asian and wore a paisley-printed shalwaar kameez; her accent had sounded as Canadian as mine when we’d spoken over the phone. After the initial formal interview questions, she spoke more casually. She revealed that she had just returned from her honeymoon in Huatulco, where Oceana was developing its resorts. She gushed about her wedding, which included a combination of Hindu and Scottish traditions.

“I guess I’m a little old fashioned.” She confessed that she’d taken her husband’s surname.

“There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s all about making the choice that’s good for you, right?” I said strategically, aware that I was still being interviewed. I didn’t know anyone who followed that anachronistic marital convention anymore.

“Did you do the same? Is Gilbert your married name?”

“No, I’m single. My father is Indian, but my mother is Canadian. I took her surname because I didn’t grow up with him.” I fidgeted in my seat hoping I wasn’t revealing too much about my unusual upbringing. But Anita didn’t seem bothered by these details; she babbled on about immigrating to Canada when she was a preschooler and we bonded over our South Asian ancestries, with me doing my best to nod and smile knowingly at her first-generation anecdotes.

We went to Swiss Chalet for an early dinner and then she dropped me at the station in time for the evening train. A voice mail arrived the next day with an offer. Finally, after two dull years at the travel agency, I had some positive news to share with my friends: I’m moving to Mexico!

Over the next three weekends, I sold my furniture, winter clothing, and appliances on Craigslist. Everything else got crammed into eleven cardboard boxes that I lined up against my mother’s townhouse basement wall. For Huatulco, I’d packed like a tourist, filling one large suitcase with summer dresses, toiletries, my laptop, and two boxes of condoms. At the last minute, I tucked in a hardcover book from my childhood, Exploring India.


Oh mio Dio! Your job is more boring than mine. And I’m an information technology manager at a hospital,” Serena said after I’d told them all about my contract and routines. Usually, vacationers’ responses to the mundane details of my life were bright-sided: “At least you get to be near the ocean, eh?” or “But the weather here, you can’t beat that!”

“You must hate tourists by now, yes?” Sebastiano laughed.

“Well, sometimes. But some tourists I quite enjoy.” I ogled him, and he matched my steady gaze.

By the time our third drink was delivered, I was aglow from alcohol and attention. I suspected that Sebastiano had been asking for doubles, because the cocktails tasted more rummy than usual. It was resort policy to water down liquor to counter our guests’ overindulgence and therefore reduce their accidental death liability.

“So, a pretty girl like you… you must have a boyfriend?” Serena stole the tiny cocktail spear from my glass and sucked on its pineapple chunk. The evening had progressed as I’d hoped.

“So?” Sebastiano persisted.

“No, no boyfriend… and no girlfriend, either.” I filched Serena’s cocktail spear, held it up in victory, laughed too loudly.

“Ah, so, you’re, how you say it in English… flexible,” Sebastiano quipped, waggling his eyebrows and taking a sip of his piña colada. White froth coated his upper lip. I wanted to lick it off.

“Yes, flexible is one way to put it,” I replied.

“Just like my wife, , Serena?”

“Sí.”Serena nodded.

I awoke in the dark, sandwiched between the Italians, damp from sex and sweat. The clock radio glared 3:07, shocking red numbers. I didn’t normally do sleepovers; I couldn’t sleep well with strangers. Just before I’d drifted into unconsciousness, a sheet was draped over me, a soothing palm stroked my lower back, and I’d succumbed.

I crawled my way down the centre of the bed. Without rousing, Sebastiano rolled into the empty space. He nudged his pelvis into Serena’s lower back, and she reciprocated by shifting closer to him. Sensing that my absence barely mattered, I was tempted to sneak my way back into the heat between them.

In the darkness, I sorted through a pile of hastily discarded clothing and identified the cotton of my sundress. In the lit laneway, I inspected myself in a window’s reflection, combed my hair with my fingers, and fastened a button I’d missed. Walking away from the Italians’ villa, I sensed I was wearing the wrong underwear.

The resort was quiet at that hour, its inhabitants tucked neatly away into their beds, inhaling and exhaling the warm pre-dawn air. I slowed my gait. Without its daytime merriment, Atlantis almost resembled a sleepy rural village, like those on the Swiss tourism posters that hung in my old travel agency. I descended a staircase that led to the main restaurants and bar, pausing half­way to survey the landscape. To my left, the surf crashed against the shore and wind rustled the leaves of a tall palm tree. A small green lizard darted across my path. With my mind still hazy from the booze, I squinted and imagined the land before it was expropriated, before it was called Atlantis, when its inhabitants were Mexicans: verdant farms, thatched buildings, rolling hills.

I continued on, tripping over a poorly laid pavement stone. The path that intersected the main boulevard was under construction and a barely visible CUIDADO sign had been posted on a nearby fence. Beside it was a small hand-written note that read: CONSTRUCTION. I crouched and looked more closely at the jagged rock that had caused my stumble. Each flagstone was unique, differently shaped and sized, and fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. It looked to be slow, painstaking work.

A few minutes later, I passed the security station, and lowered my gaze. After almost three years, the officers could recognize me and the other foreign tour reps, even in the dark. They could tell stories about when this-one-or-that-one arrived home drunk in a taxi, or leaning on a guy she’d just met, or weaving, all alone, down the long driveway. Foreign tour reps were known for that sort of thing and in contrast, I lived a pretty quiet existence.

I looked up, met the security guard’s eye. I considered Oceana’s online complaint about me, and its mysterious sender. Worry rippled across my belly.


Excerpted from All Inclusive by Farzana Doctor, available here.

Copyright ©2015. Farzana Doctor. All rights reserved. www.dundurn.com



Post a Comment

Your email address is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Farzana Doctor

Farzana Doctor is the Toronto-based author of three novels: Stealing Nasreen, Six Metres of Pavement and the recently released All Inclusive. She was named by CBC Books as one of “Ten Canadian Women Writers You Need to Read Now” and was the recipient of the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s Dayne Ogilvie Prize. She curates the Brockton Writers Series, and is a proud member of The Writers Union of Canada.