Thursday 20 September
I wake up. Head fuzzy. Where am I? It’s dark. Ohmygod. There’s a woman. Right there. She’s tall. Thin and tall. She’s staring at me. Watching me sleep.
Seriously, where am I?! Who is this stranger?! Is she going to kill me?! What should I say?! Do I clear my throat and say, like, good morning?! Do I just go back to sleep and pretend this never happened?!
Oh. Ok. Nevermind. There is no woman there. It’s just the bed post.
Ok. Go back to sleep.
When I wake up properly, hours later, I’m annoyed by my instincts. When you think a stranger is sitting on your bed watching you sleep, your gut reaction should not be to fret about how best to introduce yourself. I should have leapt out of bed to protect my loved ones. What if Annie had shaken me awake in the morning to announce we’d been robbed? What would I have said? “Oh, yeah, I saw her, but felt a bit awkward about saying hello, so I went back to sleep”.
This thought preoccupies me for most of the drive to the airport.
When we arrive at Auckland International, Annie is fine to make our way leisurely from food court to customs to departure lounge, but for some reason this casual approach panics me. I prefer to rush through as quickly as possible so I can sit in the departure lounge for hours, bored, finishing my book and draining my iPhone battery before we’re even on the plane.
We compromise: I check the departures screen every ten seconds and sit on my hands out of twitchiness and Annie pretends not to mind when I watch her like a hawk, waiting to say, “so, looks like you’re about done with that drink/book/toilet, shall we make a move?”
I’m disappointed that the international terminal doesn’t have a donut shop, but make do with McDonalds. Once again, the McMuffin is better in theory than in practice, looking like someone may have sat on it before handing it over. The hotcakes though, my goodness. Little knobs of melted butter and an entire packet of syrup (just ‘syrup’—no ‘maple’ or similar adjective to denote its origins) on warm fluffy wheels. I am thrilled.
After our breakfast, we decide to have a drink. It’s barely 9am and so the cafe is filled with customers picking at breakfast croissants and sipping flat whites. Annie bowls up to the bar and orders a Jamaican Dream cocktail. The waitress stares back at her for a moment, before asking, “a what?”
“A Jamaican Dream”, Annie repeats, gesturing towards the cocktail menu.
The waitress picks up the menu and looks at it, perhaps hoping that if the request is delivered through a different medium it will make more sense. I don’t think it works. She awkwardly fidgets with her necklace and looks around for help.
“Um, I just make the coffees?” she says, anxiety woven into her eyebrows. “And Linda’s on break. Um… I could go get her?”
Annie looks like she’s seriously considering this request. I think about how long it might take to go find Linda then bring Linda back then wait for Linda to figure out how to make a Jamaican Dream then for Linda to put it on a little coaster and bring it over. In my mind I hear bing bong, passengers Kate and Annie, your flight has left without you, bet that cocktail wasn’t worth it, sucks to be you guys, bing bong. I convince Annie she should just get a beer.
After our breakfast beers, we stand in duty free spritzing ourselves with perfumes, pretending to enjoy the feijoa vodka so we get a second free sample. I want a new camera but I don’t really want to spend any money, so we plod along the counters and I find arbitrary faults with everything, so I get to say well, at least I TRIED.
I’m still twitchy about missing our flight and only calm down when I’m actually in the plane, strapped into my seat, our bags stowed in the overhead cabin. Before we’ve even taken off, Annie turns to me and says, “wake me up when food comes” and then slides down in her chair to nap.
It takes three hours to fly from Auckland to Nadi, and I use this time to indulge in guilty pleasures, namely, watching What To Expect When You’re Expecting and drinking beer out of a plastic cup. One scene in the movie particularly bothers me. Jennifer Lopez picks up this little orphan kid, and looks at him devotedly, and I truly believe she wants him. It feels real, like Jenny herself is actually considering taking him back to her Block. It makes me wonder if I should adopt a kid too. This is disconcerting. If J Lo can tempt me into adoption, I really should be more careful around her L’Oreal ads. Sure, I might be worth it, but True Match foundation is definitely not in the budget.
We land and people impatiently fill the aisles again. I’m not bothered this time, because there are palm trees to look at, and the heavy humid heat has seemed to work its way into the plane, making me feel dopey. I stuff my winter coat into my bag, joking to Annie that I probably won’t need it. Moments later, I hear a man a few rows ahead say to his wife, “best put your jacket away love, won’t be needing that for a while!” I am so embarrassed. It makes me feel like the human race is really just a bunch of monkeys wandering around making the same jokes as each other, over and over, trying not to bump into things. I’m not sure if I find the thought comforting or depressing.
When we get inside the terminal we join an oppressively slow-moving queue to clear customs. The woman behind me is donating a box of second-hand books to local schools. I know this because I hear her announce it to two different people in the queue, both times in the form of an apology. They haven’t shown even vague interest in her or her parcel, yet she says sorry to them for carrying it. It reminds me of when I used to volunteer with the SPCA. Two days before a shift and two days after, everyone would know about it. “No, I’m so sorry, I’ll have to come to dinner late. I have my volunteeeeer work. With animals. Sick little abandoned animals. Which I look after, because I’m a volunteeeeeer.”
She is basically forcing me to feel guilty. Instead of books for children, I’m holding a bottle of duty free Malibu. Given that I see my own attention-seeking behaviour in this woman, I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to be irritated with her. This is sorted when this volunteeeeer “accidentally” smacks into me with her box of charity. I decide that maybe I’m allowed to hate her a little bit and I spend the rest of the queue hoping she drops her generosity on her stupid altruistic foot.
After finally getting through customs, getting through the bag check in Fiji turns out to be remarkably easy. In New Zealand they ask probing questions about your wood products and make you wonder if you ARE accidentally smuggling in cocaine, because why else would all of these people in uniforms they be this suspicious of you? In Fiji they lean back in their chair, welcome you to the country, and gesture casually to the exit.
Fiji! We’re finally here. We’re tipsy and sweaty and ready to go.