Part One: Donuts, Margaritas and Waistcoats
Part Two: Airports, Adoption and the Kindness of Strangers
Part Three: Binkies, Babes and Bathtubs
Part Four: Carbs, Catamarans and Cast Away
Part Five: Baronesses, Orations and Foreign Gems
Part Six: Mushroom Brains, Front Naps and Tuna Smashing
We brush sand from our hair and get dressed in preparation for going to a gourmet restaurant for dinner. As I gingerly pat moisturiser onto my bizarrely uneven sunburn, Annie talks about how hungry she is, constantly referring to how much she wants to “smash a can of tuna”.
Her diet today has consisted of bubbly from the bottle, seventeen cans of beer and six chicken kebabs. I am amazed she is still upright.
From her eyes I’d guess she had half an hour left in her, maximum, and when she says “look, ok, we will just go and say, look, what are we allowed? Then we’ll smash it and come back and go to sleep” I’m relieved that maybe she’s aware of her own limits too.
Dinner tonight is free, part of the competition winnings. The offer just said “dinner for two”, and as Annie smears lipstick onto her mouth, she declares with determination that she better be allowed a steak.
During our walk to the restaurant she tells me a story about her friends that got married in Fiji. This is the second time today she’s recounted it, but I pretend I haven’t heard it before. I’m pleased that some of the blanks get filled in. It’s like this story is a giant jigsaw puzzle, and she’s only feeding me a few pieces at a time. I hope she’ll tell me again tomorrow… maybe I can finally figure out who she’s talking about.
We get to the restaurant and I let her do the talking out of some perverse curiosity to see how it goes. We quickly discover the service is impeccable, as long as you stick to the script. “My name is Miss X, I am here for dinner, thank you” is fine, you’ll be finished eating in half an hour. But should you trudge up to the maître d and explain, “hello, yes, hello, we are staying here, and we have won something, but look, we don’t… we don’t want to pay for anything, so can you tell us what we are allowed, and we will eat it, but just that?”, you will wait ten minutes for flustered Fijians to make phone calls and to hand pieces of paper back and forth to each other, whispering and pointing at you.
Eventually, we’re told that the offer is for a three course meal for each of us. While we read over the menus a waitress brings some warm rolls to the table with a small white dish of dipping oil. I scarf down my roll, barely chewing it, and leave the oil to Annie, hoping that the fats will sober her up.
Annie uses her bread as a soggy delivery system to get all of the oil into her mouth, but her last bite includes an unwelcome hitchhiker.
“WOW”, she says, eyes huge. “WOW. What was THAT?”
The other diners turn to look at her as she gulps down the rest of her water, pausing between mouthfuls to say “WOW”.
“What?” I ask, and she looks at me, distraught. Her mouth is a perfect sad face, an emoticon upside down smile.
She replies, “It was chilli? WOW”.
I call over a waitress and tell her that my friend has accidentally ingested some chilli. Full of sympathy, the waitress agrees that yes, chilli is very hot. Then she just stands there, looking at Annie with pity, her hands clasped together in front of her.
Sensing that this wasn’t covered in the training, I ask, “um… Could we get some more water? Or something?”
“More bread!” interrupts Annie. “Just something to eat because WOW”.
With each ‘wow’ the conversations around us stop and heads swivel to look. I imagine passersby are making a mental note to book a table here tomorrow. Annie is ironically giving this restaurant a I’ll Have What She’s Having reputation.
The waitress leaves. I assume it’s to get bread, but she never comes back.
Instead, after ten minutes of a chorus of WOWs, a waiter comes to get our orders. Annie has tucked her napkin into her cleavage and has slid halfway down her chair. She over enunciates her way through an order that is centered largely around meat, and then he leaves.
“WOW”, she says, again. At this point I’ve given up trying to help, because there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do other than pat her arm.
“Not the chilli” she says. “I’m… are… are we on a BOAT?”
She starts swaying, her eyes focused on a point on the table, as if she’s trying to hear secrets on the wind.
“Seriously, are we moving?”
I assure her we’re not, and she sighs and leans back.
“I’m going… not going to lie. Probs gonna vom”. She runs her tongue over her teeth and then plucks the straw out of her coke can. “There is something stuck, and look, I’m sorry, but there is nothing more annoying”. She digs in her teeth with her fingernail but it doesn’t work, so she folds the straw in half to use it as a toothpick.
I wonder again if we’re doing a good job representing New Zealand.
The food arrives, and it’s amazing. Food is usually better when someone else cooks it, it’s usually better when it’s free, and it’s usually best when it’s arranged in pretentious towers. We have hit the trifecta with our entrees. Annie’s WOW noises continue, but this time it’s from pleasure.
At some point during our main course, Annie takes stock of the situation, laying down her fork to exclaim, “Wow. I should NOT be at a fancy restaurant”. I hear tittering behind me and think the couple at the next table might agree.
“I will vomit. On the floor. Seventeen beers?! This is not a normal thing”.
I’m hoping she’s ok, but I’ve also seen the dessert menu, and I really really don’t want to leave. “Are you… going to be ok?” I ask. No, it’s not quite the same question as “are you ok”. Drunk people are hardly renowned for their future thinking, and I’ve selected my words carefully, hoping she’ll just see a vision of herself sober in the future and will agree to stay put.
If I were a decent friend I might have insisted we go back to the hotel so she could sleep. She is basically horizontal on her chair as it is, still rummaging in her teeth with her straw. But there’s a dessert that features a caramel drizzle. A caramel drizzle? It’s basically like the menu’s talking dirty to me and I’ve started thinking with my lizard brain.
We’re interrupted by our waiter, here to clear away our plates, and Annie wants to give her compliments to the chef. “Can you… can you please, pass the message, this dinner? Wow. WOW. This… WOW”.
The waiter shakes his head gravely and says, “I will pass that on, ma’am”. His sincerity seems legitimate and I cross my fingers that he delivers this message verbatim.
We order dessert and reminisce about the day. Annie still can’t believe she’s managed seventeen beers in a single day. She is very proud of herself for not “vomming”. She thinks it was probably the naps. Imagine vomiting off the boat, though. Or spewing in front of Muscles!
I wonder if we are the first people to say the word ‘vomit’ in this restaurant at all, let alone so often, or with so many derivations.
Annie decides, after a lot of speculation, that the worst time to vom would have been just before we jumped off the boat to go snorkelling. “Imagine projectile vomiting into the air, then jumping into it, then landing in the water, then the spew landing on you!”
Dessert arrives, and I try to clear the mental image of jumping through a vomit-halo before I start eating. Annie picks at hers, finding her rich chocolate tower impenetrable by spoon or tooth, but enjoying the red berry coulis dotted around the plate.
“Look”, she says, leaning in conspiratorially. “I’m probs going to dine and dash, ok?”
“Don’t you want to finish your dessert?” I say, leaving aside the issue that we’re not paying for this anyway, so a “dine and dash” would really just be “being a little bit impolite by not saying thank you before exiting”.
“No, I’m going to vom”.
I offer to stay behind to get her dessert packaged up, but she waves the idea away. So I summon a waiter in the only way I can, which is to just stare at them until they look at me, then raise my eyebrows and grin. I’ve tried this in the mirror and it makes it look like I want to assist them with something. It’s a weird Freaky Friday reversal, but I can’t seem to stop myself.
“Hello, can we get this to take away? To go?” I ask.
“For breakfast!” says Annie, as the waiter balances our plates on his arm. The tablecloth in front of Annie is flecked with deep red from where she’s dripped the coulis, and she tries to smudge the stain away with her finger.
“This is worse than the worst period stain ever” she says, before burying her head in her hands and saying “Ok, I’m officially questioning all my life choices”.
Thus marks the end of day two in Fiji.