On October 26th, 2011, my ex and I left for LAX to travel to New Zealand.
It’s not really my thing to document my real life in extensive detail like this—not without adding dragons and pixie dust and gender swaps, anyway!—but given this was my first time out of the country, I wrote feverishly about this trip.
So—here we go!
• • •
The $125 taxi drive involved weather surfing;
PSP warring (“Fuuuck you, my FFT army is better!”);
And cash-scrambling (“What do you mean you didn’t withdraw—” “Do I look like the responsible person in this relationship?”).
Of course, these conversations are inane. This is how all last-vacations begin.
• • •
He is my best friend.
That is the hardest part of all this.
• • •
It’s hard to not expect the shit fest to multiply when, of all airports, it’s LAX. But we locate Air New Zealand with surprisingly little trouble. God help us, this is the only time our navigational skills will succeed. We’re already on burnout, and we’re still in the country.
The employees at the counter are kind-spirited: answers, smiles, merry accents.
After dropping off our luggage, and walking through those controversial Super Man machines, we find our way to our gate with zero hassle. The silence begins.
Life is silence.
• • •
Then we’re on our 12-hour flight to Auckland.
A young man, two rows up, is celebrating his birthday. Unfortunately, the crossing of the equator swallowed Thursday, October 27th. One day minus four hours later, he’s evaded aging this year. My ex laughs about it.
I nod, and while I’m replying to the young man’s questions, I’m not here. Instead, I keep looking at how my kneecaps collide with everything, like an awkward mannequin, squished into a tiny space where I no longer belong.
• • •
Where LAX locked us in a single row of two quick-stop shops, two fast foods, and a restaurant, Auckland Airport welcomes us with abundance.
There’s a full-fledged mall equipped with American and European perfumes.
My ex trails up from another aisle as I ask, “What does this smell like?”
“It smells like ‘No’,” he starts, till I spin on him. “WHAT—Did you just spray me!?”
“It said it was for men.”
“You know I hate perfume!—Hey, where are you going!?”
Running. Laughing, and running.
• • •
There are musically voiced men at Customs.
“You took my jerky,” I tell one of them.
“It needs a ‘Made in USA’ logo,” he says.
“But I have a USA tummy,” I protest.
He scans my card with a half-grin. “What does a Game Master do, specifically?”
And I get to talk about my job for the first time in forever. I am normally the insignificant job in this two-person party. Which isn’t my ex’s fault, really.
• • •
Nor is this:
“Do you want to drive?”
“John, this is the wrong side of the road—”
“This is the correct side. Calm down.”
“I am calm.”
“You’re clutching your chest.”
“You’re not the boss of— PARKED CAR PARKED CAR—”
“Fucking cunts! Why are they allowed to park there!?”
“There’s another one!”
“This country is bullshit! KOURTNIE.”
“Don’t say my name in that tone of voice!”
“STOP FREAKING OUT, IT’S CONTAGIOUS.”
“Your anger is contagious!”
“That’s it, you’re fucking driving—”
“Nonono, you always beat me at Mario Kart—”
“That has nothing to do with anything!”
“I SAID NONONO—”
“Why don’t you make yourself useful and pull out a map!?”
Three more hours of this.
• • •
The room isn’t ready yet, and my 15- and 30-minute excuses for flight naps set in.
“That must be why you’re bitchy.”
“I’d sigh, but I’m too tired to sigh.”
“Let’s sleep there.”
We pass out on a bench in front of the ocean. I’m not sure if the bench is designed in the shape of waves, natural body curves, or both, but they go well with the mild, ocean breeze.
At one point, I reach out to him in habit. And he shifts his body in habit. This is a dance we’ve grown accustomed to. But neither of us can remain together for very long—soon we become cognizant and uncomfortable. So we switch to separate benches until it gets cold.
Then we huddle together, preying on physical contact merely for survival.
I remember the days when a dozen of us girls would huddle together, in high school, never thinking about boys.
• • •
Paihia, the village we’re staying in, is small. There’s an ice cream stand, though, and it will become our favorite place. When we’re eating, we don’t have to exchange words with one another.
“An antique store,” I say.
“A junk store,” he corrects.
I point through a yellowed window. “How old is that plate?”
“I don’t know, a few decades?”
Pamphlets of ecotourism and sports adventures clog our bags. Some of them are from Auckland Airport, when we waited for our rental car. Others, we found dotted in bright neon stands at the corner of one of the village’s hilly streets.
Finally, we get our room. My ex takes pictures. There are people at home who will want to see them. I pass out. I dream of ethereal places.