I am sitting on the plane, one flight of many, and I’m not excited. I’m frankly not feeling any kind of anything. I’m not scared, but I’m not thrilled either; I’m all business.
I made the trip from Phoenix, Arizona to Auckland, New Zealand in essentially 2 days. It’s 7,000 miles. For such a long trip, I kind of feel like I just floated through the whole thing. I texted my friends the entire way. I took a Benadryl/Ativan cocktail and thankfully slept for most of the trip. When I arrived, I was sweaty, uncomfortable and disoriented. Oh, and I smelled a little bit like a foot. I said fuck it and took an Uber to my hostel, since I did not want to haul my two suitcases and backpack across the city by bus. I’m cuddled up in my (unusually comfortable) bunk bed, with the rain shaking my window at regular intervals. I had paid for the 8 bunk mixed dorm, but the front desk manager took pity on me and all of my heavy luggage and gave me an upgrade to a 4 bunk room downstairs.
David is my roommate. There are two other open bunks in the room, but they sit empty for the moment. David is from France. Like David, it would appear that every French person in France has also descended on New Zealand to go skiing or some such thing. David is here to be a ski instructor. He knows some English, and attempts to speak to me about random things, while I stumble my way through French, which is really shameful, since my undergraduate degree is in French (don’t judge me, I didn’t get a lot of practice in Arizona). I walk into our heated room and say things like “god damn it is cold out there!” or “this room is so warm,” to which he responds with a blank stare and a uncomprehending “what?”
And still, it doesn’t feel like anything. Because I am missing people. I’m missing them like an amputated limb.
I miss Hunter, my best friend in the world. Hunter is my sister. I wish she were here next to me as I write this next to the window, listening to the thunder roar above us.
I miss Ryan, my warm soul. I wish he were sitting on the other side of me, just existing.
I miss my mom.
I take a walk to the grocery store. It’s a good 20 minute walk, and along the way I take in the sights and smells of Ponsonby. Basically young parents and strollers are everywhere. The streets are black with rain that falls intermittently throughout the day. Orange and yellow leaves are glued to it. One small boy is on a walk with his dad, and stops to jump into each rain puddle along the way. I nearly get hit by a car, because I’m used to looking in the opposite direction for oncoming traffic, but nobody honks at me – they merely smile and wave.
Despite my outfit of mustard yellow jeans and fire-engine red rain jacket, I don’t draw any particular attention. The last time I lived abroad, it was in South Korea, where I brought on stares any time I left the house. This time around, I’m just a face in the crowd. In an instant, even though I have no idea where I’m going and each step is unfamiliar, I feel like I live here. Like I’ve always lived here. And until I open my mouth, no one else will be the wiser.
And still I feel nothing. I’m just floating to and from.
Back at the hostel, I meet the only two non-French people in the place. Marvin, an unfortunately named Spaniard, and Miika, a kooky-looking Finn.
Marvin is from Barcelona. His dad hails from Belgium, where he has also lived for a few months, and which is why he also speaks French. With long blonde hair and the thickest eyelashes I’ve ever seen on a human being, he sits next to me on the sofa and tells me that he has arrived in New Zealand on a whim, with almost no money. He has traveled extensively through India and Nepal, and he just spent 5 months in Colombia. Giddy, I tell him about how I dream of traveling through Latin America. He smiles and tells me how cheap it is.
I attempt to walk to the small grocery store a few minutes down the road, to get an ice cream to lift my spirits, but it starts pissing rain about halfway there. Although equipped with my rain jacket, my pants and shoes are vulnerable to rain, so I turn back and decide to apartment hunt instead.
As I’m sitting in the common area, drinking my third coffee of the day, in walks Miika, a kooky-looking Finnish man in hiking boots, flared jeans, and a chartreuse-colored corduroy hat. Sorry: a chartreuse-colored, corduroy apple-style cap. Basically he looks like he just walked out of Burning Man. He walks into the common area, where I and one other person are seated at our respective laptops, surveys it, and says “hello” to no one in particular.
He later sits next to me, and strikes up a conversation. He’s reading a book about crystals and the hidden messages of water. He then invites me to walk to the library down the street. I agree, and run to the bathroom quickly where I proceed to accidentally drop my phone in the toilet. It is now sitting in a bowl of rice that a kind Frenchwoman gifted me (I assume it was a gift and she will not want the rice returned, but I’ll ask anyway).
We start walking to the library, and I, without a phone, am merely trusting his sense of direction. I warn him that I do kick ass, should he be harbouring murder-y intentions. He looks at me kind of quizzically, like such a thing never occurred to him. Maybe it hasn’t, but I still say it anyway. We discuss books. He tells me about his love for American folk music, and how he is flying back to Finland shortly, after traveling the hell around this very green country.
When I arrive back at the hostel Marvin the Unfortunate has cooked some potatoes in tomato sauce, and made me a plate. The warmth! The kindness! This guy with no money has shared his food with me; I am touched. We chat about books and cooking and his time in India while I inhale the potatoes.
Just as I’m missing my friends and family, I think of Marvin and Miika. These two dudes have been wandering around this enormous planet and found themselves on an island that is almost as far east in the world as you could possibly go. And here I am too. While I am walking around with this heaviness in my heart, missing my friends terribly and wishing they were with me, and wondering what the point of even being here is, I think about what it means to miss someone. Normally, when you miss someone, the solution is to be with them again, wherein the missing sensation disappears.
A more woke concept is that you can just be in a state of unchangeable missing. Take Chris, for example. I miss Chris all the time. What can I do about it? Just miss him. Just like grieving is this permanent state of heartache that waxes and wanes, so goes the missing of people from your life. I miss these people like a damn hole in the head, floating around, disoriented without them. What do I do? Wish they were here, acutely aware that they’re not. Wait for them to come. Make good in the meantime. The waxing is high right now. The chilly, rainy air doesn’t help. But I’m just going to miss them. I’m going to let that feeling stand on its own.
Just like this, I’m putting up an invisible Missing Persons ad.
Wanted: My loved ones.
Reward: Anything you want.