There are only so many times you can politely tell someone to shut the fuck up before you actually say, “SHUT THE FUCK UP.”
Everyone has their breaking point. Actually, we all have multiple breaking points – even when it comes to things we truly love. Like how you can only ride a rollercoaster so many times before you lose that stomach-in-your-throat feeling of recklessness and simple childlike fun – eventually, it’s just another bumpy ride that leaves you with a dizzy head and a queasy stomach.
And that’s why I had to go get out of town for a couple days last week. I was getting fed up with living in a hostel and having the same conversations with basically the same German tourists every day . I was drinking too much and not being active at all – waiting for a busted ankle to heal takes ages and leads directly down a road of sessile alcoholism, not good for the body or the soul. I’d been spending almost every night drinking after-shift Waikato draught with Ofa, Kev, Malcom, Ayla, and Cath at the Marlin Bar. “Just one for the road,” became a refrain heard far too often every night.
So Tim and Suz decided I needed a vacation and gave me a couple of days off. Retrospectively, it was a really considerate and kind thing for them to do, but at the time it felt like being fired, or at least like being brushed aside. I needed a break, to be sure, but I didn’t think that people I’d known for only 3 months or less could possibly know what was best for me. I felt like everyone was conspiring behind my back to get me out of town because I’d become some sort of jaded, boozy, mopey, nuisance.
Really, they were just friends who saw that I wasn’t happy and that I needed a break. (thanks everyone. for real.)
Anyway, I took my little vacation. I packed a small backpack with some clean underwear and a fully charged iPod and walked to the end of town. As soon as I stuck out my thumb, the first car pulled over to pick me up. I hopped in and introduced myself – they were two American tourists and a British expat. The radio was blasting Andrew Bird. The perfect soundtrack for my moody getaway.
A few rides later, and after an extended stopover at a cemetery on the side of the highway (people are, for some reason, reluctant to pick up hitchhikers outside cemeteries) I was sipping wine at Maria’s awesome little house in the bush on the other side of Lake Rotorua. We had great Indian food for dinner and in the morning she cooked me French Toast. She drove me out of town and dropped me off at an intersection and I hitched across to the East Coast town of Whakatane (pronounced Fuck-a-tan-eh… seriously) where I got drunk with a couple of dairy farmers who offered me a job milking cows. We drank Jaeger-bombs and I thought of Charlotte and decided that I should head back to my hostel before I got drunk enough to try to take home the almost-cute barmaid with an overbite.
The next morning I hitched to Mount Maunganui where I ate lunch alone and read my book in the sun. The book was 11 Minutes by Paulo Coelho. It was a gift from Austrian Lisa, and it was all about sex. Really, the perfect gift for her to give me. I thought a lot about Lisa and then decided to hitchhike back to Raglan to be with my friends. There were too many rich tourists in the Mount. It was Thanksgiving day back in America, and they were cooking Turkey in Raglan.
I walked for an hour to get outside of town and it was hot and my ankle was swollen. I got a ride to a roadside fruit stand where I bought a kiwifruit and had a nice chat with the old lady behind the counter. I got a ride from a truck driver who was headed to Hamilton to pick up a load of refrigerators and other kitchen appliances. He was foul-mouthed, but friendly, and he had only one eye. He made me nervous only when he tried to respond to a text message on his mobile phone, his one eye, darting from the tiny screen to the keys to the road and back again.
I hopped out in Cambridge where I ate some Fish and Chips, drank a beer and finished my book under a tree in a park. I fell asleep and a spider crawled up my shirt and bit my stomach 5 times, leaving an itchy and inflamed trail around my belly button, almost a perfect circle.
I got a ride into Hamilton from a friendly schoolboy who had never picked up a hitchhiker before. He told me that he was envious of my life. I smiled and told him he could do anything he wanted. In Hamilton, I ran across town, hoping to make it to the road to Raglan before the sun set. I hadn’t listened to my iPod since I’d left Raglan, so I put plugged in my headphones and blasted Margot and the Nuclear So And So’s – my favorite rainy day soundtrack. It wasn’t raining.
My ankle slowed me up and I was too late – rule no. 1: no hitching after dark.
I stood on the side of the road with my thumb out, as the sun set behind me. It was the same place I’d hitched from when I first came to Raglan all those months ago. It got dark and I put on my jacket.
I went into the Woolworths and convinced the cute, but too young, checkout girls to ask everyone who came though if they were headed to Raglan. I bought some snacks and they found me a ride from a lovely girl who worked at the Maori council in Raglan. She dropped me off at the end of my street and I walked in just in time to catch the end of the Thanksgiving wine. Josh and the others had saved me a plate of food (actually it was for Julie, but she wasn’t coming, and it was still nice of them). The food was great and it was good to be home, but I felt a bit out of place.
Laura was back in town and it was nice to see her again. We drank wine and fell asleep together in her van. It was a good vacation.
The next week or so passed in a kind of blur. I slipped immediately back into the swing of things. Work at the Marlin, work at the hostel, drink at the marlin, drink at the pub, chase girls, nap in the hammock, etc. I met a girl from Ohio who looked innocent, but was secretly wild and I really liked that about her.
I went surfing for the first time in who knows how long. My ankle is fine now, but I still suck at surfing. I got pulled out by a really strong rip and couldn’t paddle in – I thought I’d have to be rescued by the lifeguard. Luckily, a monster wave came and washed me back to shore.
It felt good to feel alive again.