Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

You might think Britney Spears on the iPod while crossing New Zealand’s majestic bays via ferry towards Waiheke Island some kind of sacrilege — but let me assure you, my friends, it is a beautiful (life affirming) combination, the sacred and the profane.

Auckland, the third time through now (you can’t fly anywhere in the vicinity without first passing through it first), feels Seattle-like, being a port town, and clean; green. Cotton clouds of every shade of grey and silver hover overhead, threatening rain.

Is it because we’re on the upside-down end of the Earth? The zippers are on the left, the fridge door opens to the left, the toilet — of course — flushes counter-clockwise, and my mother hands my father the cash. (In the states, she calls him “DTM” for Dave’s Teller Machine.)

I lose weight the more I eat, I’m painting more than I write, and the more time I spend with my parents quirks and idiosyncrasies, the more that I love them; everything down under flows the other way.

Maybe that’s why I find myself retreating. When usually I want to clamor after life like a shark after chud (“what’s next? What’s next?”), I feel like the longer I am in NZ and the Cooks, the less I want to get back to my life.

Perhaps that’s the definition of vacation: just like the theatre, there must be an element of ‘suspension of disbelief’, where we can let ourselves temporarily believe there is no reason this cannot continue. We swim and nap the days away, in this almost too-beautiful place, this blue sea / green jungle / white sand / tall palm / humid island wonderland, as if we are living a postcard, pretending that here is some sort of normal existence.

How are we doing this? By not remembering. That is how anyone does anything that requires delusion, which is most things. We snorkel and look at the pretty fish and laugh like school children as we splash in crystal waters; we are happy and there is nothing bad back home waiting for us.

But of course there is. I know this, and my parents know this, and in all likelihood everyone who is anyone, who is everyone, knows that there is always something bad waiting back home, which is why we loathe returning to the places where we are supposed to be.

For us, it is our loss. Every nap we are sleeping off grief. Every flowery cocktail we are asking the rum and coconut to make our minds forget. But these things only work while we are away, and somewhere deep at our watery depths we know that while there is three here in this sunny paradise, there should be four.

It’s hard not to notice that my brother should be here with us, but for another week, it’s our job to pretend.

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