The Apia Harbor blues

Originally appeared in White Horses

Katie’s eyes moved from the boxy television, filled with pixelated green grass and a zig-zagging soccer ball, to the legions of mosquitoes on the dirty ceiling, and then back again.

That’d be right. She thought. I’ll get dengue fever on the way home. Then, Is killing mosquitoes technically vegan?

Katie had woken up on the wrong side of the bed again, literally this time (the hotel room’s bed listed severely towards the bedside table).

It was her final day in Samoa before flying home to Sydney, but she’d accidentally booked her flight a day later than her mates, who’d bailed the night before straight after their boozy dinner at a surprisingly good Chinese restaurant. Her head ached.

She’d planned on spending the day in the cheap hotel room, a little way back from the water alongside a car rental place and a servo, to watch the world cup in her undies. Her flight wasn’t until 10pm.

But the mosquitoes made her uneasy and the noisy fan did nothing to relieve the film of sweat on her skin – travel vinegar, Nick called it.

Fucksake, Katie. Don’t think about him.

She showered, the hot water stinging the still-fresh scrape on her arse from kissing the reef at Aganoa, and replayed the tubes she’d packed on the sole day the dreamy righthander had pumped.

Her make-rate was low, but she felt her backhand had improved tenfold. It wasn’t until she’d laid in bed later that night, the Vailima lagers wearing off, that the fleeting happiness waned and her mind drifted back to Nick.

She turned off the tele and hurried out of the hotel to avoid having to chat to Suzy, the jolly hotel owner, or the other guests.

She stopped at the bar and café on the marina where they’d drank mojitos the day before, hoping to grab a coffee, but found it closed. Rows of glass bottles behind the bar glinted morning sunlight across the empty tables and chairs.

Following the harbour’s edge south-west, she spotted the club they’d partied at two nights ago where she’d pashed a chiselled South African alongside the bar. Feeling queasy, she’d stumbled on to the street and walked to the hotel in the dark when the guy went for a piss.

A wise move, she’d thought, but now – alone, bored and glum in the quiet streets of a tiny South Pacific city – she wondered whether having a warm body alongside her today might’ve been wiser.

It wasn’t until she’d walked another hundred metres that she realised why the streets were so empty. Sunday. Church.

Save for a couple of cars and a teenaged Samoan sweeping the steps of a restaurant, she hadn’t spotted another human. She imagined a global catastrophe – disease outbreak or zombies – had occurred overnight while she slept, wiping out most of the population, but leaving her, a heartbroken twentysomething prone to feeling sorry for herself, to roam the streets alone.

Katie forced herself to snap out of it. She took a deep breath and took in her surroundings. Her muscles ached from surfing uncrowded reefbreaks, tropical sun warmed her back and she was young and healthy with a family back home that loved her, that’d welcome her with her tail between her legs when she told them she was going to go back to uni. Again. She scolded herself for being so ungrateful.

Nonetheless, when she reached the front of the imposing white and sky-blue cathedral and heard the beautiful harmonies of the churchgoers’ singing, she had to hold back tears. Why exactly, she didn’t know. Theirs was a spirituality and purpose she didn’t understand, but knew she lacked in some crucial way. She pressed on along the harbour.

When she finally found a place that was open – a cute café beckoning like a mirage in the midst of an otherwise deserted CBD – she ordered the biggest coffee they sold and sat down at a high timber table with the Samoa Observer in front of her.

She only got through a page or two, however, before she pulled out her phone – which she’d avoided so diligently all week – and turned it on.

A minute passed before a staccato of beeps woke her from a stupor, as a weeks’ worth of messages pinged from a tower somewhere to her phone, the screen cracked in a million places.

The most recent began, Hey not sure why you won’t turn on your phone but we need to talk. I’m so sorry and I didn’t want it to turn out like this.

She stopped reading, placed her phone screen-down on the table, resisting the urge to chuck it into the glassy harbour, and sipped her coffee.

Soon she’d be back in her hotel room, filled with bloodsucking good-for-nothings – like Nick, she thought, and she smiled.