It takes me two days to gather enough strength to blow up my dinghy, Daisy, and row to shore in Fakarava.
The day we arrive, I just work and eat and sleep and call Te Mana’s mom to apologize for the rough sail that made the cousins sick. She was grateful. We didn’t speak long. Kids were screaming in the background. She teaches all the wee ones in the village.
The next day, I want to go to town, but I don’t have the energy to drag Daisy out from beneath the V-berth and blow her up. Plus the wind is strong.
I am depressed this day. I feel very alone. Blowing up Daisy would be easier if another person was here. Filling my fuel tanks would be easier. Working on the engine would be easier. Many things on a sailboat would be easier with another person. Then again, other things could be more complicated with another person here. Like my creative things and working things.
I ride out the feeling. Let myself wrap like a roly poli bug around it, but don’t dare let it pickle me. One should never let a feeling pickle them, unless that feeling plays a high note.
I eat a lot of bad food this day too. I look at my salad greens and then the potatoes and I really just want a pizza, but what do I do? I fry the freaking potatoes, not bake, fry! Like somehow eating fried junk will make my feel less junky.
Thursday morning, I wake up with wings. The day has a dry heat, but I work fast for work. I blow up Daisy in between. I gather my trash, my water jugs, my gas can, my precious money things. I sit inside Daisy. I watch the wind disarrange the water. I listen to it’s wild wolf cries. I practice rowing against it while still tethered to Juniper. I see where on shore I might get blown. I say a prayer. I wait 30 more minutes. I give myself a pep talk. I let go of Juniper and row.
I have to row because my gas is old. Plus, to be honest, I can’t lift my outboard and stick it on Daisy with only my two hands. It’s heavy. It will end up at the bottom of the water or worse, puncturing a whole in the floor of Daisy. I know I could use a halyard to help, but it’s still tricky.
I make it to the dinghy dock in 15 minutes. I tie on. I walk on land. I’m jelly. The fuel station is right there. I require the help of a French man to explain that the gas in the can is old and I need to empty it before filling it. The gas station attendant pours the old gas into a water bottle. It’s turned into green sludge and he makes the kind of face one makes when they smell something putrid.
I walk to the Fakarava Yacht Services. It’s a mile down. There are evergreens and palms and sea shanties and large women in bikinis splashing in the water along the way. And of course, bicycles.
The town drunks holler at me. One of them is a 70 year old woman in a long flower dress. She speaks a perfect slur of English. Used to live in Utah. Said she was a singer and now she just likes to drink beer. I ask her to sing me a song. She does but forgets all the words after the first line, then takes a swig of beer.
I like the way Fakarava feels. Big, but small. I make it to the Yacht Services. It’s a little house down a dirt road owned by couple that’s never owned a yacht. They let you sit on their porch and use WiFi and answer all of your inane questions. I rent a bike from them.
I bike past the village, past the airport, past a woman selling shell leis from a hut on the side of the road, past coconut farmers and barking dogs, past the light house, past the point where the road turns from cement to gravel. I bike all the way to PK9. I’m looking for a special palm tree. Two men working with coconuts show me where it is. I climb it. I lay on it. I write this:
Did you stop today to hug a palm tree that grew sideways by the sea? And did you tell that palm tree that you loved it? Did you mean it when you said it? And did you notice that you loved that palm tree the most, not because of it’s coconuts, but because it was peculiar? And didn’t it’s peculiarity start to make you feel better about your own peculiarities? And as you crawled barefoot up the palm tree to let your roots roll around with it’s roots, while the sea tumbled the coral shore beneath you, didn’t something fluttering in the wind say, “Darling, being different is divine.” And right after that, didn’t you collapse onto that palm tree and further into yourself?
I come from Arkansas and I did not choose to live a life like everybody else that I know lives. I often feel like an outsider. I often feel alone. I often feel strange. I sometimes struggle to fully accept myself and there are lows and loneliness and highs and limitlessness along the way. Sometimes all I want, is to be like everybody else is. Sometimes all I want, is to grow in the same shapes that everybody else is growing in. And for some reason, this palm tree really makes me feel better about the shape of my being.
I climb down and the coconut men crack a fresh coconut for me. One of them wraps up his machete, then unwraps it again and looks at me with the sun beaming off the blade. We are in the middle of nothing’s nothing and I think he’s going to do something dirty with the machete, but all he wants is to crack my coconut fully open, so that I can eat the meat.
The three of us bike, against the wind, back to the village. One of the men, after learning about me sailing, calls me a “champion.” Then says, “Your name is no longer Olivia, it is Vaiana Moana.” Vaiana means “sea cave” and Moana means “ocean or sea” I like it. Sea Cave Sea. Has a good ring to it. I’ll put it in my list of new names, right next to Honeybird.
I row back to Juniper with Daisy full of green pamplemousse. I row back with the wind blowing behind me. I row back before the mosquitos and moon can find me.