I pack my bags, lock Juniper up, and climb into a longboat headed for Gizo. Everything aches, even my eyeballs. The boat ride exists inside a swirl of rain. I arrive, dog wet, and walk to the Gizo hotel- it’s not far from the only hospital this side of the Solomons.
My flight is in two days and I need to heal. I’m not heading home yet. First I’ll spend a few weeks on a friend’s boat in the central province. I need someone else to be the captain right now. Did you hear that? I can’t be the captain. Not right now. Not with the fairies hunting my body down. Not with all the computer work I need to do to prep for the race. Not now. Not now. Not now. I want somebody else to make all of my decisions that do not involve the Golden Globe. I want somebody else to look at the wind. I want somebody else to think about the anchor. I want somebody else to take the helm and steer this ship.
I’m at the hotel about to check in and I haven’t eaten in 17 hours and I’ve just realized that I left my passport on Juniper which is 12 nautical miles away. I start running all over town looking for a boat to swing me back by Junie. The sun is disappearing. I’m passing all the betel nut tents with their loose cigarettes and dodging the puddles of red spit that surround them. And the fairies are following me and some of them have samurai swords and one has a mouth full of fanged gold teeth. They want to eat me!
Now I’m at a fuel dock. It’s a dark wooden shed at the end of a pier filled with fuel drums stacked high. Boys are rolling drums down the dock. The boat drivers are all greedy. Everybody is greedy. They want $100s upon $100s to take me. I’m talking to the most god-like man I’ve ever laid eyes on. He looks like he could make miracles happen. A walk on water type of guy. Big and muscular all over, dark skin, long dreads pulled back in a pony tail, Rasta-style clothes, legs like tree trunks. I would like him to move my mountains. “I can’t pay you that much! I’m sick. I forgot my passport in Liapari. I need it and a miracle,” I tell him.
God-man feels bad for me. He starts talking to the boat drivers on my behalf. He’s negotiating. He’s making calls. He’s haggling. I see a guy with his two kids in a painted blue wooden canoe that’s got a 15 horsepower engine. I say, “What about that guy.” I hear the god-man tell the canoe-man that I need my passport and the canoe man agrees to take me for a fair price. I get in the canoe. I’m scared of the way it rocks.
The god-man sees my face and says, “Are you afraid?”
I say, “Yes! Is this thing safe?”
God-man says, “Yes”
I say, “Why did you tell the driver that I needed my passport?” God-man says, “Why not? It’s the truth.”
I say, “Tell him I want his kids to come with us.” I figure a father wouldn’t do anything horrific in front of his kids.
Then I say, “My life is in your hands god-man. If anything happens to me, it’s on you .”
God-man says, “No your life is in that man’s hands,” as he points to the driver.
Gosh darn the god-man is smart too. I really dig him. His look. His edge. His vibe. He could start a cult. I imagine he has many wives and children scattered throughout the world.
The ride out to juniper feels like I’m on some carnival ride without the cotton candy because the swell is hitting us from the side and the canoe is all wibble-wobble, but the journey back to Gizo is pleasant. In fact I’m deeply impressed by the way canoe can cut into the waves. It’s very smooth. Very very very smooth.
I get back to Gizo right at dark. The doctor is long gone. I go to the hotel restaurant and take full advantage of the fact that I’m sick and can eat whatever the heck I want. A whole pizza, salad, cake, ice cream, I eat it all and it all comes back up, so I eat some more.
When you meet a storm it’s best to put on your seashells and face it. Don’t you think darling?
In any case, I’m sick, but I’m not as sick as I was in Haiti when I had two parasites simultaneously at war in my stomach that made my waking life supernatural. Or Ethiopia when I had cholera beyond the time of love. Oh and then there was Nepal and who knows what I had there, but I ended up in a hospital bed next to a lot of near death looking people and I begged for water and the nurses would grab half-drunk bottles of water from the almost dead people’s bed side tables and bring it to me, but I wasn’t desperate enough to drink it. I was model thin when I returned from all those countries, twenty pounds of me vanished like twilight as if I’d been on some miraculous 1980’s diet.
Now it’s morning and raining. I’m at the hospital which very well could be a prison. The nurse just pricked my finger and squeezed some blood out and put it on a tester. Tick-tock. Yeehaw I don’t have malaria. The nurse says I have to see the doctor but I can’t see the doctor without a medical card- which is a paper booklet with my name on it that is used by the doctor to document my medical story. I buy the book, put the book in a brown paper box, and wait for someone to pick it up and call my name.
Tick tock. I’m with the doc. He’s wearing a mask and speaking soft. He asks me all sorts of questions. I answer. Wait, you might want to close your eyes before you read the next part. Are they closed? Good.
The doc asks, “Have you seen any worms come out of you?” I could vomit right then. “No,” I say. “Is that a thing that can happen?” Good god-man where are you now with your miracles.
The doc tells me they are running out of tests so the lab can’t check to see what exactly I have. It could be bacterial or fungal or fairy-al. He says whatever it is, I got it from the water. I say, “But doc I’m only drinking rainwater fresh from the sky.” He says then he doesn’t know why, maybe from the vegetables at the market. He gives me pills to treat every type of thing and I pop them all at once.
There is the up and down of that day and me eating like a horse. Then there is a sleep that comes easy on dry land. I run into the doctor at the market the next day. I don’t recognize him without his mask and he has to chase me down to have a conversation. He’s very short and he picks his nose the entire time we speak- one nostril then the next.
Now I’m at the airport which is on it’s own island. I’m waiting for the plane and this lady is showing me how to chew betel nut. You take the nut and bite it, then stick another piece of tree in your mouth, then you shove some lime in there. But it’s not the fruit kind of lime, it’s burnt to powder coral or limestone, that’s the lime. I said, “Wait, your eating stones and tree nuts?” She’s chewing on it all as she says, “Yea, it feels like a drug.”
All around me people are eating reef!
The door to the twin otter is closing. A man red spits out the door just before it does. The stewardess locks it. It’s hot, so hot. There’s no toilet. What if the jealous fairies are onboard? I’m panicking. Full blown. I’ve never had this feeling on a plane before. Where is God-man? I imagine the ocean. I’m on the ocean. I’ll be on the ocean again soon. I’m fine wherever I am, as long as the water is on my face and the wind is in my hair.