America Is Closer Than You Think

It’s not just the mainland.

A gentle tap on our door. Seven o’clock in the morning, both of us lying in bed.

“Quick! Quick! Can you get it?” Kate struggles on my right, an untangling of bedclothes equal only to Hercules’ slaying of the Hydra. “Hurry, hurry. It might be important!”

I start to pull on my clothes, but she beats me to it. I hear the click of the lock, a long swish of the door runner, then a soft voice talking. I guess it’s one of the cleaning ladies returning our laundry. We always hand over a bagful of dirty clothes on Wednesday. And receive the same items back Thursday, washed, dried and folded.

Kate rummages through the clean T-shirts and undies, a rare frown on her face. “You didn’t pack a tie, did you?” She dangles an official looking blue and red striped tie, the kind of neck-candy a TV sports commentator would wear. “Or this?” She hoists a striped red and blue sheet above her head: a United States of America flag.

“What the!” I stare in disbelief. “Have they given us the right bag?”

“Yes.” She drops the flag and holds up her favourite black shirt instead. “All our stuff’s here. Plus these few extras.” Now she holds up a pink tie. “You sure you didn’t bring these? In case we had to go to an interview with immigration for the visa extensions or something?”

“I wouldn’t wear a pink tie! Or a striped one either.” Too public school. Too city slicker. “And why the hell would I bring an American flag?”

“I don’t know.” She looks away, then back. “Maybe you thought we might go to American Samoa. It’s not far.”

Lady Naomi – ferry to American Samoa.

“Yes, I know.” The American part of Samoa is just over a hundred kilometres away. Less than forty minutes by air, seven hours by ferry. “At least we’re not in the vicinity of Guam.”

“Where?”

“Somewhere you don’t want to go at the moment.” I’d already googled a map of the Western Pacific. Guam is a reassuring five and a half thousand kilometres away.

“Whatever!” She drops the ties on the floor, then the flag.

“Maybe there’s a diplomat staying here.” I remember the Sunday when we’d accidentally swum past the new US Ambassador. “A third or fourth level substitute in case the main negotiations fail.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Kate shakes her head. “But at least our stuff’s here, not in someone else’s bag.”

“Yes.” I laugh. “Imagine your undies turning up at the embassy. Or in the diplomatic bag.”

“Now that’d be a dag.” Kate retrieves the ties from the floor, stuffs them into her suitcase. “Maybe we should hang onto them.  Give them to the cuzzies for Christmas.”

“And the flag?”

“The Stars and Stripes?”

“Yeah.”

“Dunno.”  She picks it up and holds it out at arms length.  “I guess now we’ve won the America’s Cup, I could wear it as a lavalava.”

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