We lie in our fale staring out to sea. Doing nothing, and doing it well. A line as straight as a blade separates sea from sky. So long, it stretches from the corner of one eye to the opposite corner of the other. Too much to absorb in one glance. I have to swivel my head from left to right, then right some more to picture a cursor coursing its length. The Pacific horizon: boundary between the world’s greatest ocean and heaven’s emptiest sky. Untouchable and intangible, the longest line on Earth.
I try to work out how much water is out there, at least as far as I can see. The distance to the horizon is probably several miles, maybe even twenty or thirty, but once there, a new horizon will always appear to take the old one’s place. And another and another, an infinity of horizons all the way west, as multitudinous as there are possible sunsets at the end of any one day. The ocean is limitless, and deep too, four thousand metres black. The dimensions grow expansive, boundless, frightening. We are two microbes crouching at the feet of a drowning monster.
“What do you think you’ll miss the most about here?” Unaware of our peril, Kate glances over at me.
“When we go home?”
“Yeah.” She shifts her gaze to the fale roof, a much more contained structure of timber and iron, and one or two sand mounds that might be crabs. “So what will you miss?”
“I don’t know.” I tear my thoughts away from infinity and think instead of the chill of Wellington, a place that seems as foreign at the moment as anywhere else. “Maybe the warmth, being able to go snorkelling every day. And watching the sea.”
“You can do that at home, down on the south coast.” She rolls over, one lazy eye still on me.
“Won’t be the same as here.” I can’t explain. The sea will be darker, and the horizon greyer, broken up, hardly a line. Different, yet in its own way, magnificent and scary too.
“So what won’t you miss?”
“All the noise, the heat in the afternoon, the crap internet.” This time I don’t have to think. So many things tip on my tongue: the lack of salad ingredients, of western music, of feeling that we fit in. “So what about you? What will you miss?”
“The warmth.” She stares back at the ceiling. Maybe those little mounds are crabs, waiting to pincer us in the dead of night.
“Maybe the slow pace, the sea and the scenery. Watching the sun go down. Life here is so cruisey.” Her eyes move to the sea again.
“So what won’t you miss?”
“The noise. The feeling of not being safe in Apia at night.”
“The TV, least not having anything to do at night. The distance sometimes between Samoans and palagis, especially ones who don’t speak good English, I’m not going to miss that.”
I think about her answer, knowing what she means. There is a distance sometimes, however smiley and friendly and helpful the Samoans might be. A distance of attitude, of urgency, of thousands of years of culture on both sides. A distance that pitchs and waivers, depending on the circumstances. And in some ways becomes as daunting as those thousands of miles of water, all the way to the Pacific horizon, and beyond.