Ted’s standing at the top of the stairs as I drag my cycling stuff back to up to the appartment. He’s grown bigger, or else I’ve shrunk. And perhaps I have. Pushing up all those hills, I must have burned off a few hundred calories of sweat.
“You’re back then?” Ted stares at me with lazy brown eyes.
“What does it look like?” Apia was already getting to me: the heat, the noise, the taxi-drivers. Kate had kindly picked me up from the ferry and driven me back. “You think I might be a ghost or something? I wasn’t ever going to come back, I was going to disappear on the big island?”
“I’m just saying.” Ted inhales deeply. There’s so much of him, no-one can squeeze past. “Was it good?”
“Fantastic. You should try it sometime.” Although I know he won’t. Exercise and Ted live in different streets.
“Maybe I will.” He grins, the remains of a doughnut between his teeth. “I hear you can get these e-bikes. Take all the hard work out of the hills.”
“You still have to pedal. Move your feet up and down.” I make a motion with my hands. I’m being hard on him, I know, but after nearly a week of not having to think about him and Teresa, let alone talk to them, I’d started to hope they didn’t exist. Not in Samoa anyway. They should have gone home weeks ago. Mid-September, they’re still in Apia. Next door.
“Hello stranger!” Their appartment door scrapes open, and Teresa pokes short blonde curls out. She’s had her hair cut. “You survived then? The dogs didn’t get you?”
“No. Fortunately, their barks are worse than their bites.”
“They didn’t bite then?” Ted bares strawberry teeth at me, trying to be funny..
“No. That’s what I’ve been saying.” Sometimes I wonder if Ted should be humanely put down. He’s worse than a dog, how he’s always lounging on the sofa with his tongue hanging out. He never goes for a walk and he easily eats half his body weight in chips everyday.
“You know, you can get rabies from dog bites.” Teresa pulls a lemon face to go with her new hair. “You wouldn’t catch me riding a bike over here, the hospitals ain’t going to be able to do anything.”
“I don’t think the hospitals are too bad.” Kate steps up behind me, carrying the rest of my cycling gear. “The one here in Apia looked quite modern.”
“They’re too poor to afford treatment though,” says Teresa.
“I’m not sure they have to pay for everything,” says Kate. “And there’re lots of public health camapaigns too, against smoking, drink-driving, obesity.”
“Ha! Fat lot of use those are. I’ve seen some real lard-arses walking around town!” Ted guffaws.
I wish the corridor had a mirror, or a sheet of reflective glass. Something to remind Ted of his profile. Although he must glimpse himself in his bathroom mirror sometimes. And surely even Teresa wouldn’t be so patronising in private.
“Anyway, I didn’t get bitten.” I have to blow my own trumpet. With Ted and Teresa, even seventy-six trombones will never be loud enough. “Or fall off. Or get my fingers caught in the chain. I made it all the way around. A hundred and eighty kilometres in total.”
“How much?” Ted scratches his enormous paunch.
“A hundred and eighty.”
“Like darts?” His eyes widen.
“Yeah, like darts.”
I pull out my key, roll my eyes at Kate, and unlock the door to our apartment. Inside the temperature swelters, the air-con off, all the windows closed. Home sweat home, our own little sauna in the heat of Apia.
Perhaps cycling up those hills wasn’t so bad. Up, down, up, down, around and around. One big anti-clockwise circle around Savai’i. Zero resemblance to darts.