‘Are you sure?’ I look at Cindy in dismay, terror settling in my throat.
‘Yes, why not?! It’ll be an experience!’
‘It sure will be, but I doubt it’s one I want to have!’ I retort while following her up the steps onto the bus.
The trip back should take less than an hour, but I already envisage the dread we will experience being thrown all over the place by the maniac driver who is incessantly chewing on the betel mix and spitting the red paste out of his window, in the middle of the busy bus station.
We are lucky to find a seat and we cling to it for dear life. I really don’t fancy standing all the way. The music is already blaring, and the horn is sounded every so often, even if we are parked, just for good measure.
About 30 pairs of eyes are trained unblinkingly on us. I feel uneasy. Luckily - or not - we don’t have to wait long before the bus starts off. The ticket collector shouts at breakneck speed the name of the town where the journey will end. I have no idea how people understand what he says! Passengers keep streaming onto the bus, even if it is already moving, and all the street vendors jump off ready to assault the next waiting bus. We are off, and I am grateful it is still light. I don’t look at the front; I haven’t got the stomach to see all the vehicles we are hurtling toward. I choose to watch the sea on my right. The scenery is stunning.
‘Well, that wasn’t too bad!’ Cindy chirps. I beg to differ, but I keep my opinion to myself while we are trying to find a gap in the traffic to cross the street.
Greg is back already and is sipping a cool beer on his veranda. ‘Ay. How was your shopping trip?’
‘All good, thank you. How was your journey?’ I shout back, while I make my way to our room.
‘Ay. All good, lass.’
I desperately need a shower, and I’m grateful Cindy has stopped over with Greg for a while.
I burst into the room, slip off my sweaty dress and barge into the bathroom. I stand under the streaming cold water and let all the grime from the streets and the bus wash off me. I close my eyes, and I’m overwhelmed by the knowledge that this will be over very soon. Soon there will be no more interminable unscheduled time, long walks on the beach, warm, powdery sand in between my toes, ocean waves tickling my feet, blinding sun and swaying coconut trees. Soon it will be the depth of winter, naked trees, incessant lashing rain and wind. Soon there will be endless fake cheerfulness, annoying giggles, consumers frenzy and non-stop questions of where you will spend the holiday season. The last three Christmases have been traumatically empty occasions. We kept it together for Lucy’s sake, but this year is not going to be the same. Ben will be away, and Lucy will probably spend the day at her boyfriend’s mum and dad’s. I don’t blame her. I just wish I had a choice too.
Thankfully, Cindy comes in the room interrupting my downward spiral of self-pity.
‘I’m back! Cor! The mosquitoes are out with a vengeance this evening!’ She sticks her head around the bathroom door. ‘Do you know what you’re wearing tonight? Hey! What’s wrong?’
I hoped by roughing my hair dry with the towel I could distract her from my red eyes.
‘Nothing. Why?’ I don’t want to talk about it, and I certainly don’t want to spoil her evening.
‘Your eyes are red; you’ve just been crying. And you look like you could do with a cuddle. Come here.’
There is no use saying soap got into my eyes. I let myself be held for a while. It feels good to let go, and I sob a little on her shoulder. I’m grateful I don’t have to talk, I don’t have to explain why at times I feel like falling apart. Cindy understands and doesn’t judge me. She has told me so many times that it’s my right to feel like crap sometimes and it’s my right to show the world that that is how I feel. That I need to accept and embrace the bad as well as the good. So here I am, embracing this feeling of hopelessness and emptiness which engulfs me every time I think of home.
‘Things will get better. I promise.’ I so want to believe her!