It was Suicide Awareness Week in Rarotonga when we arrived. I talked to the people at the market stall and looked at their pamphlet. It said:
'Stop. Your Family Cares. Your Friends Care. We Care'. Think. Of One person you can trust. Talk. To someone.'
I hope that is true. I think that many suicidal people feel nobody cares. They feel very alone. It is a bit of a cliché, trouble in paradise. Gaugin it ain't. But it never is. Emotional difficulties are universal.
Rarotonga was bijou. There is one road that circles the island. Tourists hire scooters and we hired a small car. You can just go round and round from resort to resort. I thought I was in the Truman Show. None of it was real, it was all being rolled out in front of me just as I approached it. The same people, again and again. Hello Mr Brown! There's the lady in the straw hat, and the muscular guy on the bike, and the sleeping dog. I got wise. I figured I was in the Truman show when I realised I was the only one who ever did a U turn. Everyone else just goes round and round, in the everlasting sunshine.
We trekked in the forested centre, and went looking for marae, which in the Cook Islands means sacred sites, places where important meetings were held or rituals performed. Since the advent of Christianity, people moved from the forest to the coast at the request of the missionaries. Now the marae are abandoned and they appear as rock-rimmed platforms.
We stayed in a back packers', and the young people there were preloading with strange Finnish spirits bought in plastic bottles. They went off to their pub crawls on the neon bus. The wind was constant and strong. The third night it seemed worse, and things were banging around. I fitfully dreamed about trying to rescue people I cared about from a tsunami. And I dreamed a whole new word I made up. Hrodlhrafn. It means an important thing left behind.
Here are two hrodlhrafn from my life.
The first one is soap left in a pension in Istanbul. I left it in the shower and when I went back for it, it had plainly been stolen by the guy who had the shower after me. I confronted him on the stairs and he didn't deny it. He didn't give it back either.
The second one is a cellphone left in Melaka. It went on to have adventures of its own. It went all the way from Melaka in Malaysia to Waziristan. Then someone used it as a phone box, and we got a bill for, eventually, $8000. The bills were so big they arrived in A4 envelopes. I was appalled by the cost, of course, but fascinated by the circumstances. I wanted Vodafone to sponsor a trip to Waziristan, where I would trace the travels of the phone. I would wander around in a burka like a little Pacman ghost, and learn all about these fabulous cultures, and when I found the person who had the phone I would find out about their life.
Of course my hrodlhrafn is something someone else might find. If found, it is called a karrnhrafn. I made that up too, but not in a dream.
After three days in Rarotonga, we went to Mauke.