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November 28, 2023:
My luggage still didn’t arrive, so we went to the money exchange so I could change out my American dollars for New Zealand ones. Afterwards, we got some breakfast at an American diner so I could get my french toast fix. They made it perfectly soggy. Orange Man and I sat across from each other and laughed a lot for no reason. It felt tickling to be in his presence and to see his face in person again. I found it was easy to be myself around him, always have. It seemed I could joke with him and laugh a lot, as if it was effortless. I thoroughly enjoyed how calm he was as well, so quiet and grounded. I was incredibly drawn to that energy.
“How much do we tip here?” I asked.
“We don’t do that here, mate,” he said.
“Oh, they get paid normally here, unlike America,” I said.
I thought it was the weirdest thing and it felt super odd to walk out without leaving a tip.
Afterwards, we hit up some outdoor stores to get some freeze dried meals and backpacking gear. Orange ended up getting a switchback mat as well. Then, he had the idea of taking us on a scooter ride. We decided to both share one! It was so much fun! We cruised around Christchurch, around the forest park and at one point we even ran into an inflatable tube man that blocked our path. The older folk would watch us jet by and shake their head in disapproval. Others would give us a head nod and a chuckle.
I took in the various mural artwork throughout the city, one being a large detailed piece of a ack cat. I went up close to figure out what medium it was and how they made such detailed strokes. Then, we stopped at the Bohemian Bakery to grab some croissants and a warm cookie. I couldn’t get over how beautiful NZ money looked, it was as if it was fake. It was extremely colorful and had pictures of their native birds and mushrooms. It also had a plastic kine texture to it rather than flimsy paper that I was used to.
We went grocery shopping at Countdown, walked around the whole store gathering what we needed for the beginning of our trip. I thought their food was a bit weird, such like pancakes in a plastic bag and cooked corn on a cob vacuum sealed in plastic.
We made it home to the Airbnb and I laid on the floor to work on some writing while a hunting show was playing in the background. Orange started going through his pack and pulled out a butchering knife with an orange handle on it, proudly showing it off. I laughed out loud.
“Of course,” I said, not at all surprised.
“Can cook onions with it,” he said.
“You’re going to cook onions?” I asked.
“Yeah, why nawt?” he asked.
I was still in complete shock as to how he went from ultralight to as heavy a pack as possible. Now, he was planning on carrying onions, a metal drink canister and various beard brushes.
Suddenly, Voodoo reached out to me with pictures of us on the AT, saying he didn’t have the heart to look through the photos on his camera until now. My heart sunk as my energy dropped drastically. My surroundings became fuzzy. I looked at Orange and it was as if he became a blurry image. My stomach churned and I didn’t feel like myself.
Why does he have to reach out right when I start to feel as if I’m having an uplifting experience? I thought to myself.
I went to my room for a bit and laid down. I closed my eyes and took a breath. I prayed to the Holy Spirit for He knew the conflicting energies I was feeling. Out of habit, I longed so much to respond to Voodoo and keep our relationship going even if it meant it was complete shit, because at least it was something. But at the same time, and probably most importantly, I remembered how much it hurt. I recalled the feeling and how often I prayed to be released from it. And did I really want to accept breadcrumbs instead of a feeling of true safety/stability?
I was still having a very difficult time forgiving him because I viewed him as a grown adult who should be able to establish self-awareness. For instance, I was aware of my seduction habits and the manipulative behavior I used on men, so I didn’t feel there was any excuse for not acknowledging one’s patterns. Well, I guess there was a point in my life where I wasn’t necessarily aware. I knew that I was apparently doing those things per se, but I wasn’t consciously asking deeper questions and wanting to deepen my understanding, let alone change.
I noticed the tendency to feel as if I was responsible for his feelings. I always felt I could kiss him and whisper sweet words to him just to lighten his mood, even if just for a moment. The problem was that it was wishful thinking on my part. That kind of hope was fleeting and unrealistic and it was time for me to accept that.
I saw the pattern. I played it out in my mind. I gently received discernment for the situation. I knew I would only be receiving a momentary rush by responding and that we would be in the same energetic dance again. It would feel good to have that connection for a second, but the pain that would follow from his distance/disappearance would send me into a further feeling state of depression. That was the gift right there—to simply recognize that and take a leap of faith in a direction that felt unfamiliar.
And so a miracle occurred upon the recognition. Orange Man suddenly knocked on my door to let me know his childhood friend Thomas was on his way to pick us up and drive us around town to show us some things.
I snapped out of the sadness and got up to get ready, my energy being led towards something that actually felt good. We started driving and Thomas pointed out all of the traffic cones scattered alongside a work vehicle. There were around 20 surrounding it and another 20 covering the rim of the truck including the roof and front trunk.
“Something about Christchurch is there are cones everywhere for no reason,” he said, “they’re probably doing one job there and they covered the entire area in cones.”
“I love cones,” I said, “I used to collect them.”
“She also has a huge fetish for pinecones,” Orange Man chimed in.
“It’s true,” I said.
We went to a beach to watch some surfers, then called the missing baggage customer service people while sitting in the parking lot. At that point, annoyance crept in. I became frustrated speaking with customer service throughout the entire day. Every time a new person answered the phone, I had to repeat the same story whereas the problem could’ve been taken care of right away like they said it would be. It seemed as if nothing got taken care of until I actually voiced my frustration. I noticed a pattern of getting annoyed when people didn’t listen to me the first time I expressed something.
We went to another beach and stared at the coast. I saw a pinecone close by so I excitedly hopped off the sidewalk into the sand and ran to pick it up. I held it up for the boys as I pointed out its impeccable beauty, reminding me of a mini Christmas tree.
“It looks disabled,” Orange commented.
“Stop!” I said as I cupped its petals. “It can hear you.”
He apologized and we named it Aaron.
A massive wind came out of nowhere forming a mini sandstorm, nearly toppling me over. Orange was in the midst of what seemed to be a cyclone. Rain followed.
“IS THIS NORMAL?!” I yelled over the sound of the roaring winds, attempting to cover myself up from the whips of the piercing sand.
“Yep,” he said, casually standing through it.
We ran back to the car for shelter after I voiced being cold. Then, Thomas dropped us off in the town center and I interlocked my arms with Orange to stay warm. We walked over a bridge to a local burger place and Orange Man got us a couple of meals with an appetizer of heavy loaded fries. I felt really grateful that he took such good care of me. I told him how it felt really nice, especially after arriving into a new country I hadn’t been in before. We sat down at the end of an old school pick up truck that they transformed into a table and we ate away.
We made it back home and plopped down on the couch as we munched on some pull and peel twizzlers.
“We call these raspberry licorice,” he said.
I gave him a look that suggested I thought it was cute.
“So we hitchhike tomorrow?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Just end up where we end up?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said with a smile as I pulled apart another twizzler.
“So the TA was your first thru, yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
Orange was a big guy when he attempted his first thru. He never even had the intention of losing weight on trail, but after he came home from the hike his family said he was a completely different person, both physically and mentally.
“What does Te Araroa mean?” I asked.
“The Long Path,” he said.
“What inspired you to do it?”
“My life was shit. I was always drawn to the wilderness but I never had the courage to just go. Until one day I did.”
He spoke of his experience getting hypothermia and the challenging water crossings he faced on trail. His mind pondered on memories as I saw the battles he went through that only his eyes could tell.
Spending time with Orange has been helping me see that there were calm men in my life I could surround myself with. He was such a good guy. And then I compared him to Voodoo.
What was with me? I thought to myself.
I was truly trying to understand why I would drop so many things for someone who wasn’t good for me.
Why was I attracted to people such as Voodoo?
Why was I attracted to men who didn’t give a shit about me?
Why did I find it hard to be attracted to nicer, more honest men?
It was as if I was being pulled in two different directions. I desired stable relationships, yet I was still focused on the unstable ones. I could feel shifts occurring, though, gears turning in my body and mind. Everything had been feeling so confusing, wavering and unsure. I didn’t know where my body was being headed, but I could feel it was towards something great.
The bag department called to inform us that my bag had arrived at the airport. Orange asked if I wanted to put on his rain jacket to stay warm during the drive. I nodded yes and threw it over myself.
“It looks good onya,” he said, “it was meant for you.”
He got us an Uber there to pick it up. I hugged my bag when I saw her. I felt reunited after receiving some separation anxiety.
When we made it back home, I showed him everything that was in my pack, one by one. Hikers loved doing that shit. It felt fun to see what each hiker carried. It felt like Christmas pulling out items from various ditty bags. By the time I was done, everything was sprawled out on the carpeted floor and I felt too tired to clean it up right then and there so I saved it for the morning time.