go back home
It's a town of alpine perfection, icing sugar frost, crumpled tissue snow and ice thick as a boiled lolly skittering and skidding over the sides of the road and on top of the Remarkables. The pubs are heavy, wooden, and warm with mulled wine, lamb shanks and creamy mussels. The bakery is open all morning and night long. In the middle of July, it feels like Christmas.
I came here with a friend I've known since I was twelve. She was back in town after years abroad. I can hear her little camera whirring and buzzing, astounded by the beauty everywhere we looked; Queenstown, Arrowtown, Glenorchy, the Remarkables and the road to Milford. During the trip, she was so confident, decisive, and in control; her hair so straight, her make-up just so.
I think of those awkward, growing-up years we shared; crashing her family road trips me squashed in the backseat between her and her youngest brother, endless rounds of table tennis in a timeshare in Taupo, the first flat we shared which was so cold at night we'd see our breath in the air. We hosted parties with vodka jellies and a giant trifle made in the vegetable bin, we watched tv with bad reception and ate a mountain of five minute microwave brownies. A couple of times, we led a pub crawl for international students at university and ended up with a lot of random German exchange student friends whom we adored but forgot as soon as they left to go back home.
When she left to go back to London, I cried into my hands, sitting in the car outside the airport. It felt like she was taking my childhood with her. It took this moment of travel to realise the full weight of the meaning behind the phrase
you can't ever go back home.