This is a sort of flashback post, going all the way back to November 2010. For some reason I’ve been thinking about this afternoon a lot the last couple of days. I don’t believe it carries a weighty message or moral. It’s just one of those afternoons that wedges itself in your mind like a gentle shard of glass.
Jen and I were in New Zealand, home of the friendliest, most relaxed people on Earth, country of beautiful mountains and lush forests. In an English friend’s sedan, with that same friend and our two Scottish buddies, we drove out to Mt. Manaio one weekend for a hike. Mt. Manaio is gorgeous, somewhere between a large hill and a very small mountain, the trail up including several hundred steps. We plowed up them, through the thick forest heavy in ferns and birds, and at the top our sweaty selves were rewarded with this view:
Going down was easier, and we thundered down the stairs and dirt routes with all the grace of rhinoceri. At the bottom, under the broad blue sky, we sauntered into the car park with the confidence of victorious soldiers.
There was the sedan.
There was the glass pane from the driver-side window, strewn in shards across the seat and lot.
Jen’s purse was missing, along with credit cards, her passport, and various small irreplaceable belongings. Alex’s iPod was gone. One of the guys tried to scrape the glass from the seat cushion and came away with a hand dripping in blood. We were all completely bewildered. Look at the sun! Look at the trees! Who stood under this sky and smashed in our window?
Months later, after dealing with the various inefficiencies of the NZ police force, we’d learn that they’d found Jen’s cards and identifications, rubber banded together in a drawer, in a chest of drawers, alongside the personal effects of dozens of other robbery victims. It was creepy and weird. The man was tried shortly after we returned to the US.
After making our police report, we had a long drive home ahead of us. We stopped, of course, for a beer. The bartender, sympathetic to our plight, poured us a free pitcher of some kind of cold, pale lager, and we sat by a small lake to drink it with ducks around our ankles. On the drive back, later, the sky congealed and it started to rain. I was cozied in the back between Jamie and Lewis, and we tried to arrange some kind of cover over the broken window to protect Alex and us from the cold raindrops. They leaked in a little anyway, but I squished down in the seat between the boys. This memory is so strong. The rain flying in around the jagged edges of the former window. The heavy clouds outside. The last smears of gold from a setting sun. All five of us, in sweatshirts and muddy jeans, endowed with new perspectives, heading quietly for home.