We flew the budget airline. My father blithely strolled through customs, waving cheerfully at the guards who waved cheerfully back, took our fingerprints but asked us almost nothing. When we checked in at the hotel, he started pulling half-open packets of biscuits, chocolate, candy, piles of muesli bars?even a chicken wing?out of his bag. ?In case I got hungry!? he said. The fridge is now stuffed with food we?re struggling to eat.
In the car, we passed the hospital, a church, open gardens. A man sat on a park bench, asleep, head bowed, next to a shopping trolley full of plastic bags and a sign that read ?SUNDAY WORSHIP: 9am. 11:30am. ALL WELCOME.?
The beach is bright but a heavy fug clings to the mountains. It rains so much in the hills that the Ala Wai Canal was built to drain the tourist district of Waikiki. The beachfront resorts cluster at the water?s edge, trying to elbow each other out of the way. A week in this hotel feels like an indulgence, but I heard people in the lift talking about how they?ve been here for months. Their skin, which I?m sure was once almost as white as mine, has turned a deep mahogany brown?one layer of sunburn over another.
I went walking. A homeless man was sleeping by the corner door of Tiffany?s. A dead mouse lay beside him. I walked past slowly, feeling off-kilter. A little further down the road, scrawled on a wall: ?DEVELOPMENT IS GRAFFITI.?
Afternoon winds threaten a storm but don?t deliver. Emergency vehicles screaming sirens hurtle past at regular intervals. My jokes fall limp in the humidity. Our cocktails are poured on land that was once rice paddies. Before that, swamp.
In the Northern Territory, they always said the build-up turned the locals mad. On Oahu, madness is people in hibiscus-print shirts scrambling over each other for the chance to stuff their faces with deep-fried potatoes. Madness is men and women, towel-corner to towel-corner, lined up in rows along the hard sand, trying to change the colour of their skin. Madness is that oil slick formed by a sunken, corroded battleship tomb and the way we flock to pay money to see it. Madness is this food, which seems to be like this city: made only of excess. I?m afraid that if I?m not careful, if I stay too long, the grease will start to congeal on my skin.