I picked her up at Swashbucklers – a waterfront favourite in Auckland. She was flushed and happy – it was spring down under and the silly season (Christmas etc) had commenced. I waited a few minutes and was getting a bit grumpy about the wait. Finally, she slipped into the back seat. I greeted her and said “Good night out?”
“Still going” she said “I need to do a quick change and head out again – and like a movie star starts zhuzzing herself in the back seat. She had long, blonde hair and she was wearing a headband. Her name was Alice. “Ah” she says “I need to stop at home, can you take me?”
“Love to” I said “but you need to change up the app”
“Done” she said “I’ve been out celebrating”
“So I see” I said, predictably.
“No” she said, “You don’t understand. I’ve just bought a boat and that’s the tradition.”
“Oh!” I said “Congrats! What a wonderful thing!
“Thanks” she said “There were all these games etc, that we had to do”
I paused and then said, (Because she is a very cute girl) “Are you sure the Salty Dogs weren’t just having some fun?”
“Could be” she said “but I’m just really happy to have got the boat”
We started chatting about the boat and I mentioned that I’d been thinking about getting one to live aboard, learn about sailing etc. Trying to get some clarity around my next steps.
She said “You know, that’s great. Part of the reason that New Zealand has such a problem with alcohol is that people are bored.”
“How so?” I asked.
“Well, it’s just so easy to meet up with friends, have a bunch of drinks and get really close. But when you go sailing, you can still have drinks and that super friendly feeling, but get some exercise, some fresh air and still be able to walk at the end of the night. Think about it- for the price of smoking for the year you can buy a decent boat.”
“You are preaching to the choir honey!” I said. I had quit smoking a few months prior and thought yeah. This really is true when cigarettes are almost $25 a pack. It sure adds up.
She leapt out of the car into the house and I waited. I noticed there was a cool fountain in front of the house – which was an old villa.
She ran back out and decided to sit in the front seat, after asking if that was okay. I waved her in and then she said “Did you notice the fountain?” “Yes” I said, “but I couldn’t really see the details in the twilight”. “Oh” she said “It’s an Alice in Wonderland fountain” “Huh” I asked “What makes it so?”
“There are figures from the story on the fountain and then in the house we all of sorts of memorabilia” she said. “There’s an Alice sculpture in the house too”
I looked at her again, tripping on the fact that the resemblance was not at all accidental.
She said “Boats shouldn’t be left alone – if you’d like to stay on my boat sometimes, let me know”
“Sure” I said pulling up to her destination, still bemused. “Sure”
I don’t have her number.