Tuesday 18th November
I’ve been arrested.
I think? I WISH I was kidding. I’m locked in a room so small that when I turned the page to write this I bumped my elbows on both walls. There’s a guard stood at the door almost in touching distance and I think his name might be ‘Wang’, which is appropriate because he’s wielding a big old weapon at waist level that I’m sure could do me a lot of damage.
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is… What the actual effing fuck?
We’d landed in Hong Kong no problem. Then I’d spotted an Asian woman at the gate holding a card with my name on it. Bev and Rachel had been dead impressed, thinking I’d arranged a chauffeured trip around the city before tonight’s connecting flight. I was almost entirely sure I hadn’t, but I stepped forward anyway, curious to find out what she wanted. The lady gave me a shy little bow, whispered a word into a radio on her collar and, before I knew it, three armed-policemen had appeared out of nowhere, grabbed my shoulders and were marching me away. No explanation.
I’m BRICKING it. What if they make me ‘disappear’? I’ve always hated magic.
At first, I assumed they’d arrested me because of being gay, not that it declares that on my passport or anything, but I Googled it and apparently the ban on homos entering the country was lifted in the late 1990’s when they decided that we were, regrettably, legal. I’ve since learnt that the problem is because the name on my plane ticket doesn’t exactly match the name on my passport. Ridiculous. Long story short, Rachel booked my ticket so I could sit with her and Bev, but seems to have been confused by my surname. Clearly, ‘St. John’ is too posh for a girl whose favourite sex position is, and I quote, “close to a phone-charger”. I guess it is my own fault for all the times I’ve corrected her on how to pronounce it.
“It’s not Sinjen! It’s SAINT. JOHN.”
Which, on closer inspection, is exactly how it is written on my plane ticket. I’d wondered why the customs guy at Heathrow had called me your holiness. Unfortunately, Rachel wasn’t around to help clear up the situation so I’m stuck here. In fact, the last time I saw the girls they were skipping off to McDonalds saying, “at least the food there looks safe.”
To: 'Friends & Family' Group
Subject: Hong Kong - Phooey!
Date: Tues 18 Nov - 10:37
I’m writing to you from Hong Kong airport, 5,989 miles east of where I was about thirteen hours ago.
So… let’s talk about airplane toilets. It’s not the easiest thing to do, take a poo in a room the size of a shoe box, but add the overhead lighting from hell, no wash facilities for eight time zones, and an evil flush that would whip your innards out of your arse if you don’t stand up quick enough, and you’d have the mile-high experience that I’ve had. How on earth two people are supposed to get up to anything kinky in them is beyond me. I barely had room to undo my own belt.
We’d been half-expecting our Malaysian Airways plane to be full of caged chickens and straw but it was actually surprisingly well-equipped with no poultry to be seen. I’ve never flown long-haul before, so spent much of the flight entranced by the tiny plane on the screen in front of me. It showed where we were flying in real time, and I watched it hover over a map of Western Siberia for hours. Now, I know my geography is bad, but I couldn’t have told you that Western Siberia even existed before today, and it must be huge. See? I’m learning already. The same screen kept me informed of the temperature outside, presumably in case I wanted to pop my head out for some fresh air. Not wise, seeing as we were 33,000 feet up and it was -85 degrees in the clouds. Nevertheless, Bev and Rachel spent most of the journey huddled under a blanket, grumbling that someone had left a window open.
It’s occurred to me that many of you haven’t actually met the girls before, so let me give you some background. After all, it was their dream to spend Christmas Day on Bondi Beach that persuaded me to come on this adventure in the first place.
Beverley and I started work at Corks Wine Bar on the same day, just over three years ago, and we became instant friends. I guess I’d describe her as my fag hag, and she would take that title proudly and in the spirit in which it is intended. She might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she is stunning both inside and out. Curvaceous, blond and in her early-twenties (I’ve heard her describe me the same way), she has waves of golden hair, a kind heart, and a crooked smile that could almost turn me. If I wasn’t, I would. I love her very much. She quit the pub last year and took a new job at the local Wetherspoons, which is where she met Rachel.
Rachel is stylish and street-smart, and always up for a party. She has curly brown hair that can usually be found piled on her head in an elaborate style, plus a splattering of freckles over a small nose which she says guys find ‘adorbs’. It’s the only part of her not caked in make-up. She’s a bit shorter than average, but what she lacks in stature she more than makes up for in heels. She’s very fashion-focussed and can spot a label from 100 metres, and she refers to me as her gay accessory – more specifically, her ‘fag bangle’. I’m used to hanging around making others look good so I don’t resent the term at all. Also, her voice sounds like a Cockney cat being strangled. No… I don’t resent the term at all.
The three of us intend to be Ambassadors for Essex, proving to Australia and the world that we’re not all a bunch of vajazzled, perma-tanned morons with badly-drawn eyebrows and donkey laughs like the TV would have you believe. To demonstrate that Essex isn’t all about birds-nest hair, vacant chewing-gum grins and sex addiction. That most of its residents are naturally beautiful, intelligent, and hardly chavvy at all. *Cough*
I’m doing some reading on our final destination. It seems Australia is proper big. It’s both the largest island in the world AND the only country that is also a continent in its own right. It is twenty-four times bigger than the UK but has only a third of the population, mainly because the centre of Australia is so inhospitable that it’s practically devoid of human life. In fact, 90% of the residents seem to live around the edges in ten big cities, which sounds remarkably similar to the world according to Judge Dredd if I remember my old comics correctly. It’s divided into five ‘territories’ and tomorrow morning we’ll be arriving in ‘Victoria’, which is both the country’s smallest state and the first female I’ll have entered in a long time.
Thanks for your emails. I’ll respond when I can.
Love Kev x
I’m so impressed by my email home earlier. It comes across as cheerful and upbeat, when in truth I typed it on my phone with trembling hands, a thumping heart and a spasming a-hole. I want so much for everyone to think I can do this, but I’ve not even made it to Australia yet and already I want to go home.
Things have got so much worse in the last ten minutes. How was I supposed to know taking a photo out the window would be illegal? All it looks out on is the airport but it’s probably all I’ll see of Hong Kong! You’d think I was trying to shoot a person not a picture. Wang got right in my face, shouting unrecognisable words, all of which seemed to need a lot of saliva. The machine-gun at his hip had swung to face me and I swear I nearly vomited out of my butt. And that wasn’t even the scariest bit…
THEY’VE CONVISCATED MY PHONE!
Yes, I wanted new experiences on this trip, but being someone’s bitch in a Hong Kong prison cell was not on the cards and I’m convinced that’s where I’m off to next. I can’t help but expect a cavity search at some point, which is a horrible thought as I’ve seen Wang’s fingernails.
I can’t get my head around it. Yesterday, I was at home having a cup of tea and a hob-nob. Today, I’m literally halfway across the world, locked in a room with a big Asian policeman and his mighty weapon, and… it just feels like I’ve popped out for milk.
I didn’t even feel sad when I was leaving home. I was saying goodbye to everyone I loved and everything I knew, and I had no idea when I was going to see them again, but I didn’t shed a tear. Didn’t even want to. Mum had stood there in the rain, crying. Sis had hugged me a tad longer than usual, and Little Tommy had stumbled after the car, sobbing his heart out. Michael hadn’t even bothered to show up like he’d promised, but none of it mattered. I felt detached from everything. As the car pulled off, Bev asked if I was going to press my hand up against the window and gaze out longingly as they disappeared from view, like they do when they leave Albert Square. Instead I’d just stared straight ahead, feeling… what… Numb? No. Determined. I knew a new road now lay before me and I needed to see where it led. And I don’t mean the M25, I knew that led to Heathrow.
It’s ironic. The whole point of escaping Essex, England, and my life as a whole, was to keep my overactive brain occupied with exciting new adventures and possibilities, and to get over Phil without having time to actually stop and think about it. Unfortunately, I go and get incarcerated for hours with nothing to do but think…
“We’ll be together forever,” he used to tell me, and being the hopeless romantic I am I’d accepted that without question. Even after those words sounded like a life sentence instead of a promise of enduring love. Who was I to turn my back on someone actually willing to be with me? So I’d stayed, like a faithful puppy, even when everything I did seemed to annoy him. Was I really that bad? I know I didn’t force that random stranger into bed with him, so why do I feel guilty about it? It pisses me off to admit it but I miss him, even with the image of him sprawled out, legs in the air and begging for it burned into my eyeballs. He’d snuck away from our own anniversary party to meet someone… and, seeing him like that… it was like someone had wrung all the air out of my lungs. Gasping, I’d stumbled blindly to my car to drive home. Being so drunk, I should probably count myself lucky I only crashed into his neighbour’s garden.
He’d pleaded with me for two weeks to take him back, desperate for another chance. Making me feel increasingly unreasonable until, stupidly, I’d given in.
“I forgive you.”
And that was all he’d needed. His face had changed even as I was reaching out to him.
“About fucking time too. I’m always the one that gets to do the dumping.” His eyes had turned cold, his lip had curled back. “And you are officially dumped.”
He’d wanted me back only so he could finish with me himself. Is there any way to humiliate someone more completely? He’d left then, taking what little remaining self respect I had with him, along with a pair of my favourite jeans that he’d been wearing at the time.
But you know what? Maybe being forced to sit in this room and do some thinking wasn’t such a bad thing. Instead of asking myself, “Why did he leave me?” I’m now thinking, for the first time, “Why the fuck didn’t I leave him?”
That’s got to be progress… right?
IF I DON’T GET OUT OF THIS SODDING ROOM I AM GOING TO MISS MY PLANE!