REBECCA K. REILLY
I’ve solicited a woman. I’m Wellington Greta now, and she solicits women. I’ve put on a dark purple lipstick. I’m wearing the new lavender cord jacket my mum bought because I was cold. She didn’t believe that I forgot my jacket, but she didn’t know how much I was crying while packing. This woman is not part of Auckland Greta’s usual repertoire; her profile was just I’m depressed and frigid and a tongue poking out emoji. Auckland Greta goes after people who say they like books and films and burgers and things and look where that’s got me. It’s time to shake things up.
It has been decided that we will meet in the suburb of Brooklyn, for an after party for a play that I have not seen, called elicitations. It looked like it involved a lot of audience participation and throwing flour around. This is all good news because I am not a stick-in-the-mud anymore. I’m a fun, cool, person who goes to parties where they don’t know anyone. Geneviève didn’t think anything of me leaving the hotel at 10 p.m. My mum would have, but she’s staying with a friend somewhere else.
I wait for the number 7 bus on Courtenay Place. I look at the people as they go about their nights and feel like I’m in a film. Like Trainspotting. Or a reality show from the perspective of bouncers in Newcastle. Ye can’t come in here mate, not in the state yer in. I rub my hands against my bare legs to try and warm up, standing by the glowing orange sign with the bus times. Most skirts are short on me, but this one is intentionally short. I hope the girl doesn’t hate me. What’s the worst thing someone might realistically ask me to do at a party? Heroin. Don’t you even want to do heroin? Sorry, I have an early flight. I want to go inside the bus shelter, but there are three people smoking in there. Maybe that would add a fun aspect to my new personality, a smoky smell. Who’s got a rollie, I’m dying for a… durry. Big old suck of tobacco, that’s me.
The bus comes and I tag on as if I’m from here and I’m going to Brooklyn for a normal reason, like I live there or a close personal friend of mine lives there. Not because I’m going to meet some woman I had heard hide nor hair of before two hours ago. I shouldn’t say anything like hide nor hair when I get to the party. The old Greta, in love with every woman who said they’d read literally any book before, she would have said that, to impress the book women with her witty old-fashioned manner of speaking. The new Greta says… dope.
The bus has bright fluorescent lighting and I feel crazed, sitting in the centre of a fern-patterned seat. What if someone sits next to me, and I don’t even go to the party, I go to this new person’s house and smoke weed and watch an absurdist sketch show? What if I bring them along to the party and the girl says, wow, what a power move, bringing a second date along to your first date, then everyone at the party stops to look at me and how incredibly bold I am. Yes, yes, yes. I’m full of great ideas. I’m never going to be sad again. Am I drunk? Gen kept ordering drinks for me at dinner, she likes doing that. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an absinthe cocktail.
The hill is unnecessarily steep. It would be easy to become fit in this city, everything seems inconveniently placed and the bus routes don’t make any sense. I have a deep interest in urban planning since I lived in Germany. I should have gone to France and come back talking about wine, or Spain and eating dinner in the middle of the night, but no, just buses. It must be fascinating for anyone who’s met me since.
The other three people start looking in their pockets and shuffling around, this must be the place where everyone gets off. When I tag off and say thank you to the driver, I use a very confident voice, like I know where I am and what I’m doing.
The bus people all walk down the road in a line, up to some traffic lights where there are shops. There’s a hairdresser with a blackboard sign out, inviting me to have a cut and colour with senior stylist, Sarah, for only $180. I look at the sign to impress the other bus people, as if I don’t think that a 27-dollar haircut is a treat and dye my hair messily over the sink when V isn’t looking.
The girl isn’t here. Maybe I should wait for a bit to text her, so I don’t seem too eager. I stand in front of a closed fish and chip shop for approximately thirty seconds, and then message her, hey I’m at the shops now, where are you? Suitably casual. I wonder if this is a friends thing or if she wants to do kissing and more. I don’t know who in their right mind is using dating apps to look for new friends, but a lot of people are. This is why you have to go for the ones that say things like I’m a gay horny bitch or full-time lesbian, part-time barista. Depressed and frigid could go either way. It’s quite depressing being gay sometimes. You have to move around properly when you have sex, you can’t just lie down and say nah, that’s all good, keep doing that if you like, go to sleep a bit. It’s a good idea to start off saying you’re frigid so no one expects too much.
I go into a liquor store. I look around, using up some time. Hm, maybe a nice pinot noir, maybe a cheeky cab sav. There’s a white guy about my age working here and he doesn’t look at me. Not many people are the right demographic to be looking at me in this city; lots of teens and old people. In Auckland, men are looking at me every day, shouting from cars that they would be interested in me performing oral sex and the like. Not in those words, you get the idea. Not as much since I moved to the CBD, there are less men roaming around in plumbing vans.
I would like to buy one bottle of pre-mixed gin and tonic, but they only have four packs. I buy four. The guy checks my ID for a really long time. I try to glare, but my face smiles of its own volition.
It’s now been twenty minutes, and I’ve inspected each and every storefront. I’m cold. I might have to call the girl. I’m very set on maintaining my casual image, but I don’t think I can stand around here indefinitely. I’m going home tomorrow morning. We’re flying Jetstar because Gen hates the Air New Zealand safety videos. She hates most videos. I’ve seen her watch a YouTube video precisely one time and it was Cooking with Dog, which she enjoyed very much and was disheartened to learn that the dog was now dead. She said she would never watch one again.
I’m calling the girl, unpleasantly. I used to work in a call centre so I’m a professional, but that doesn’t mean I really want to talk to this girl I’ve never met on the phone right now. She doesn’t pick up. Hm. Maybe it’s very loud at the party and she can’t hear. Maybe she’s on too much heroin already. I should have asked for the address, then I could have just gone on my own. At this stage, any option would be preferable to standing in front of a Ray White, looking at property options in the Brooklyn and Happy Valley area. I wonder if I’m going to tell V about this incident when I get home. If this happened to him, he’d make it into a two-hour story where he made me play him, while he drank a cocktail and narrated.
It’s unfortunately been an hour, now, it’s ten past eleven. I should have got this girl to add me on Messenger so I could see if she was seeing my messages and ignoring them. I gave her my number because it’s a new bit I’ve been doing. Hey, can I have your number? It makes me feel cool and like I’m in the past. But I’m not, I’m in the present wandering up and down aimlessly in a very dark suburb. It really is so much darker in Wellington than it is in Auckland, I’m not sure why.
I call her again, and she doesn’t pick up, so I call her a third time. I think of a meme I saw, double text? I’ll quadruple text you; buzz buzz it’s me again bitch. What the fuck is she doing? Did she die? Did she throw her phone out the window? This is ridiculous, she asked me to go to the party, she should be the one keeping track of the lines of contact. I could message my friends, but I’m sure they’d tell me to go home. Clearly, I should go home. I don’t need anyone to tell me that, fuck off.
I press the button for the traffic light, even though there are no cars, then cross when it turns green. Well, here I am on the other side of the street. I call the girl a fourth time. No answer. I look at my reflection in an Indian takeaway and honestly, I look fresh to death. I look like a true party girl who loves to have fun, with a serious side too, so you can talk to her about economics and the situation in Gaza as well. I open one of the bottles of gin and tonic and drink it, still looking at my own reflection. I look at my phone. Zero notifications. Fuck. This is my first time being stood up, and I don’t know what to do. Wellington Greta is not going well. More personalities, more problems.
The buses have stopped. It’s not even that late. How’s the guy from the liquor store supposed to get home? He probably has a motorbike. He won’t give me a ride; he didn’t even think I was hot. I start walking down the hill. I feel very small, like it’s not really made for people to walk down, only horses or very intrepid mountaineers. Not deflated girls in short skirts. I see a bin for my empty bottle, but it’s not a recycling bin, so I close my eyes when I put the glass bottle inside it. A Not in Service bus drives past. If I were in a small town, they would give me a lift. I wonder if my lipstick still looks good. My mum’s grandmother wore lipstick every day of her life, and one time stopped her car on a one lane bridge because a man was following too closely. I could be confrontational too, if I got the addresses of the women I wanted to confront.
I walk around the biggest corner I’ve ever seen, past the High Commission of Malaysia, when I come to a sign that says I should walk down a dark, gravelly forest path to get to the City Centre. I might get killed if I go down here, I think as I start walking down here. Now this is an interesting choice. No one else appears to be in the forest, so I sing Uninvited by Alanis Morrissette from the City of Angels soundtrack. People like to point out that that movie is a remake of Der Himmel Über Berlin. I’ve seen both and they aren’t in the slightest bit like each other. I don’t like Berlin, too many Americans and Australians, speaking English on the U-Bahn, wearing leg warmers. I would probably go if someone asked me to, because I’m a big old fool. What are women up to, what are they doing to me. Maybe I need to be in a remake of What Women Want, in which I find out what women want. Now could be a good time to cry, but I can’t be fucked.
Where’s the path gone? Fuck. I turn in a circle. Where did I come from? Why aren’t there lights? Oh no. I choose a way. I end up a bit stuck in a bush. Stupid… native tree fern. I pull leaves out of my hair. I try another direction. It’s getting darker and I don’t know where I am. Fuck. Maybe I have to call my mum to rescue me. I open Find My Friends. I see all the little dots in places I can expect; V’s at Wine Cellar on K Road, three of my friends are at one of their flats in Kingsland, my mum is nowhere near me at a beach called Evan’s Bay. But there is a dot near me, a dot labelled MP is moving slowly up the hill. This dot I usually ignore; it just exists in Wellington and I don’t think about it anymore. Oh, Jesus. I send a message, Hey are you walking up Brooklyn Rd? A tick appears. I’ve been seen! I feel seen.
I feel triumphant, I message back straight away: Can you come and get me? I’m lost in the forest. Ha, ha.
I add ha, ha so it seems like I haven’t just been stood up, on my journey to enlightenment after having my heart broken two days ago. I’m lost in a fun way.
What? Which forest? Do you mean central park?
I don’t know which American names this suburb appears to be calling everything,
I’m not sure, can you check find my friends?
Um yep, hold up. What are you doing down there?
Nvm, I’m coming now, don’t move
I stand as still as I can. Here I am, perfectly calm, in the forest, about to be rescued. I’m going back to the hotel, and then back to Auckland in the morning like nothing ever happened. Let’s call the whole thing off. I think that’s a song. A voice shouts out, “Greta?”
“Who is it!” I laugh to myself. I’m funny.
“It’s me, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter come to save you from a city park.”
It’s Matthew, my boyfriend from when I thought I loved every man who said they’d read literally any book before.
Listen to Rebecca K. Reilly read The Hill
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca K Reilly (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Wai) is a writer from Tāmaki Makaurau. This piece is an extract from Vines, a novel. If you would like to read more of her work, you can’t; this is her first time being published so that’s it.
Rebecca K. Reilly’s novel Vines was awarded the 2019 Adam Foundation Prize on the night this issue was launched. — Eds