“Good evening passengers .. ” the Pilot began his speech to the hundreds of flyers on board today. I had no experience flying, so I desperately begged that Tana and I had window seats. The closest experience I had to flying was the ocean. I lived on the water, and naturally so did Tana. We spent many mornings and early evenings to bathe in the sea. Tana was a true water baby, already having learned how to tread water before he could walk on land.  

“.. on behalf of Air New Zealand we thank you for choosing to fly with us. Enjoy your 1 hour and 58 minute flight .. “ just as he treaded off the speaker, the seatbelt sign lit up. From the small window, you could see only the front end of Fua’amotu International Airport but from fifty thousand feet in the air, you saw everything.

As the plane left the grounds of the island, I forced myself to reckon with the farewell. Tana and I both looked outside of the window with the same shared conviction – goodbye Tonga.

I held in my tears as Tana placed his head in my lap. It was too late now. I couldn’t respond to the text message and he couldn’t chase after us anymore. My empty threat fulfilled, he now had to suffer the numbness of absence.

**

Fourteen hours and three layovers later, the seat belt flashed for the last time while the attendants made their final sweep throughs for trash and making sure all tray tables were up.

The Pilot checked in on the speakers to welcome his flock of flyers to their final destination. “It is a cool morning with warm temperature in the mid seventies and strong winds from the south. It is now 8:32 am! Thank you for choosing Air New Zealand and welcome to Maui! Aloha!”

The experience of Kahului Airport was nothing like Fua’amotu International. There were less eyes crowding your possessions and more palangis. The baggage claim area was better attended, so less chances of airport visitors stealing your things. It was clear that this airport was used to transport, not to connect. Had I arrived back home, a band of family would have greeted me with the leis pictured on these airport walls. Here, it seemed staged.

In one hand I gripped the duffel bag with a month’s worth of clothes in it and in the other was Tana’s hand. I’ve never seen Tana’s eyes so big with interest and curiosity.

“Mommy, look!” He pointed to a stone figurine surrounded by small palm trees. It caught my attention too. We walked up to the sculpture and I instantly realized what the sculpture depicted.

Maui, the demi-God of the Kingdom of Hawaii, played a part in Tongan mythology – a topic that I secretly indulged in. Maui’s family ties to Tagaloa, a spiritual god worshipped by early Tongans, connected our islands. I mentally noted his presence upon my arrival as a sign of safety and provision from my little village I once called home.

I turned my phone on to the last thing I opened back home.

ur making a mistake

I deleted the message, along with all contacts saved in my phone.

Tana and I made our exit from the front lobby of the airport.

“Mommy, I’m hungry.” Tana looked up.

“You don’t want your snacks?” I opened the bag that had a variety of snacks all for Tana, who was always hungry. He shook his head. He took after his father’s ways of being particular.

In that moment, a black car pulled up to the curb where I stood talking to my son. From the front door stepped out a young male who opened the curbside back door.

“No.” I grabbed Tana tightly.

“Get in, miss.” He couldn’t have been any older than thirty. He wore black shades that matched the suit and tie. He must have come with the car.

“No.” My eyes shifted to the woman who rose from the other side.

“Get. In. Sami … ” The lady said.

Mr. black shades grabbed my bag and placed it in the trunk. I was tired and hungry and had no energy left to argue so I succumbed to capture – I got into the car with Tana.

“Where are you taking us?” I refused to look in her direction.

“We’re going to the nearest burger place so my grandson can eat.” The driver pulled away from the curb and into the traffic. The pavement was different, the lanes more clearly defined. There were no unexpected potholes in the middle of the street and there were traffic lights. Sidewalks defined the pedestrian path as well as bike lanes. From the freeway, I sensed the Maui metropolis. 

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