We arrived at Shelly Beach coming up on 24 hours without sleep. Earlier, it had been pouring with rain. We'd driven past statues of moas — giant, flightless birds native to New Zealand and now extinct — and in our sleep-deprived fever had been convinced they were moving. But at Shelly Beach, the rain tidied itself away, and we were left with gray skies and a sea that looked like a mirror, silver and still. My father and brother wrestled with the motor-home beds, coaxing them out of walls. My sister sat smoking on the jetty. My mother, youngest sister, and I claimed the first bed, lying there under cool sheets, half-dazed with exhaustion and heads still rattling along until Mum got up again to make us Bloody Marys.
My sister started talking, a rambling half-thought.
"Please don't talk. If anyone talks, I'm going to kill you," I said.
"I hate you all," my mum said pleasantly.
We rolled giggling back into our beds, and I drifted off into blurry, red-warm sleep. When I got up, my skin felt stretched out and rough. I put Aesop's Hydrating Masque, a blue chamomile in a thick goop, all over my cheeks, watching the color seep back into my face. Outside, everything was dark and still, and my family were curled all about, murmuring in their sleep.
At the end of August, I went home to Australia for the first time in two years. Visas, bureaucracy, and money had conspired against me, and I'd been away from my family for much longer than planned. My family are, and always have been, obsessed with one another. We're in near-constant communication, even when I moved to Germany and one of my younger sisters moved up to work in Kakadu, a national park in Australia's Northern Territory. We trade inside jokes like hands of cards, fight, make up, gossip about one another to strangers as though we're talking about celebrities. It still occasionally surprises me that other people don't talk about their families like this, with a heady mix of frustration and myth. When my sister and I were due to visit home at the same time, we decided it would be a good idea to go on a family holiday, our first in five years. All six of us (I know) living for three weeks in a self-contained motor home (I know), traveling around New Zealand and doing our best not to kill one another. It seemed like a perfect plan.
My wife lay on our bed while I packed. "Do you guys know what you're going to do?" she asked. And then: "Do you really need three toiletry bags?"
"I think we're going to figure it out," I said, carefully laying out my products in heavy jars and cracked tubes. Basics in one bag: Mario Badescu's cleansers and toners, which saved my skin; a La Roche Posay moisturizer; Biore Sarasara sunscreen, whose pleasant pearly sheen I will swear by forever; the Ordinary's lactic-acid and niacinamide serums; a series of tried and true masks. Another bag held the fancy products I use when I'm feeling every bit as broke and useless as a 25-year-old can be, products that came to me via gift voucher or hand-me-down or an invoice, carefully saved. A Chanel cleanser, a serum from Pai, Armani foundation too pale for the friend who had purchased it. A third bag for makeup. A fourth that I produced, while my wife laughed, to take on planes: Glossier's priming moisturizer and perfecting skin tint, a Kiehl's travel-size Blue Herbal cleanser, Mario Badescu's rosewater spray.