new year, new words

I go walking like an old woman, taking a turn of the gardens, moving slowly, carefully. Sometimes I go with friends, asking them questions about their day, their partner, the weather, our mutual acquaintances. It's getting hot now, in Melbourne, and I am worried about the heat. The little stress sits on my shoulder all day long, accompanying me wherever I go. I look at it in the eye, hoping it will match my gaze, but it never does: it flits away, uncaring. And so, here I am, worried, walking. When I go in the afternoon, there are school kids tearing about on the play equipment. I watch them bounce around, their little bodies oblivious to pain until one falls, and then they all do, tumbling from heights. They take turns with their tears, as if egging each other on to wail louder, higher pitched, with more potency; a canon of crying. And just as it began, it ends, a new game is on.

--

I’m reading Maggie Nelson on an empty tram while the rain pelts on windows, knowing I will have to walk to your house uncovered; smart enough to have brought expensive wine, cheese, blueberries, but not smart enough to remember an umbrella. It’s humid outside the tram, sweltering inside it; the drops that weasel their way in through the gap between the doors providing momentary comfort. I’m afraid to get the book wet, so I drop it back into my bag solemnly, as if after this moment I will have no opportunity to glance at its pages again. I am always overly sentimental on public transport, amidst the glazed-eye commuters and the peckish school children. No one wants to be there, I think, except for me. How comforting it is to sit on a bus or a train and just go, surrounded by people but utterly, utterly alone. On a bad day, of course, this is the last thing you’d wish for, but on a good albeit solemn day, the aloneness is just the thing.

--

When I pass your street, which happens less these days, I promise myself that I won’t look up: won’t search desperately for you in the place you belonged so long ago. The chances that you still call that street home are slim, anyway, and yet. My eyes drag up against my will, fighting my best intentions to seek you out. Never once have I seen you there, I haven’t caught the scent of you for a lifetime, and yet. There’s a trace of you somewhere here, and I can't pinpoint what it makes me feel. It's nostalgia, perhaps, or some kind of stretched out, unfamiliar disappointment. 

--  

I linger on the concept of it being “my turn” to pick up the groceries, as if it were a responsibility I shared with someone else. Indicating that perhaps last time it wasn’t me who had to wander the aisles, choosing the dish soap, the tomatoes, the porridge. Suggesting that next time it won’t be me either - that this time, my turn, will mean I am off the hook for a fortnight or so, and someone else will pick up the slack. We won’t be out of cheese or vegetables or toilet paper, because it will be someone else’s turn to ensure that those essentials are fully stocked while I lounge comfortable in the sparkling thankfulness of not having to be the person doing the groceries. It's a promise, a pact that insists you pick up not one, but two of things. You've got a second. Mealtimes are not miserable microwave experiments any more, they're pre-planned activities. I catch people in the act, making those decisions together every day. It seems like nothing; choosing a type of jam or debating where to see a film. Do you ever experience jealousy like a wave crashing over you about an odd tiny happening? I never cared about which type of dishwashing liquid was best and yet it's all I want to talk about.

-- 

When it's warm out in the evening, I leave the window open and the blinds drawn. They jut out angrily, fighting each gust of wind, making a perfect sideways v of cheap plastic. It is noisy in my room with the window open; the street below never ceasing to beep and careen and bluster. The tribulations of living on a busy road, I think. Nothing I can do about it. I could lock my window up and never look out of it, I suppose, but there's nothing comforting about that. After seven, eight, nine months, I've grown rather fond of the sounds of traffic - an unaccompanied solo that I can listen to, in varying degrees of concentration, for hours on end. The discomfort has become the comfortable; there's something Stockholm Syndrome-esque about that, possibly: the teaching yourself to be okay with something that isn't. It's nine months now living in this room above the busy street. Long enough to grow a child, but not long enough to grow myself. It has been the opposite: an undoing. Nine months of relearning, forgetting, misplacing. Much has gone right in these claustrophobic four walls: great career highs, much laughter, new dresses, old friends. But then, there have been the heartaches and miseries, my personal missteps, others' professional failings. I lie on my bed in the evening, just as the sun is going down and the headlights of the cars below paint my roof golden in a flickering spectacle that I look forward to. I go to bed early, as often as I can, so I can lie there and stare at the busy-ness that I am no longer a part of. I have no need to leave and yet every desire to go. I am a small island of in-between: not quite fitting, and yet fitting wholeheartedly. I try and look back to the steps it took to get me here; whether the path was pre-destined or if my series of tiny choices made it so. Is it possible to be kind and broken; alive and unhappy?