Thursday, March 11, 2010
The ideal place for me is the one in which it is most natural to live as a foreigner --Italo Calvino
I’ve been having kind of a tough time since I got back from the South. Part of it probably has to do with losing Jan’s companionship. He’s still in Napier, but I don’t see him much, and I really miss him. Part of it has to do, I’m sure, with having lived in my car for a while. It’s lonely. Especially before I found work. Filling the day became a challenge. I’d wake up early and go to bed early because of the light. Wake up. Walk around until the library opens. Spend some hours reading and watching movies and writing. Take a walk and eat some lunch. More of the same. Maybe go visit friends at Toad Hall to charge my phone or laptop. In a way, I enjoyed it, but I think I went days without talking to people I knew. And part of it, most of it, the aforementioned reasons contributing, is the fact that I suddenly feel achingly far from everyone I love.
I moved into a house with Cecila. We rent a room in a family's house, which gives me a different kind of experience. Less of a party atmosphere, as I now live with little kids. Desiree cooks us dinner each night, which is saving me a lot of money. They're Mormon, and for a little while I thought they rented rooms to people cheaply as a means to convert them. Here is what I pride myself on most: I don’t judge people. I broke that. I feel really shitty about it. This family let me move into their home, shares their food, invites me into their lives, and the whole time, basically because they’re religious, I think there are ulterior motives. I find out they’re Mormon and I think, “Oh, I’ve seen Big Love, I know all about this…” Sometimes I look for things to be wrong because I think they’ll make better stories in the end. What is this end I think of? I’m going to spend my whole life trying to make problems for myself because when I repeat the episode, I may get a chuckle, despite knowing the actual truth—that I wanted it to be that way all along, that I made it be that way to begin with.
Last Saturday it was beautiful outside, and I worked in the morning. When I got home, I really wanted an ice cream cone. I went to this place called Munchies (it’s kind of the middle of the night drunken take-away place in town) and ordered a chocolate ice cream. The man behind the counter was Japanese and ended up talking to me while I ate the entire cone. I couldn’t get away. Not that I wanted to exactly. I won’t go so far as to say that we had a conversation, because he talked for more than 90% of it. He told me his entire life story, how he ended up in NZ, while his brothers are in Denmark with kebab places, and how the Danes aren’t accommodating. He offered me a job at Munchie’s which I respectfully declined because I really do like working on the orchard. I also think he would spend the entire day talking, because as he says, business is bad and nobody comes. I’m not sure if he thought I was just a good listener, or if he is really lonely and talks to everyone. Maybe a bit of both. But I think I attract people’s stories. Strangers confide in me all the time. It’s strange—I often think of Nick in The Great Gatsby. People talk to me. I like it. Especially when I don’t have anyone in particular to listen to.
Last week we finished apple picking. The season in Napier was bad because of the rain. Usually, this is when people make their money, but this season is the worst in years. Our boss, Tony, felt bad and on our last day he and his wife (also a picker) Jenny, and Leon, Dodge, Adam (the guys I drive from Toad Hall) and I decided to meet for drinks. We ended up just having some beers on the roof of Toad Hall. Drinking is a sport here. Casually grabbing a few beers isn’t really something you do—it’s more of a “let’s get really drunk and forget what’s wrong.” I’ve never been more depressed than when I was sitting on the roof last Thursday. Tony and Jenny have had a really rough time. They live from paycheck to paycheck and have done that forever,and claim to love that kind of life, but do they really when they can't buy food at the end of the week? Her 20 year old son died a year ago, his partner of 14 years died a year ago, then he had a heart attack and his sister got lung cancer. Then they met. I could feel their sadness. They joked about their love for one another, “you’ll do.” But in a way, I think they felt that—a desperation for human contact, for something, anything good. I had to get out of there. I said Desiree was making dinner and left. Tony was going to try to find us all work for the following week, but I later found out that soon after I left Leon (who is ordinarily very sweet, funny, and shy doesn’t normally drink because he becomes a different violently angry person) got in a fight with Tony and nearly threw him off the roof. Pretty sure he no longer wants to help us.
I spent the next week really sick, so was okay not working. For a few days, I was really sad and just wanted to come home. I even tried to change my plane ticket to come home before April started, but it was expensive and I couldn’t do it. I felt like I was seeing the world the way it really was. I’ve been thankful for my life, without realizing what I’ve actually had. People are so lonely. I just felt like I was imposing this loneliness upon myself for no reason. There are so many people who keep me tethered to this world. I became obsessed with mythology and folklore. Stories that explained our beginnings in the world. Why things are the way they are. Stories that promised there is more to our existence than meaninglessly drifting around the universe. Stories that made sense out of humanity. I started reading a lot of Italo Calvino, whom I never had before, but I really like. (Actually, I loved If on a Winter’s Night a Travler, which isn’t mythology at all). The book I’m reading now is actually kind of the story of creation in space. It’s beautiful and makes me feel a little bit better about the world. And I read a book of Tobias Wolff’s short stories and was inspired to start some of my own. It’s new for me, but I really like this form.
I felt like I had to change something. I didn't once regret coming here, it was undoubtedly the best decision of my life. But I felt like I'd accomplished everything I set out to do, and it was just time to leave.
Everything changes. I’m glad I couldn’t change my ticket. I think on some level I knew that deep down, I was hitting a breaking point—I could leave and stay as connected to home and the past and my life the way it was, or I could stay and become detached from it all. Part of me didn’t want to lose…myself. But I did. I completely let go. I actually feel like a different person, now. Free. I went to a party last weekend and met new people, was completely part of the moment instead of looking back at it as if it already happened and I was telling it. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately—part of the moment. It sounds silly, but it’s new for me. I’ve never experienced life this way. I like it. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to go back to the way I was, you know, six days ago, when my whole world was different.
Next week I start work in a factory. Lots of people I know are starting work there, too. It will be a steady job where the season won’t affect our income, so I can count on (as much as anything can be counted on) six weeks of good money. Maybe I won’t come home broke afterall! And I’m officially going to Romania for Ana’s wedding, so would like to have a little money for that. I was planning on packing one suitcase of snacks to avoid buying food while I was there, but I’d probably have to declare it or something, so that wouldn’t be ideal.
I know this blog was very vague. Next one will be better and I’ll talk about actual things I’ve been doing.
P.S. this picture has nothing to do with this blog. It's from New Years. I just think it's funny.