Monday, March 11, 2013

the great holiday

I have a new nemesis. I meet it almost every time I take Joe, my recently adopted canine son, for a walk, and it's going to claim either my life or, preferably, the extra bit at the bottom of my arse; before we begin its ascent, I tell myself it will be the latter, but half-way up, I don't much care which it is.

My old nemesis was Shortland Street, in the centre of the Auckland CBD. I would walk past towers housing thousands of capitalist minions, passing international students walking down to Queen Street, and finally reach the car, usually parked in front of the Fonterra (spit on ground) building, or beside a sprawling, gnarled pohutukawa tree.

The only business carried out on my new nemesis is done by the many dogs who live in Port, but they do a lot of it. Every third house in Port has a dog, or dogs, and they seem to shit everywhere. We feel somewhat conspicuous, gingerly scooping Joe's poo with our yellow pak n save bags, and then worrying after disposing of them that he might have more to give, and us with nothing to tidy up.

Some days it's hard to get out of bed. Sometimes I look at the view but I don't see anything. Sometimes I forget who I am, and I have nothing to say. I try to provoke responses by reading, or watching, or remembering something... but it feels contrived. I don't want to be someone who only responds.

We've become Bunnings regulars, tempted to ask other customers if they need some assistance. Vincent's drill has become an extension of himself; he puts up shelves, and rails, and then when I've overloaded them with books and coats and they've fallen down, he comes and puts them up again. I've discovered the tranquility and god-like sense of achievement in painting; the satisfaction of pushing a brush back and forth until it feels almost dry, and of standing alone in an open shed, hearing snatches of conversation from the footpath on the other side of the hedge - a man saying fuck, and a child making car sounds.

In some ways, I've begun a reinvention, or at least awakened things that have lain dormant for the last twenty-nine years. I want to cook; to season things, and use the oven, and eat more than just toast for breakfast. I've set up a desk, and dream of sitting at it and writing, and sewing, and having excellent ideas. More of me wants to walk than doesn't. I want to be near the harbour that has become my Queen Street, and to know the bends in the road like I knew where each Subway was, and I want to know the best spots to see things like I knew which of our preferred bars had the cheapest beer at any given time.

I like our furniture so much, I worry I'm creating a kind of show home, on which to be judged. Is that what happens when you begin to put together a house that belongs to you? I remember feeling like that sometimes when I got dressed, knowing I liked what I was wearing, and how it went together, but not sure if it was really an expression of myself. I still do, probably, but it is much easier when you know you can just put on some thick eyeliner, or pin your hair, or say something rude, or just wear something different tomorrow.

I've been afraid I'm falling into depression, but I think I've discovered another nook within the spectrum, where I think I can hide. I'm still a little afraid, but I tell myself the little things count - baking an apple, or unpacking one thing that reminds me of home, and the big thing, that Vincent can still love me when I feel like I'm just my own shell. There is some solace in the numbness; the things lurking in the crevices of my mind are, at least temporarily, silenced. When you have no energy, there is nothing with which to berate yourself, much less hate yourself. And then when you feel up to those thoughts, there is comfort in knowing you must be feeling stronger. I'm told I am missed, and I remember what they think I am, and I wonder if I can pretend to be that way until I am again. As long as I can remember what that is, I think I can.

Every day, the view becomes a little clearer, and a little more familiar. It's slow-going. But it's a start.

Song courtesy of my tall and awesome cousin.


  1. Oh!!! I'm coming to visit you. With Ngahuia. Once I can get enough money together, some time this Autumn.

    I've been meaning to ask how it's all been going. I just got back on Thurs and am now living in Birkenhead. The thought of not having you around has crossed my mind.

    People in Melbourne worship that old Dunedin sound, and the Clean, which always reminded me of you by default since you lent me your anthology CD.

    I'm pretty sure I felt a similar way while in Brisbane, so I took up running, which helped. And lots of writing, and lots of reading.

    OH and I have an idea that I want to let you in on. Because you are a writer, and a darn good one too.


  2. Yay, you're back! I was worried the bell jar was descending over you too and I'm so happy to know you're just... metamorphosing? Everything is going to be fine, it's all splendidly about to begin.

    PS I love you Huni but running is never the answer. Never.

  3. Good for you on the running!!! My nature tends to agree with my sister :) but who knows how far this reinvention could go. I'm definitely going to get going on writing; writing this post yesterday was a huuuge help. I'm so excited that you two are going to come! What's it like being back on the mainland? I have been thinking about you. Email me about your idea! (And thank you very much for the compliment) xoxo

    Sal, do you think I'm metamorphosing? I didn't want to change! Today it feels more like a those cake covers made from hard mesh? But anyway, I am very happy to be back xoxo