Once, when I was deeply in love with a musician, I moved to Paekākāriki. Back in town my perfectly nice flatmates and I had started irking one another, my shy boyfriend felt uncomfortable around them and it felt like the whole housing arrangement was about to go sour. I was already beginning to feel nervous about the things I was doing wrong, and I knew before long anything good that was left in the house would be overwhelmed with awkwardness and suppressed anger.
G. was a trumpet player, and I'd wait for him after busking stints loving the melancholy hooting that drifted down Cuba Street. He thought Miles Davis was a genius and was so in love with On-U Sound System, his desperation for a sequencer to do his own take landed him a loan from his mother. Thousands on what you doubtless get on a phone now. It was a sweet anguished time. I bailed the city and took over a boarding arrangement from my friend Amanda. She was boarding with the grandmother of twin anarchists we both knew through activism. The house was a rambling california-style bungalow perched brown and beautiful on a hill above the railway line. It was a house of possibilities, semi-rural and demi-glamorous.
The house was divided in two. The grandmother lived in one half of the house with the kitchen and her bedroom with its windows looking out to a small aviary and a large bay window in her half of the lounge.
In theory I shared the other half with a man was renting the room up the steep steps and the view out across the garden but he was never there. I think he stayed with cousins somewhere else in the village. I rented the downstairs room which had its own leafy bay window. Once, lying on my futon with G., a huge weta crawled over my face. I liked to think of myself as robust and outdoorsy but it unnerved me, those huge prehistoric legs all over me.
To get to the kitchen you went on to the porch through huge french doors, and around the back of the house to an adjoining part of the house. I shared the bathroom with the grandmother. There was no shower only a bath, but it must have been summer because I remember swimming.
One weekend two friends of mine came from up and down country and the four of us spent the night talking and laughing. We were city kids all of us, and terrified ourselves by hearing loud breathing noises outside. Every time we ventured to the kitchen we ran back panicking sure something was watching it all. G. fluctuated and tried to persuade us to calm down coming up with explanations but deep down we all knew it was the darker side of humanity. Eventually we figured out it was happening when cars swinging around the corner shone their lights into the dark bush around the house. And later, chagrined in the light of morning, we figured out it was possums.
It was my first time living alone. G. and I had so many intense moments it couldn't possibly be sustained. I'd stay with his flat in the weekends or he'd come out for a few hectic heavenly days. We saw no-one and did nothing but be together. We burnt ourselves out and saw less and less of each other. I felt stranded in a strange land. Some nights I was aghast with loneliness and I felt shaky with the need to be with someone. I wasn't picky but human companionship was a hunger larger than any I'd experienced. I would drink tea with the grandmother, sheltering in her kitchen. Sometimes watching television. She loved birds, and we went once with her son, an academic visiting from Malaysia, to Staglands. Birds and a odd motley collection of other animals.
Thinking now, maybe the loneliness was just once, maybe it was just one big panicked night, the mood so large it splays out in my memory. Years later a friend, prone to axioms, said 'We are not meant to eat alone'. I thought of the doves cooing, and the weta on my face, and the cups hanging in the grandmother's kitchen.
Read All of a sudden, part 2
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