He came in like rain.
That rain which surprises you with its wetness: even as a gentle drizzle it quickly soaks through to your skin. Then it grows in force until you’re blinded by watery drops – running, splashing, laughing, crying. The best kind of rain: making green; making life.
I like to think I was content before he arrived. Life in a small town can be a little boring; a little nosy. Not long ago I realised these were two ends of the same piece of string: monotony makes noses twitch; boredom breeds a particular kind of dog – perhaps a hypocritical poodle. But still, I liked my job and loved my family: sounds good.
I had started working in a small cafe as a barista: nice owner, nice coffee. I still like the word barista enough to risk sounding pretentious. Saying: ‘I work in a coffee shop’ would do, but ‘barista’ captures the flavours of the bean: exotic and unidentifiable. Try asking yourself what coffee tastes like: a world of bitter wonder. I still like that coffee makes a space for people, whether passing through, meeting friends, or reading alone. It offers an excuse to enjoy one’s own or other’s company.
When I started work, I could pay my rent and save a little each month, living with two clean, non-smoking girls; apparently because they were also twenty-four with curly brown hair we were supposed to click. Unfortunately, a pressured environment speeds up the making of rice but not friends. We never had any problems, but I moved out when I could to my own small sanctuary just out of town – a little creek runs down the back.
What I was saving for I never asked myself, but it was something to do then – the goal being the act of saving in itself. Money saved is like an invisible bubble around you: the more you have, the bigger the bubble. It pushes you further away from other people; you fear its growing fragility in anticipation of the pop. I never noticed myself becoming stingy until I asked my housemate to repay me two dollars. And let me tell you, it’s hard to stop counting pennies in your sleep.
I thought back to when I first started dating Cody, my boyfriend at the time. I used to love buying him little gifts: a singlet; a bag of jet planes or humbugs. The initial excitement of a first boyfriend – it’s easier to say you fancy someone with material goods. This habit wore off pretty quickly and we’ve floated along ever since. He started buying his own jet planes on a Friday afternoon.
It’s hard to remember how you felt at a certain time. Once you’ve left a moment, it’s gone forever – a reality you can read as either desperately sad or intensely liberating, depending on your frame of mind on a certain day. You might know the word for what’s inside you, but it’s a translation of a feeling, mathematics not the only universal language. I’ve come to believe I was in a permanent, muted state of lonely. I wasn’t alone. I had a boyfriend and a few good friends – all you need. But I was missing something, where you only realise the hole is there when you start to fill it.
He arrived from across the sea into my town, like a small yellow plane making an unexpected journey. One morning from the café, he brought a large black coffee, and I invited him fishing. On the boat, I asked him to dinner, offering up the large trout flailing on the end of my line. That fish’s life hung on his next word; it didn’t end well for the trout.
It wasn’t love at first sight – not dramatic or particularly romantic. I liked when he slept in my bed, but didn’t ache when he left. He just made me feel calm and excited at the same time. It was different and sensual and easy. On my drive to work, I saw the mountains with brighter eyes; the sun felt a little clearer and the seawater a little softer. I never knew that a relationship, a tie, could make you feel freer, more able to run.
When we fell in love, he left. That was always the plan. Some days it seemed that we might continue living this timeless existence, like two fish in a tank. But then we would dive to eat from the bottom of our bowl, and realise those were fake stones: it wasn’t real life.
We taught each other a little something about life. And a little something about happiness. Some people you meet rub against your skin – a few of them cause an itch, others might gently tickle – but they will never wear through. Others dive into your eyes like they’re their own private pools, swim inside your veins, altering the tides of your body with every stroke. These are the ones that count.
Perhaps I am less content than I was before. But it is only because I feel more: lonelier, angrier, happier; more awake.
See – translations.