It’s been a while since I’ve been out to any popular venue in the Melbourne night scene, and a while since I’ve been out in general. Spice Market is definitely a venue worth going for - its decor was decidedly Asian, although it was advertised as Moroccan and Turkish. I didn’t mind. It was pretty. Candles lit a little slope of statues holding candle-holders.
I’d been a little disappointed about my job offer this week. Admittedly, it was a close second to where I wanted to end up, and it is an amazing organisation but…
…I still felt hard done by.
Hence, one entire week of self pity. I’m still unhappy about it now, but the gratitude of being employed next year is starting to flicker in me this week.
One day I had 4 glasses of wine, feeling like an institution had broken up with me. It’s not that I’m not grateful about my job, but I’d been disappointed. The hospital I really wanted to go to had rejected me, and it was gut wretching not only because I realised I had somehow taken a position there for granted.
My resident had been the sweetest all week, especially the first few days, offering me days off and saying while I was struggling to juggle stacks of files (because I was determined to keep turning up to class, regardless), that he understood.
I thought of him. I thought of the bone marrow registrar, the way he said I was beautiful in a round-about way, unintentionally (a slip). The way he told me it was ok to feel sad when something sad happened on the ward. The way he had made everyone smile around him, all the time, and his kindness. The way I realised that my fear of him was mostly because I liked him. The way I answered questions stupidly because I was nervous.
“I need to stop falling in love. I think I like people who can comfort me somehow. That’s not a good reason to like someone.”
Been said, “Ten points to you. No, make that a hundred.”
Then I rambled about some random other things that made sense only to me, probably.
The next day my mouth felt dry, and I’d had very little sleep. Getting up at 7am was abhorrent, but I wrinkled my nose and did it anyway.
It was cold, so cold. An unnatural fog covered the entire shire. My car (which needs servicing) has started making strange fluttering noises when started on chilly mornings).
At work, I considered the resident. The initial itch of being drawn to him had faded as soon as the words left me the previous night, appeared on the conversation screen and flashed across Been’s computer monitor, a whole country away. Like indecision. Like fear that I’m being confused by a need that shouldn’t be there.
I shouldn’t like him, but I do.
I had a flashback to lunch at the previous hospital, the previous resident having run off to do a job and the bone marrow registrar and I at the table. The sun was in my eye so I leaned my head onto the coffee cup and let my fringe fall into my face. He was telling me a story, I was considering the world and how I could be him in a few years time.
So I asked him if he was happy.
Dust was falling from the big hall, the noise cut out. Yes, he said, I guess. I mean, yes. I’m happy. He answered in a different way to what I meant. Incompletely. But I suppose it was a strange question. When he smiled, he had smile lines around his eyes.
The moment ended. The current resident stood, handed me the morning list, said good morning sweetly. I said good morning back. Leaned on the door frame read the names of inpatients.
Kindness. Is that it?
The bigger question is, what is it that makes me so inconsolable, so devastated? All the time. And how do I make it stop?
“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that is so deeply part of your being that you, that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”—from “The Sheltering Sky” — Paul Bowles
It’s 1:28am. I’m sitting cross legged on my chair, fan heater on beneath me (it’s too hot to lower my legs to the ground, which I do when I dash inside from my car). I’m listening to a song called ‘burning river’, by a New Zealand boy that a friend knows. An empty wine glass with red residue, papers, a coffee mug with a spoon inside (used for ice cream), a bottle lie scattered around papers I haven’t sorted yet.
Sorry for not writing. I’ve been sick. But more than that, in my last week of Haematology (last week), I didn’t quite have the heart to. Bone marrow transplant was too depressing in some ways; people’s stories were too personal. This week I started Respiratory in a different hospital. I still see Prof S. around, because he is also working in this new hospital, strangely. I’m so shy, I tentatively wave and hope he waves back, and I know it’s just rude not to talk to him but there’s always a little fear in love for me. Even professionally.
An old high school friend, A, moved to Melbourne this week to start her working life. We go way back, to the very first day, the very first class. To S., who I credit to making me grow up in a short space time, and later after my life came to be here, in this city, to the girl in red scarf.
To be honest, I had been nervous. Catrina put her thumb on it before she left for the UK: when you move to a place for the first time, you become territorial. It’s suddenly your city, to people back home. It’s safe. You go back to this place, live a compartmentalised and somewhat secretive life (secretive only in the sense that it’s impossible to talk about everything that goes on in your day to people back home).
This old friend happens to be the kind of person who has the amazing talent for taking something and making it her own. In school, I would recommend a book to her, then weeks later someone would come up to me and ask me if I had read the same book, because A. had recommended it to them, and that the whole school attributed her for such a fantastic suggestion. Even having dinner with her and her friends, taking them to some of the restaurants I had taken her her previous visit, it was amusing to see her still the same, making recommendations on the menu to the others who had never been. It always used to annoy me a little, but I’ve come to realise that it’s just that we have different personalities - I am quiet about my likes and dislikes, unless conversation happens that way. Even when pressed for a recommendation, I feel uncertain - how am I sure that the other person will like the same things I like? I always make recommendations based on what I think the other person would like, not what I personally like.
It’s strange to see A, and the friends who she knows here, and even girl in red scarf, and the New Zealand visitors going through all the uncertainties, the learning curbs that I had to go through at 17. Except they have each other, and at that time I didn’t really even have my parents (we were fighting that first year I was here, on and off - and we had never fought before, so it was even harder).
I wish I could say that the divide that I used to feel when I went to New Zealand between my friends and myself was removed with this event of immigration, but leaning against the wall or comforting A. (suddenly unsure of herself at times, eliciting rapid cries of encouragement from her peers who had come down to visit her), or offering advice about practical things that had helped me, and echoing the encouragement — finding a flat for oneself, for example — and watching her pick and choose because she was used to getting things with certainty and getting anxious when nobody was phoning her back —
I felt it more than ever.
It’s almost as if I were in a different stage of life. Five or six years beyond where they were. Ready to settle down, get on with my career. I’ve had enough of moving around, instability - the kind that comes from traveling, only spent sadly domestically.
Sometimes I’d even feel absurdly saddened, suddenly placed back to the early days when I was here, and feeling the aloneness. It’s happened. The thing I wrote about all those years ago has come true, so soon before my leaving my life forever for the first time (the first of many times I have left in some form in my life; the first of many goodbyes):
1:34 pm on 02-11-06
”We burn brightly, furiously, incandescently. There is touch - there is the immediacy of life, and its transcendence into the extraordinary. We are not human beings. We are immortals trapped inside these damp skins. Trapped by each cell, and each cell trapped inside a plasma membrane, living. We collide to break free - we yearn.
I am being torn away from this. When I come back everything that is burning now, that I am burning with now, will have evolved and cooled - become rock, stone. I want to burn here with everyone and become part of the same solidness. Be made out of the same things, and if thrown and blown around, still carry the same residue or the earth that we all made ablaze.”
I am a different person here. The same me, just different decisions. Different people, different jokes. Different stories and quirks. A kind of hardness that may be new.
I have a different life. It made me realise: A. moving here had no impact whatsoever, apart from distance. I had somehow completely separated myself from everything in my life here. Part of it was having no existing contacts when I moved here, unlike A. I guess it’s easy to slip back into the old circles - it’s so funny, R.G. (the primary school friend I had dinner with a while ago) was just saying the same thing. She felt disdain for people who just slipped back into their old crowds; she wanted adventure. She tried not to keep in contact with anyone she used to know.
Don’t get me wrong. I am so happy that A. is here now. That our adventures can be adventures together sometimes; always places to go, life to be created. :)
The city, and Medicine — they feel like it’s a part of me. It’s alive, in my veins, the way I dress, the way I talk. My mannerisms, the things I laugh at. Sometimes I wonder if I’m not made out of the earth here too, baked over the long summers, the indistinct times away from home.
The only things left to me is the strong feelings I have about certain people, certain things. Memories. A love of parks and waterways and a longing for the sea. Empathy, a love of things that grow, bad singing. The same laugh, I guess. I still like laughing. Those are unchanging.
Or perhaps these things were in me all along. A few people have told me I haven’t changed much at all. It always makes me happy to hear these things.
"If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?"
We used to ponder that question (from Fight Club) — always one of my favourite quotes. The answer is yes, you can. But not in the way you think. :)
Or maybe not at all.
There are days when I think it’s one thing, and then the other.
“You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, fuck it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m tired of Republican-Democrat politics. They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue-collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing, and that’s where I’m going with this”—-Roy McDonald (Republican senator), on breaking party lines, voting yes to gay marriage in New York against party pressure, and giving thousands of people the right to equality, June 2011 :)