one bowl plus three bowls equals one bowl

Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.
~ David Foster Wallace

Last year I wanted a new bowl to eat soup and salads out of, and I had in my mind exactly the shape, size and colour I might’ve liked. By some crazy stroke of luck I found it, at a little Japanese grocer near the Prahran market. A beautiful green, deep but not gaping, attractive and only eight dollars. Without hesitation I picked it up and made my approach to the counter, but I stopped short: what kind of person buys only one bowl?

I went back to the shelf and picked up another. Two would make sense, I thought, for the times I entertained a singular guest, which was most times. But then two more remained on the shelf and they said to me: most people would get all four. I thought about it for a long time, standing, staring. And eventually I decided to get all four.

For the rest of the day I lugged the bowls around Chapel Street, sitting snug in my canvas tote, wrapped in newspaper. By the time I made it back to Brunswick my shoulder was tiring and as I rounded my apartment building I clipped my bag against the brick wall. I heard a little crack and my head said something very rude.

When I got inside I pulled out the bowls and found, to my surprise, only one was broken. Better than all four, I thought.

That night a bowl slipped, in a spectacular, extremely unlikely fashion, off the sink and onto the floor, smashing beyond repair. I looked at it, spread across the tiles. Two makes more sense than three, I thought.

Two nights later a third bowl fell onto the kitchen floor, again in spectacular fashion and when I was using extreme care. It also smashed everywhere. I couldn’t believe it. I picked up my keys, left my apartment and didn’t clean up the mess on the floor for the next three days later.

I was back to the singular bowl that I had initially wanted, before my head chimed in with all of society’s ideas of what’s normal and acceptable and, above all, simply the way things are done, without question.

A few months later a friend visited my apartment for the first time. He walked from room to room, looking at my things, a little perplexed, a little like something was missing. I didn’t have a microwave or a TV or a bed base and my decorating efforts were few. He said the place had a transient feel and he hadn’t even seen the boxes in the cupboard, still waiting to be unpacked. Eventually he stopped in the middle of the kitchen and turned to look at me: You don’t even have a dish rack, he said.

And perhaps that’s what I needed all along, not an extra three bowls but a dish rack. But perhaps I didn’t need an extra three bowls, a dish rack or anything else.

I still have the fourth bowl, packed away in storage, unbroken, in one piece, perfect in every way. The remaining bowl. It is a reminder of a very deliberate lesson the world gifted me. I often think about its symbolism. Because the kind of person who buys only one bowl is the kind of person who only needs one bowl. There is nothing more to it than that.

free. anxiety. free.

Be vulnerable.
Let yourself be deeply seen,
love with your whole heart,
practice gratitude and joy…be able to say ‘I am thankful to feel this vulnerable because it means I am alive’,
and believe ‘I am enough.’
You are worthy of love and belonging.
~ Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability 

It’s like arriving home and the cat’s not there. You run around looking for it, thinking that it must be there somewhere, lurking behind something, under something, because you know that’s what cats do, they hide. You become almost frantic in your search: where is the fucking cat? But you really can’t find it, and eventually you accept that it’s not hiding, it’s just not there. It’s gone. And so you sit and wait. You sit and wait for it to come home, because you assume that it will, it must, it always does. Every now and then you get up and peer out the window, call for it, softly. And although it never comes, you can’t stop believing that the very next morning you will wake up and there it will be, lying on your chest, as though it never left. Because it’s been with you for so many years, how is it possible for it to not be there, for it to disappear, just like that? But the cat has fucking gone. And it hasn’t gone temporarily like all those times you thought it had but it was only sleeping, hidden. It has truly gone. Well, fuck the cat. And the analogy. It’s gone, the anxiety. Well, fuck the anxiety too. The anxiety that has been living, in a shifting form, in my body for the last ten years, fuck that. Fuck my shaking hands and racing heart and cracking voice and the right foot that won’t stop tapping and my mind that changes directions quicker than the metal ball flinging around a slot machine. Fuck the people who don’t believe anxiety is real. Fuck the friends who didn’t – don’t – understand, who are friends no more. Fuck all that and let it go. Fuck all that and send it all love instead. To the shaking hands that are still your own, even though they move to an unknowable beat – send love. To the dread that anchored itself deep inside your body – send love. To the face you look at in the mirror – send love. To the people who didn’t – don’t – understand, who aren’t so kind, who expect you to be someone you’re not, who say ‘awww’ as though you are a small child who doesn’t know how to live – send love. Send it – them and you – love. It really is the only way.

and that’s why I was crying

It took at least two weeks for me to settle in to being away, for me to get back in to the pace of travel. I was writing a friend long emails, asking her what the hell I was doing with my life; I felt exhausted before I had even begun. I was scared that I’d made the wrong decision and that I was just running away. She replied in the thoughtful, philosophical way for which I love her, telling me all the things I needed and wanted to hear, and it soothed me.

I’d said goodbye to her a couple of days before I left Melbourne; we sat in what had been my bedroom, strewn with clothes and mess, and tried to pack my bag. Through tears I laughed about all the other tears I’d shed in that room, the anxiety I’d wrangled with, and the men I’d ‘entertained’, as well as, of course, all the happy, good times. I was so emotional and sentimental, and my friend, who is very possibly more melodramatic than I am, suggested that it was understandable that I was in such a state – after all, I’d packed up my life in a matter of a few days and was about to leave it all behind. About to leave it all behind! I kept crying, touching the necklace she’d just given me, which she’d advised not to let flip over for the engraving on the back of the pendant. It said ‘India, 2014’. And I wear it every day and I love it and I don’t care if it ever flips over (though it never does).

In hindsight, I know it wasn’t true that I was scared about making the wrong decision or running away. Nor was I sad to be leaving something that I know won’t be the same when I return, as further reflection suggested. The city never changes, you do – and that’s why I was crying.

making love to a yogi

A brown-leather-tanned man with a beard and a man bun runs up to me on the beach in Agonda as it nears sunset. I’d seen him watch me come out of the water and then as I gathered my things so I’d anticipated his approach but when he taps me on the shoulder I’m startled. His eyes are deep-set but bright; his smile is wide and free, but his teeth a definite shade of brown.

He says: Hi.

I say: Hi.

Man says: Do I know you?

I say: I don’t think so.

Man: Have you been here before?

Me: No.

Man: Ama’s Ashram?

Me: I’ve never been.

Man: I really feel like I’ve met you before. I know you.

No: I really don’t think you do.

Man: You have a twin out there.

Me: I must.

And I keep walking because I’ve been around this block before.

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10 years in Melbourne: the places I have lived

There is a fear that to leave a place you’ve called home is to leave everything behind, to sever yourself, henceforth, from all that transpired in that place, the person you were there and the memories you created, and to move from a place of safety to that which is unstable and unknown. That’s not true in the sense that it is believed. What that is, is bullshit. Things will be left behind whether you stay or leave. Leaving one home simply means moving to another, to where you will carry all of what you need, not only in boxes and bags, but somewhere in your heart – which is the only home, I believe, you will ever truly inhabit.

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I can’t write

At the moment. Usually I write late at night or in the early hours of the morning, about half an hour or so after I’ve turned the light off, when I realise that going to sleep is impossible once I’ve started drafting something in my head – my head my head my head – and so I relent, let it win, the story, whatever it is, and reach for my laptop but leave the light off, so I’m propped up in bed tapping away, reading things back out loud, sometimes laughing at my own words, my own recollections, sometimes crying, until it’s done – and I don’t mean finished, I just mean done because it’s rare that I finish a story but it’s not often I’m not done with it. I know that once the moment is upon me, and the story is there, it is only then I can write it; if I don’t it will dissipate as quickly as the dream that was so vivid upon waking, the dream I was sure I’d remember, but then only minutes later is gone, left only a residual feeling but no memory of what had transpired. Those moments, the late-night writing moments turned into marathons, have left me, and I miss them. I want them back. I want to let all these words come out, inelegantly, messily, splattered, until I arrive as something I knew was there but couldn’t say until I’d done the work, fished around, wrote about this and that and then realised only at the very end that that’s the meaning I was looking for, that’s the last piece of the puzzle. Until I’m done. It is that moment, when everything falls into place as though I had spent hours planning and drafting – and really I do, in a way: the early-morning coffee contemplations, the rambling thoughts of an afternoon walk, the moment you see a man in the kitchen of a restaurant put his mop down and start dancing, gracefully, thoughtfully, unaware he’s being watched, and your heart clenches. It is turning those moments into words that I miss – because if I don’t do it, even if I don’t do it well, even if no one ever sees the words let alone reads them, part of me is left wanting. Part of me, even, feels missing. But I can’t write, at least not at the moment, because when I turn off the light and get into bed, I sleep. Because my mind – my mind my mind my mind – has slowed down. It’s slowed down, and so instead of writing, I sleep. And only a fool would give up sleep once they have tasted the sweetness of a sleep that comes easy. So I must look for another writer in me: my daytime writer. I must look for her in the backstreets, all day, and all night.

a date at Shebeen

I was running about half an hour late for this date for the simple fact I had decided to take a late-in-the-day nap. He was running late himself so he pushed the meeting time back and I was snuggling in bed like I had all the time in the world up until the very moment I realised I didn’t, so I quickly changed and headed out into the dark. I was waiting for the tram on Sydney Road, at the corner of Albion, when he texted to apologise for the mess around and to say that he actually prides himself on his punctuality and as such had managed to find a way to get to the city at the time originally planned, leaving me not only late but very late and with really no other choice but to call on the services of a gentleman driving a yellow car to whom I paid not much more than I would have spent on a tram fare (which I had had no intention of paying since there is no Myki service near to the stop at that hour and to top up my card would have been to go entirely out of my way and I prefer to prove the point of what a failed public transport system Melburnians have found themselves with, the fact of which grows more and more apparent with every trip you take, which I could go on lamenting but, as I say, I had a date to get to and I probably said as much to the driver who dropped me at the corner of Elizabeth and Collins, just out the front of the Block Arcade, and by this point I really should close off with a right bracket but I’ve meandered on far beyond the initial parenthetical statement and so to free myself I will simply have to stop). I walked up to the crossing in front of Australia on Collins, where in my more youthful years I’d done stints working at both Crabtree & Evelyn (where I learned the art of gift-wrapping) and TieRack (where I learned the art of saying sexually inappropriate things behind men’s back), and idled down Manchester Lane, where Shebeen is located. It had been my date’s choice, though we agreed later that neither of us liked it very much for its unbearably pretentious staff – ‘How can you be that rude when you’re wearing tracksuit pants at work?’ I asked him after buying the third round – and also for the $15 eftpos minimum about which we spent a good twenty or thirty minutes exchanging stories that demonstrated how increasingly enraged we both were by not being able to put a four dollar coffee on your card in the basically cashless society in which we found ourselves living. We both sighed, sat back in our uncomfortable but aesthetically appropriate chairs and took a sip from our $13 beers, the profits of which would go to a certain worthy overseas cause, though the bar staff disgruntledly said not to ask them which.

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late-night confessions

I was at my brother’s house, sitting in his spot on the living room couch, which he insists isn’t his spot but which I’m sure is for the exact reason I gravitate there: it provides the best vantage point in the room. He’d made me a whiskey and water, the preparation of which I was able to watch from where I was seated, after I’d insisted I needed and wanted and desired one last drink, but once I’d taken my first sip I set it down and left it there. We’d been that evening at Neighbourhood Wine, a favourite of mine in Fitzroy North, where we sat at a reserved spot for three at the bar. The third spot was occupied by my very good friend with whom I’d spent the day wining, dining and, at day’s end, literally dancing around my apartment, strewn with yet to be packed mess, while wearing our respective wedding attire and listening to Janet Jackson. We were already a bottle of champagne and a few ciders down by the time we got to the restaurant where we spent much of the evening behaving inappropriately towards the sommelier who had, in my opinion, sexy casual swagger, appropriately aided by the number of his shirt buttons undone – a number that would be deemed far too many under other circumstances. But I liked his hairy chest, and we were all – we were all – attempting to flirt with him during the very brief moments it was possible. We drank a carafe of prosecco, my celebratory drink of choice, because it did indeed feel like a celebration, and ate several delicious dishes for which we sent compliments to the chef, who, incidentally, was the wife of the gentleman we were borderline sexually harassing (though we did not know this at the time). As the night drew to a close and the bill was paid, I sent my yawning friend home, to Richmond and her fiancé, and went with M, who also never knows when to call it quits, into the adjoining bar, surprisingly busy, where we were told we could have one last drink. While waiting to be served, I alerted M to the fact I was just briefly moving over towards the window to pass wind, which I did, and upon my return he alerted me to the fact the window was – hadn’t I noticed? – closed, though this had already become apparent. At this point the bar staff told us that the till was closed for the evening, no surprise really, the time being close to 1am and our geographical location being Melbourne, the city that only ever sleeps (and brunches and watches films outdoors). I cried foul play anyway and left the bar, without the need for brute force, but not before popping my head back into the restaurant to bid the sommelier, to whom I tipped three whole dollars, a very good evening. A we descended the stairs onto the street we met the golden lights of Nicholson Street and it momentarily felt as though it was only 1pm. We walked the several blocks back to Carlton North, to M’s house, without taking in my suggested detour of one last drink at the Great North (which would have most certainly been closed) instead reaching the point, at which I began this story, where we sat on M’s dated, midnight blue lounge suite, drinking or not drinking whiskey and waters talking about all kinds of things, serious and not serious, including the text I’d sent a few days earlier to someone on Tinder, a text which I had thought was very funny, and so did M, but which had been left replyless under very awkward circumstances, of which I won’t bother to disclose. So this was where we had been and what we had done when I said,

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