I don’t go around trying to unravel the mysteries of life. I’m no philosopher pondering the complexities of the world around us. I’m just a regular dude who feels things and wonders what they mean. As it happens, while I’m deeply, instinctively rational, I also feel a lot. They are qualities that work in concert: I feel, I wonder, I seek to understand.
Last night I lay in my bed feeling full of stuff I had yet to process. I felt it, literally, in my body, while my mind started off on its journey of understanding. I fell into a deep sleep. It was like all the lights went out in me. I was dead to the world, a log that barely stirred I’m sure, through the night. I dreamt again.
I dreamt I was away somewhere working, somewhere in Asia, Taiwan perhaps, somewhere like that, surrounded by Asians keen to work with me, the consultant from outside, the only westerner in the room. They were deferential, polite, as is so often the case. Amongst them was a girl I knew many years ago. She was from Hong Kong, black hair in a bob, dark framed glasses, slightly plump, quite cute. Back in the day I remember she liked me, expected and hoped of things to be with me. I was different. As always it seems, I was much more ambivalent than that, knowing that nothing serious would eventuate. And in fact I had forgotten all about her till this dream – even now I can’t remember her name, nor even how we met.
She was there in the dream nonetheless, knowing me, which came as a surprise. I felt very much in a foreign environment, though not in any confronting away. By turns I felt supremely competent, which became, at times, confused disinterest. Nothing happened with the girl. The scene changed randomly again and again. I go for a run as if it is ritual, and I wake with that image in my mind.
The curtains are open as they ever are. The early morning sun is out. It beams in at me, bright and splintered through the shifting cloud. I lay there without moving, aware of the dream, aware of how deeply I have slept, and recalling the feelings of the night before, absent now. The dog snuggles into me, keen for my attention now that I am awake. I lay there and search through myself and find something I have become use to is gone, if only momentarily.
So much has happened in the last 18 months, and particularly the last 6 months. It has been very testing, and occasionally quite ugly. I’ve been mired in it, working through it the best I can. It’s not over, but perhaps it is nearing the end. I lay there and it was as if in my sleep I had transitioned to another stage. I was not looking ahead, but there was an understanding in me that there would be a time different beyond this. There is no reason to expect anything much of that, except that it will be different from now. What I felt lying there was a kind of surety: it will work out. It was as if I knew it somehow, as if someone from the future had bent the rules and whispered in my ear as I slept, “you’ll be right H.”
While I thought this there was little feeling attached to it. It felt like an accepted fact, good, but uncontroversial. Somewhere in that I had a vision of myself. I have fought so fiercely these last few months that it came as a welcome surprise that the me I saw as myself then had a kind of stillness to him. There was something harder, more compact, more matter of fact about how I went about things. There was an innate confidence that went with it.
Stay in bed I thought. Bed seemed a charmed environment. Outside of bed there was the world outside; this was my sanctuary. And so I lay there and let my thoughts run their course.
A few days ago I finished reading The Caine Mutiny, a classic story of course, and better written than you might expect of such an iconic tale. I’ve always been dismissive of the myths about the so-called ‘greatest generation’. I believe mostly that people will rise to the occasion, even the Gen Y I pillory so often. All the same, reading the book I was made to appreciate how much these callow 18, 19, 20 year olds had to deal with. Their problems were more serious than those we grapple with day by day. The world they were a part of, their lives, was violent, they did their part believing they fought, and sometimes died, for a just cause. That was the world and their life every day of it through WW2. It puts our petty problems into some perspective.
Having lived through that it’s hard not be changed, and potentially – though not always – for the better. Maybe that was what I saw or felt lying in bed. The future I ‘felt’ was the result of the change in me because of the journey I had made, different to theirs, not nearly as violent, perhaps not life threatening – though tumultuous all the same, and dangerous to good health. Having survived this tumult you’d have to hope that I come out of it a wiser, stronger, better person. And that’s exactly what it felt like, the rubbish stuff finally, belatedly, burnt off.
At that point I returned to the feelings that had plagued me heading into sleep. It comes under the label of intimacy. As I wrote the other day, I miss it. I felt that absence keenly last night. I lay there wishing there was beside me a body familiar from touch and feel and use. I felt regret at the stupid things I have done, which are many. I cut myself some slack – I’ve had a lot to deal with. Still, I knew, I was not aware enough, not ‘present’ enough to properly appreciate what was there to be had. Perhaps that HK girl was a symbol of that, I don’t know.
I had felt that yearning before I slept last night. This morning I woke, wishing perhaps I had that body there, but ready to move forward (not ‘move on’). As I said the other day, I don’t think I’ve ever been better prepared or more receptive to a meaningful relationship. In those moments I felt truly adult. Once more it felt like an established fact. Ok, not now, but soon enough, the world will turn, you’ll be ready.
And then I got out of bed.
Was crook yesterday. Picked up a bug coming back from KL I think and have been congested/sneezing/coughing since. The cough is particularly annoying, and yesterday particularly bad. On top of that I had heartburn for most of the day for whatever reason. I took it as an excuse to take it easy. I read the paper, put a DVD on, watched a bit of the footy, took a long bath with a short book. I was due to a farewell party last night and from late in the afternoon I kept wondering at ways I could get out of it. I didn’t really feel up to it, but nor did I really feel as if I could miss it.
It was a farewell party held at Felice, a sort of retro, lo-fi bar just off Smith Street. They stocked Italian beer and the Negroni was the house cocktail. Strung from the ceiling was a model biplane about 4 foot long. It was full, full enough that a small crowd had spilled outside to taste the warmish night and to suck on a ciggie. Inside half were dressed in Fitzroy regulation, the other half was my lot.
I pretty well knew the one person only, the girl who had invited me, the girl who was leaving, and maybe a couple of others to nod at. There was a theme for the party, sort of art-deco-ish noir. Most of the party had dressed to the theme and it was good to see so many suits and hats and old-time frocks like it was a cast meeting from Guys and Dolls. Some looked like bootleggers, or gumshoes, one guy a mafia hitman, the girls society types from the 1940’s or else a bordello madame. I didn’t go to that trouble but wore a vest with a dark shirt, and a jacket that I quickly discarded. I looked more like a card sharp, or maybe a pool shark.
I said my hello’s and bought a mineral water and then returned to watch the tables set-up for rounds of Texas Hold ’em poker, which was the stated entertainment for the night. Most seemed novices, and it was amusing to watch as they learned and came to terms with the complexities of the game. Invited to join in I held back, not yet I told them.
I went back to bar for a real drink, already feeling better. Standing there a girl came and stood at my shoulder. I turned to her as she did me. We just looked at each other and as if it was the most natural thing in the world started talking.
She was a pretty girl with a natural femininity, her lips the shape of a heart. At first glance I thought she might be 30, just, then revised upwards, though not in any negative way. She was dressed for the occasion, which I remarked upon. She wore a lush fur around her neck. Yours? No. Didn’t borrow it from your mum? No, a friend lent it. Do you mind if I touch it? Her eyes settled on me before she answered: go on. I stroked her fur commenting that I bet you get asked that all the time. We continued to speak like that while our drinks were being mixed. I introduced myself, as she did. Our conversation was languid and stylish with a kind of old fashioned wit that went with the period. We parted.
I went back to watch the poker. I chatted to someone and thought about the girl. I liked her. She was my type. I didn’t know how I knew that, but I was pretty sure. I was pretty sure I was her type too. Girls like men who talk. More so if they have something to say and do it with style. And confidence. It had been no great challenge: the words had just flowed to me and I’d nailed it. As much as anything I knew from that she was good for me: the best women draw the best from you.
I’ve flirted with a lot of women over the journey. Most times it’s just for fun. Sometimes there’s a bit more intent than that. Rarely is there any real feeling in it. This time it felt natural. I started off with a smile on my lips, but even as I spoke I wondered if there was something different behind this door. We were strangers, but there was a surprising familiarity. Both of us were intrigued I think, and drawn in some mysterious way to each other, enough to want know more, to follow that tenuous connection.
As I stood there contemplating this and talking to someone else she returned. As she went by me she ran a finger down my arm from elbow to wrist without looking at me. It was a sort of sexy, surreptitious signal of interest. She kept walking as I watched, her tight, long dress shimmering on her toned body. She sat in the corner by a man I had not noticed before. So… I thought. I looked twice to see if they were together or not. He was not what I expected of her. I had hoped for her to be single, but if she was with a man I would have expected him to have a certain presence, if not handsome then at least to possess some charisma. That appeared not to be the case, though appearances deceive. He looked about 20 years older than her, and those years that hadn’t gone by easily. He was my size maybe, solidly built muscle once that had lost it’s spring, his hair grey, a face friendly and inoffensive but showing its age. He was dressed in character, a black suit, a white shirt, a thin tie. They were together clearly, but they seemed an odd couple, like she was out with her uncle. But that was that.
I sat down to play cards. I pondered this. I was disappointed, all my moves cancelled out. Then he joined us at the table. We talked, I made a joke of something and we laughed. He was an amiable character. He called me Mr Big and kept on calling me that for reasons I couldn’t figure out. Then he left the game and I played on.
I ended up playing for an hour or so teaching a woman to play until she had all my chips and most of the rest. I fetched myself a beer thinking I would leave soon. They had gone. What did I make of that? Another ship I thought. I sipped my beer watching the play and thinking, then put the empty bottle down on the window ledge. I left, sharing a big farewell scene with the girl who was leaving and nodding my head to my new acquaintances – all of them pleasant, interesting people. I got in the car and drove. It was about 1am I guess. I got home and looked at the TV screen for a little while and then hit the sack. Another night, good enough.
I woke and had my coffee and felt a kind of distant wistfulness. What could have been. I settled down with my newspaper and wondered if there was anything I could do, or should. When Donna rang I asked her that. “Well, you can,” she said.
“I can? Why?”
“Because you do.”
Oh, I thought, as she went on to explain. She spoke with the familiar amusement in her voice she has always when talking about my amorous exploits. Boyfriends are no obstacle she seems to think, when it comes to me and my desires. Nor wives. That’s what you do she said. On reflection I understood, marginally, though did not think it as black and white as that – though perhaps because I’ve never thought of it in those terms. These are puzzles to be resolved to me, desires to be fulfilled, not moral conundrums. Even now, and even though I see many, the one girl I really figure I could be with is with someone else. That’s a condition of our times though, and of my age, and perhaps a commentary on my commitment.
In any case, I’d like to meet this girl again, though don’t know quite how to engineer it. It’s not a big deal. Not a burning desire. Just curiosity, a touch of wonder. Chances are in a fortnight she’ll be a memory. Till then I’ll put my thinking cap on.