There are periods in my life where I go slightly mad. I am currently in the middle of one, it seems.
In much the same way that Tom Hanks went a bit loopy after several years of living on a deserted island and ended up passing his days in animated conversation with a bloodied football, I have spent the past two weeks in trippy solitude, dividing my time in my empty dorm room between writing, trying and failing to keep in touch with loved ones via electronic devices, running on the beach and eating portions of pasta that are, frankly, obscene.
I have been talking to myself a lot, something I’ve always done, except usually its underbreath mutterings, rather than full blown conversations featuring multiple differing viewpoints. I wake up in my room at 11am, feeling the death throes of the horrendous amount of red wine greedily consumed some 8 hours prior, and I lie on my back and remember all the nonsense I was spewing onto poor innocent hostel strangers in some tragic attempt at finding a common ground that took a wrong turn and ended up a sorry ego-fuelled slurred monologue about exactly why Terry Pratchett’s metaphors are so fucking funny. God I’m a nightmare. And I lie on my back and say to myself ‘Dan, what the hell is wrong with you?’
‘Why do you keep making a fool of yourself man?’
‘I’m gunna be healthy from now on. I just need to stop focussing on silly things and crack on with my writing.’
‘It’s just hard to forget all the bad stuff that’s happened.’
‘Anybody who has achieved something worthwhile has suffered for it. You’ve just got to stick it out.’
‘Christ, I’m such a mess.’
‘You’re not a bad person. You’re doing alright. Just be brave and stick to your guns.’
And on and on until I take myself outside for a run, which calms my silly heart every time without fail. I’ve been pondering the fact that I refer to myself in different ways when I mutter to myself on hangover mornings. I, Dan, you, we. Like my head and heart are chatting to one another; one panics and balks, the other stays resolute and brings me back on course. I know it sounds barmy, but I don’t think it’s so strange in truth. What’s the difference between writing a diary and speaking your thoughts aloud?
I talk to myself for the simple fact that sometimes there are certain words you need to hear – and you know exactly what they are, but nobody is saying them to you. And when nobody tells you that everything is gunna be okay, well, you’ve gotta tell yourself. And it helps. That’s why we rub the backs of our necks when we’re agitated. It reminds us of our parents touch. It calms us down.
I’m being vague here about stuff on my mind – it’s all stuff from the past. I’ve been dipping in and out of memories more often than usual during my time here, because in a hut on the beach there are little distractions from that part of the psyche we all try to suppress. Nostalgia comes fast and heavy. But some dastardly little imp in my mind seems keen on collecting all the most painful memories of the past two years and splicing them together, into one delightful film reel to be thrown up on my mind’s projector at the most inopportune of moments. Snippets of cutting conversation, throwaway phrases from friends that stuck with me for years after, all the missed opportunities, and the baffling past decisions. What ifs, if onlys and – most painful of all – whys. That’s a large part of the reason I’m in Australia: to start again, calm my mind, and let the dust settle on everything.
But away from me batting away nostalgia’s insistent tentacles. Australia is very nice and good and many other positive adjectives. I went to a wet t shirt night at this bar called Cheeky Monkeys last night. I didn’t want to go, the bar is trash and they always throw people out for no reason. I got chucked out of there last week while I was stood washing my hands in the toilets. The bouncer came in and singled me out, and gave me the boot without an explanation. I told him I was sober as a judge and tried to talk amiably to prove it, but no dice. ‘You’re slurring your words,’ he told me. Bastard. I’ve no idea why Aussies have a reputation as hard partiers; they sell you booze here then kick you out for drinking it. But anyway, the wet t shirt night was weird. I missed most of it because I arrived late, and was quietly pleased. Drunk men howling at wet ladies; not my scene. I ate two pies on the way home. TWO.
I wrote something quite pretty last night while mooching along on the way into town, pre soggy tits. Here you go:
Walking alone through Byron’s temperate winter after a rain shower and the moon’s out through furrowed clouds. Crickets chirp. I feel alright. I walk past surfside mansions and cars swish past me with headlights on. Roar of the sea. Star treatment crooning fills my ears. Melancholic, but manageable. I stare through a garden fence as I walk and watch a family making dinner in a cavernous wealth kitchen, all spotless utensils and beaming surfaces, and the little girl spins like a ballerina in her pyjamas, and the fence slats flicking by make her movements jerky and stuttered, like one of those Victorian picture boxes you peered through on school trips back in the day.
There’s moonlight through the pines! Like werewolf cinematography. And all lining this broad empty avenue we have cold hotels with neon green vacancy signs above plastic board depictions of sunny beaches with seagulls flying high. It smells like pine needles and passing rain.
Anyway I got myself a job. I don’t have the working visa yet, it’s still being processed, but I’ve been invited to come and stay in a working hostel near Tabulam, two hours inland from Byron Bay. A friend of mine recommended me the place. It’s a blueberry farm, and when I get my visa I’ll be spending my days working in the fields there, earning a couple of hundred dollars a day. I figure I’ll live off twenty bucks a day and save the rest. Maybe I can buy a shit car later in the year and drive down the coast to Melbourne. We shall see.
Beach life comes to an end one hour from now, when I will take the bus to a town called Casino to be picked up in a truck by a man named Phil and driven to the farm that will be my new home for the next couple of months, assuming I don’t get immediately eaten by one of those big horrible fuck off bats that are everywhere around here, like dogs with vampire wings. I messaged the owner of the long-stay hostel I’ll be living at, a mile or two from the farm where I’ll be working. He told me to prepare for the best time of my life.
And that really put a smile on my face.