Somebody that I used to know

This time last year I left Sri Lanka after learning how to surf and thinking that I had fallen in love.

As it turned out, only the waves stayed with me because that was the real love story.

The man that I met, and the man I’ve written about only fleetingly since, never kept his promise to make contact after our month spent together, which clearly I thought was something that ultimately he did not.

As a journalist, and therefore a deadline person, we’d set a date of two weeks hence for contact to be made after I left. I couldn’t contact him because he was “off the grid”, which at the time I thought was revolutionary. Now I just think he’s a lost little boy.

The two weeks came and went and unsurprisingly (in hindsight) no phone call, text message or email was forthcoming. It was like the whole thing was a mirage or, yes, a holiday romance that was never supposed to leave the island on which it was made.

Over that fortnight I drank too much wine and talked too much about him. I cried sometimes, too.

I couldn’t understand why someone who I thought I knew could be so cavalier with the feelings of someone he’d said had “brought him back to life”.

After the deadline passed, I did move forward slightly, but it’s embarrassing to admit I was a bit loony for a few more months still. I surfed obsessively, which helped me to sleep at night, but I also have to disclose that in the beginning I just wanted to get better so that I could proudly show him the next time I saw him. Delusional, maybe. As it turned out, peri-menopausal, definitely.

By the start of this year, I had created closure because I’d received none from him. Sometimes, when feeling especially hormonal, I’d fantasise about all manner of atrocities that may have befallen him, which thus had prevented him from contacting me. The most repetitive fantasy, however, was that he was just an arsehole.

Fast forward a few months and one of my best friends was going back to the place where it all started and asked me to come along, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to relive anything of last year because, I told myself, I’d moved on from all of that.

Then a few weeks later, I changed my mind. If I truly had closure, I thought, then I should return on my own terms and enjoy its wondrous remoteness, and waves, and create new memories. So that’s what I did.

Within two hours of arriving, my friend sheepishly informed me that my former paramour was there, too. Had been for a few weeks, he said. My friend hadn’t told me because he didn’t want me to get too anxious or axe a trip that he knew I really needed to make. He made the right call.

I think part of me knew my ex-lover would be there – he certainly knew we were supposed to return at that time – but that wasn’t the reason I went. Still, the news shook me to the core and I drank many beers after a 27-hour journey there. Surely a phone call would have been cheaper than flying to Sri Lanka to apologise I thought drunkenly?

Over the next two days, as we walked the single street of that small surfing village, I scanned as I strolled, but I don’t know whether I was hopeful or fearful of seeing him.

The first meeting happened by chance in a cafe and I’m proud to say that I didn’t punch him on the nose or slap his handsome face. I just said “hello” and politely joined the group conversation when necessary.

He sat opposite me and couldn’t look at me for a time. I liked watching him squirm. But strangely, what I had found so alluring the year before, had vanished. He still looked good, but not in the way that I remembered or in the way that I had dreamed about during those 12 long months of silence.

Later that night, at the local beachside bar, he arrived and was soon sitting next to me. My friends made excuses about being tired and left, knowing that I needed to hear what he had to say.

Without too much prompting he said “sorry” again and again. And that was about it. He never was the greatest conversationalist. Not that I’d noticed that last year.

I prompted him for more information and he started to list a whole bunch of reasons to justify his behaviour and then I realised I had stopped listening. I just didn’t care.

But before he started talking about himself a bit more, I said, “Look. There’s something I have to say.”

He waited and probably wondered whether that punch on the nose was imminent but I just said: “It wasn’t about the contents of the phone call. It was the phone call. A promise is a promise. If you had no intention of contacting me you should’ve just said so. It hurt me very much. I was upset for a long time,” I told him, “and I didn’t deserve it.”

He apologised profusely and sincerely again and then I told him that I’d actually forgiven him a long time ago. I also thanked him for the gift of surfing because it had given me something that I didn’t know I was missing – peace and a profound connection with the ocean, whether I actually catch a wave or not.

And that was it. The moment that I’d dreamed about was nothing like I’d thought it would be because I no longer wanted it to be that way. I’d finally moved on, but perhaps he hadn’t. I’ll never know because a few days later he disappeared from town like a thief in the night.

Maybe our paths will cross again one day or maybe they won’t.  It doesn’t really matter because now he’s just somebody that I used to know.

 

The curious case of the stolen car

thief running stealing a car

This is a story about a man named Mike* and his stolen car.

Before you say anything – yes, I am actually writing about someone other than myself, which surprises me somewhat, too.

But when Mike told me this story – in two parts with a number of months in-between –  I knew that I had to share it.

Now the reason that Mike has an * is because that’s not his real name. For once, I’m going to protect his identity and you’ll soon understand why.

Like me, Mike travels a lot for work. That means that our conversations are often truncated, but somehow we neatly pick up where we left off.

A while back now, Mike called me one night and asked of me a perplexing question.

“Where you home about the (something date) of (some month that I can’t now recall)?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” I replied so I checked my diary and then replied in the affirmative.

He then went on to ask if I saw anything or anyone unusual loitering around?

I may be protecting his name but it’s fairly obvious now that we may live in the same building.

“Well,” I replied, “our suburb and its inhabitants are quite unusual most of the time.”

“That’s true but it’s just that I’ve had my car stolen from out of my garage,” he told me.

I was a little confused, though, as the date that he’d asked me to recall was some six weeks in the past so I said as much to him.

“Ah, it’s a little embarrassing,” he said, “but I’ve only just noticed.”

You see, he’d been travelling so much that so didn’t really need his car and hadn’t checked the garage in the interim until this particular day. However, he couldn’t find the automatic door opener anywhere.

A garage door opening person was soon engaged to open sesame the door, he said, and the only thing that he saw was an empty space where his car had been some six weeks before.

“I must have dropped the door opener on the drive-way and someone’s stolen my car from out of the garage,” he told me. “Six weeks ago.”

I had to laugh just a little and question him on whether he needed a car at all given so much time had passed and he’d been none the wiser.

Then I didn’t see him for a couple of months.

“How did the insurance claim go?” I asked him when next I did.

“Ah, well, it went OK but then I cancelled it because, ah, I got my car back,” he told me.

“No one ever gets their car back. That’s awesome!” I exclaimed. “How did they find it?”

“I found it,” he said matter of factly.

Then he proceeded to tell me the second half of the story of the curious case of his stolen car.

A number of months on from the date when his vehicle disappeared from his garage, he received the statement for his toll road usage and decided to go into “super-sleuth” mode.

He scanned the charges and saw that his car had been driven on a well-known toll road many months before and then, well, nothing.

Mike looked closer at the toll charges and saw that it was for a road he knew very well.

In fact, it was a road that he travelled on frequently.

It was a toll road called the Airport Link.

“What?” I said as my brain started to think that the thief had stolen Mike’s car from the garage and then driven it to the airport.

But that thought process was overtaken almost instantly with a dawning realisation about what may have really happened.

“Hang on,” I continued. “Who was driving the car?”

“Me,” he said sheepishly. “I must’ve driven it to the airport and forgotten all about it.”

I laughed long and very loud, which he took graciously on the chin.

So it appears that on his initial return home, Mike had promptly jumped in an Uber while his car was securely and safely waiting for him in the airport car park, you know, where he’d parked it when he left.

It wasn’t until he couldn’t find the door opener – because it was in his car at the airport all the time – that Mike surmised that an opportunistic crook had stolen his vehicle out of his locked garage after fortuitously finding the automatic door opener in the driveway… or so the story became.

He’d only paid for a week or two’s parking at the airport, too, so he also learned that they don’t contact car owners for at least six months if vehicles are left there lonely and clearly forgotten. One has to presume so they can build up some nice bills in the meantime.

So the curious car of the stolen car came to its unusual conclusion with Mike’s wallet a lot lighter from the parking fees and his dignity perhaps a little bruised from the experience.

Taking a photo of where you park your car doesn’t seem so silly now at all.

Friendship, Reconnected

Friendship-belt-Wishes-quotes

Once upon time, not that long ago, there was a world without social media. Indeed, a world without mobile phones.

Back in those dark distant days, of about 20 years ago, young people on a rite of passage left their homelands with only the promise of irregular phone calls and perhaps the occasional hand-written letter that disclosed far more than they should.

That was the way of the world for generations. We couldn’t Skype home when we were lonely for our family’s faces or text our mums and dads whenever we felt the need.

When we met new friends on our journeys, but had no fixed abode or phone number, we had to agree to meet up again at a pre-determined place and time at some stage in the near future – or we’d leave a message for them in a backpacker’s magazine in the hope that they would read it.

About 22 years ago, that mode of rudimentary communication was the only way that short-term connections could evolve into something more permanent and profound.

And so it was at the infamous Munich beerfest in 1995 that my paths crossed with someone who would have a seminal impact on my development.

She was on crutches after an unfortunate traveller incident, I’d like to think involving dancing on tables, while I was travelling around Europe in a Leyland Sherpa van with three male friends and was probably also in desperate need of female company.

Within one  stein of Lowenbrau beer, our burgeoning sisterhood was cemented and grew over the ensuing drunken days as we used her injury and our youthful vitality to get to the front of the drinks queue.

Then our time together was done and we made plans to reconnect in some months hence when we were both back in London, which somehow we managed to do.

Over the next 12 months, our friendship expanded to include her sister and our (literally) odd assortment of friends, and before we knew it our circle of friends was dozens in size.

And even though millions of people live in London, we somehow ended up living around the corner from each other.

Our local bar, which transformed into a debauched rave at the weekends, was the scene of many a long night and day as we partied like our lives could end tomorrow. Tomorrows were for old people anyway – back then.

Before long, I’d transformed my blonde tresses into dreadlocks – mostly inspired by her red ones – and we were both soon the owners of tattoos and piercings, while all that dancing meant we became waif-like women on a hedonistic mission with no end in sight.

But visas only last so long and far too soon it was time for us say goodbye to London and to each other.

It wasn’t until many years later, through social media ironically, that we reconnected. By that time, she was a married mother of two living in Denmark, and I was still single and living somewhere far less exotic.

And then a few days ago, on her visit back home, I flew to Sydney to have lunch with her.

We hadn’t seen each other for 21 years but when she met me at the train station, it was like no time had passed from that moment to this.

As I rushed up the stairs towards her, she ran down the stairs to met me halfway, and we embraced long and hard in the rain. Then we looked at each other and said “you haven’t changed at all”.

For the next 13 hours we literally didn’t stop talking. I guess 21 years is a lot of news to catch up on.

Our lunch transitioned into dinner which transformed into late night disclosures of loves lost and found and our mutual dreams of living writing lives.

And in a strange twist of fate, both of us have mothers with advanced Alzheimer’s.

We laughed and cried as the past 21 years were relived anew for the sole benefit of the woman sitting opposite.

But even though we spent hour upon hour with each other that day, I knew there was so much more to say.

And I won’t have to wait another 21 years for it, with a permanent move home on the agenda for her family.

Perhaps then I’ll tell her something that I didn’t last week. Perhaps I’ll reveal that I met her at a time in my life that I needed a woman just like her…

She was empowered, she was fierce but kind, and she lived her life on her terms with much laughter and even more love – and to me that was an inspiration because that was the type of woman that I wanted to be.

Looking back through the prism of time, I have no doubt that the year we spent together helped transform me into the woman I am today.

In fact, I know that that chance meeting in a beer hall in Germany was one of the best things that ever happened to me and her friendship, now reconnected, will continue to be an important part of my future.

Yes, when I next see her, I’ll make sure that I make time to tell her that.