Fold & Roll
On Tuesday the 14th of October I was sitting on Sonnenallee in Berlin, drinking a comfortingly awful coffee (Berlin coffee is generally awful, unless it's from one of the couple of Australian-run cafes that ex-pats share between them as survival secrets, which often leads to tears and exclamations of joy as someone sips down their first Sydney-quality soy latte in months or years). It was from a Lebanese bakery around the corner from the house I'd been staying at for a few days, in the company of a sweet friend who took me on a rooftop adventure over the apartment buildings a few days before. Then I boarded a plane to London, and rolled myself and my (small) suitcase of worldly possessions along to a pub with a queer night to meet another friend, whose place I stayed at for two nights. Then two days on a plane. Two days in Sydney, crashing with more friends, days spent bleary-eyed and jet-lagged and wondering what the hell I was doing there. Then two days in a car with my parents, driving up the coast. Then a night at my sister's house, in the land of my nieces. A night at my friend's house in Brisbane. Then three nights on the Sunshine Coast, beach-front apartment, salt-water swims, moonrise over the ocean, extended family everywhere, my sister's wedding (I was a bridesmaid). Then Brisbane, for two nights. I leave tonight, back to Sydney for a job interview, and I know where I'll be sleeping tonight, but I have no idea about tomorrow night, or any night after that.
In that great rush and jumble of places and people streaming past me, I am so relieved to have so many places, in so many parts of the world, that fulfil some function of home. The flat in London that I know so well now, having slept on it's living room floor on every journey into and out of Europe. Friend's houses in Newtown in Sydney, and West End in Brisbane. Neighbourhoods that are familiar, places where I know the location and quality of the nearest coffee shop, transport systems I know how to navigate, kitchens that I've cooked in before. It's like packing myself up into my little rolling suitcase and unfolding myself like a page from a pop-up book in each new place, but not unfolding too much- need to keep track of all the parts of me so I can fold up again and roll on. But folding out enough to wash my clothes, take liberties with the tea and coffee, spend a day being not-much-of-a-guest (lurking in a bedroom on the net rather than presenting sunny and interesting to the world). Living in transit. It's not a holiday. It's nothing like one.
Without people willing to share their space with me, who seem to enjoy my flittering periodically through their houses and their lives, there would be nowhere that felt like home, and I love these people for their generosity and for making my life possible. For making it OK when I am a jet-lagged mess of uncertain destination and geographic angst, for picking up our friendship easily from the last time I came through and listening (with interest, even!) to my attempts to pull a coherent narrative out of where I've been and where the hell I might be going.
I cling to the familiar faces (although haircuts and names and pronouns may change) and familiar spaces (although the rooms might have been shifted) to ease the jolt of hemisphere-shifting shock, which wants to drown me in the weirdness of leaving autumn for spring, colder for warmer, a world where I make and sell hats for a living for a world where I am landing interviews for corporate IT jobs that pay amounts of money that make my eyes water. Heavy-laden apple-trees swapped for jasmine blooming. Autumn harvests for fresh spring shoots. Fantasies of baby tomato plants ready to shoot strong and green for the hot, bright heavens.
What I want is still out over the ocean somewhere, not quite caught up with my body yet. I have a plan, formed in Berlin, for a summer of work here and an early spring return to Berlin, but the ability to think of or hold onto plans lingers behind like my body clock when I travel like this, catching up with me maybe a few weeks later. Who I was and what I did in Berlin is behind there too, somewhere, making it hard to say much when people ask me how it was ("Oh, good, I guess. I love that city."). So life is extremely immediate, with a 48 hour bubble of vision of where I will go and I what I will do, and that's good enough for now.