Photo credit – [http://abedouinspath.com/boots-and-gravel]
The van was down and out, what hopes I had – reminiscent of futility – were dashed. The first mechanic humbly explained that it would not be worth investigating. Upon inquiry he gave me the number of a transmission specialist in the next town which was around thirty minutes away – hours by my van, its first gear only and scores of angry motorists in tow. Again the familiar whine of hydraulics and pulse of orange light as a steel cable drew the van atop a tow truck, safe and secure for the journey to Lismore.
It was the Tuesday after Easter, the chosen garage would not be able to investigate the problem until Thursday – my chauffer graciously took me to another caravan park where I waited among the sleepy, lonely portable township.
Days later I walked the streets of Lismore, my van now in the many hands of a local garage. This town was recovering from a devastating flood, the signs of deluge still apparent – it seemed some of the shop owners, their stock and floor ruined, had closed down and I trod past several empty spaces and contemplated what it would be like to experience such a loss.
Eventually my phone rang, it was Michael the mechanic, his words “you’d be better off replacing the gearbox” came through the earpiece. Despair. I explained that it had just been reconditioned a few months earlier and on his instruction I hung up and called the aforementioned gearbox mechanic to see what they could do.
An agreeable venture was organised and the van’s gearbox would be taken out and sent hundreds of kilometres north to be re-repaired while the vehicle’s shell remain in Lismore. I returned to the van to gather supplies.
Pack shouldered with clothes, books and laptop, I was now, in the definition of the word, homeless.
My feet trod the tarmac into town to find a place to live.
I walked past a community centre and enquired within, I was now one with the many displaced people following the great flood, that aside I had leads for accommodation and begun my lengthy paced journey around town. Office to office, department to department, hotel to hotel, hopes smashed and rekindled and smashed again in effort to find safe space to rest this weary body and struggling mind.
When I need to focus on a base need such as accommodation it seems that all other pursuits such as pleasure, education or sociality seem to dwindle giving a desperate feel to life. Memories of existential bliss arose and the mind sought to compare situation. Despair arises from judging my circumstance and if put into words it might say ‘I was happy then, why aren’t I happy now?’. In reality, those thoughts are futile and the happiness sought is a by-product of acceptance, not a goal.
I worked hard to accept my situation. I wanted to shut myself off from the world – a difficult thing to do when the only layer of protection are the clothes on my body. I cried inside.
After a long day I gave up and walked into a motel, a few nights of luxury at expense of my savings, a bed, a shower, walls and a roof – I had it all.
I bounced between towns, hitchhiking the long distances and walking the short, my legs strengthening yet deep inside a terrible anguish – my home, my safe space, my transport, my possessions all torn from reach. After the motel stay ended I wasn’t willing to part with dwindling finances to further comfort so I hitched to Mullumbimby, pack shouldered, feet on pavement. A questioning thought where am I going to stay? I turned a corner to seek distraction in the town’s main street and came across an old acquaintance, Kai. My situation arose in dialogue and she offered sanctuary – later that day I removed boots from tired feet in her spare room, in a house high up in the rainforest locale of Wilsons Creek – I exhaled.
Weeks passed, complications with the gearbox extended my stay yet as I had a pillow to lay my head the mind remained immune to concern. The time also allowed a friendship to bloom with Kai. She ran a cat hotel downstairs and I enthusiastically aided her in feline guesthouse operations unofficially titling myself Chief Cat Cuddler. I had it all, and began to realise the all that I had – was me.
Eventually the phone rang with news of the van, it was back in action – I excitedly stuck a roadside thumb toward Lismore. The heavy cost of the repair was covered by warranty and the local mechanic had also watered my plant, a welcome addition to the return of easy movement and life on the road.
Given that everything I had was returned to me I may have expected a feeling of security to return – it did in a way, however superficially, yet deep inside I still felt homeless, I was still homeless. The desire to find a home, once a whisper ignored now a nagging, an itch – my unconscious tendencies took to distraction, this part was easy, I was busy studying, learning, socialising and not writing (I’m sorry). I slept in the van around the Byron Shire, every day I moved, sometimes returning to the same place late at night to avoid attention.
I took a house sit on a small but beautiful farm west of Lismore, bar three jovial early morning roosters there was peace, but it was another’s peace. The voice grew louder and I struggled and writhed and screamed inside but still did nothing externally, and stayed stubborn in my own suffering.
After some time I opened a dialogue with Kai about her house, we had once spoken of me taking residence in that room I sought shelter those weeks ago. This would not be easy, there were serious complications with her last housemate and the owners of the property had refused any future occupants. She would speak with them and I would wait with tensed breath.