smells like the old house, the dark corridors. the first weeks in a new country

September 18, 2011

Wondering again how much I should put here. I don’t write privately anymore. I don’t- write, anymore. Not really. Not to myself, for myself. Which used to be how I processed, how I thought things through. I don’t like not writing.

I wonder where the lines of privacy are. Whether writing here instead of quietly on my own word documents or in my notebooks is- wrong. Whether I shouldn’t be speaking for an audience all the time.

Wondering where the lines are between public and private. Myself and you. The things I have for myself and the things that- you may see.

Wondering whether I’m becoming less introspective.


The smell reminds me of the old house and the dark corridors, the bathroom mirror at night. The creak of floorboards. The house in a new country, my first few weeks of a new life. New Zealand. The darkness, so total and so complete. The silence. The smell of tea tree oil. The feeling of dust and settled things, age and stolidity. Silence. Things come to a halt. Westerners, the garden outside, the linoleum and the mangy, battered carpets. Thin and worn with age. The smell of things unmoving, things halted. Cane chairs. The wild garden outside, the great trees in the messy landscape, the dog. The silence. The peeling wallpaper, the quiet kitchen, so strange, so new. The silence of this country. This country.

Tea tree oil. When my family moved to New Zealand, we stayed at my uncle’s place. The first few weeks, maybe months, with my uncle and my aunt, and the old house, and the night we came out of the airport on the first day of our new lives- our new home- the stars were out, and the sky was enormous and speckled with pinlights, flecked with more stars than I ever remembered seeing. Hong Kong was two stars in a smoggy sky, pale washed depths of light pollution. Clouds. New Zealand skies were breathtakingly clear and a thousand thousand stars hid the sky. It was cold. The night was perfect.

The strangeness of new beds in a dark room, my brother in the other bed and the duvet so thick and so heavy. The cold. The dark so thick and so sightless, and the silence a thing that hurt the ears, so complete it- was strange. The strangeness of being in this country, in this western house. This house. The first few weeks. Maybe months.

Smelled like this. Barefoot over the dingy carpets, in the dark, the dim lightbulbs, the smell of the oil on my skin. The new city. No bewilderment. Just taking everything in all at once, no judgements, no thinking. Just- this was what happened. This was where we were. This was home now. I was fourteen. I turned fourteen that year. My first birthday in this country was a few weeks after I arrived.

Or was it a few weeks after I started school? I can’t remember.

The first three years. High school. The silence.

I remember how it felt. I remember how it was to be, like eyes wide open in the dark. Taking everything and nothing in. Suppressed and repressed and accepting everything that came, because everything was new. Everything was strange: book, desk, chair, table, word. Family. Friends. Humans. Flowers. Air. A house. Food. Everything was different and I took it in the way eyes take in sight. Everything at once, passing through, filling up. Wide-eyed without innocence. Merely staring. Cameras record events. Cameras take everything in. They make no judgements, think nothing. It is merely as it is. This is where we are now. This is where we are. This is where we are.

I have my own fights now, in my head. But I remember changing. And I wonder if I’m changing again, and if I will ever be happy with the things I become. The places I go. The voices I have, thick and blunted or sharp and delicate or bright and frenzied. They show, more than anything, how I am inside. My voices. And I wonder if it reflects how I think. Whether I think. I wonder if I’ll think again.

I smell like tea tree oil, pressed against my face with a stolen cotton bud. I feel like sins and like guilt and like trepidation. I feel too present. I can’t, in my living, be too present. Be too here. I need to remember I extend into the future and that these things don’t last. That how I feel now- doesn’t last. Isn’t forever. That I live longer than right now. That all things pass. This too. It shall, this too. Pass.

Transient. I need to remember that this is transient. I mustn’t lose myself again in silence. Brain-silence. Quiet. Sleep. Taking everything in and being right now. No.

I spread back and I spread forward in time. This passes too. I won’t stay this way, or here. I am not stuck. Time itself will move me on.

I must learn to think again. Must remember. Must dream. Back, forth. Tea tree oil. Waking up from the silence.

I must remember the God who is, was and will be. All three at once. My permanence. This transience, and at once my permanence. My answers are always there. Always his. There. Yes.

It’ll pass. That won’t. This will. But I’m thinking again, see. Here. This.

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