couch surfing, a series of four:
i arrived in wellington with a stiff spine and a heavy load on my back. my bag was overpacked. the boston marathon bombing occured two days prior and i felt alone in a western world that raised their eyebrows at my country’s nightly televised violence, as if i could explain it. the cold, drought-quenching new zealand rain lingered around the city. it was dark.
a cross-country bus dropped me in a quiet northern suburb and i found a city bus to take me to an address i had tucked in a notebook. city buses systems are generally mysterious - stops are almost-unmarked corners of street, the driver says nothing to announce your location, and in the dark, the sleepy storefronts and look nothing like they do on google maps.
i found the host house and was offered a room and one of the three pillows had mold; i left it on the ground. my host and i watched a british soap opera together in silence. i ate over-fried fried rice from a plastic container; her son had finished the leftovers by the time i looked for them in the fridge the next day. she told me about her beautiful dog that lived to be 21. she had a painted portrait of his smiling boarder collie face in the entryway.
i woke up at 6:30 to watch the sunrise from her windows. the house sat alone on a hill overlooking farmland and the golden bay. the living room smelled like the clean laundry she had draped on every surface for drying mixed with the sweet rotten smell of tree fruit strewn on the kitchen table. the sky moved from grey to pink. i left before she woke up.
"i thought i would see you again," she said to me later that day in the parking lot of the village’s street market. she gave me a hug that burst across my nervous system, a hug like a friend.
he bent over his homemade dj table and spread out detailed maps of small parcels of new zealand, outlining roads that are never mentioned in guide books and camping huts you can only find if you know they exist. “take a mosquito net,” he said, pointing to a small inland lake, “it’s beautiful here, but you’ll need one.”
his house was an old workman’s shack from the 1950s that had been converted into living quarters, and as soon as the wood fire went out, the alpine freeze crawled through my sleeping bag and into my sock-wrapped feet. i slept in every layer i owned and still woke up with a running nose.
in the morning i ate warm oatmeal and fruit in the frozen 8 am sun, standing in the frost-crystal yard because it was warmer outside than in. before he headed out for the morning, he left an extra mosquito net on the kitchen counter.
my travel partner and i made red curry for the whole group - three other couch surfers and our host. the six of us sat around the benched kitchen table for dinner. curry is easy - a can of coconut milk, curry paste, chopped vegetables, and chickpeas but we get a hearty, happy reaction. “this is really good,” say the host, still wearing his blazer from work. “i can feel myself getting healthier.”
we drink red wine from a box and sit in front of a wood fire. and then we eat chili spiced popcorn. and we trade the wine for mugs of peppermint tea. the conversation continues.
my watch reaches midnight, the latest i’ve been awake in weeks, before i consider crawling to bed.
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- wholefoodsandgin said: You write so wonderfully.
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