“HAVE YOU DECIDED what you’re doing yet?” Mendes asks. We are hungover and drinking strong cappuccinos on the patio of Tango 475, a coffee shop hidden down a lane in Melbourne’s Toorak Village.
“I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. Part of me wants to stay and try to have a real life for once, y’know? I’m tired of moving around all the time. But I might be sick of Australia. I can’t decide if I should stay or just go again,” I say.
“Where would you go?”
“Somewhere weird. Maybe India.”
“Why do you want to go to India?”
“Because I want a motorcycle. And elephants and curry and Goa.”
“You can have almost all those things in Thailand. And it’s way closer. Let’s go there. Maybe I’ll try and get someone to take my apartment. I don’t know if I can stay,” he says.
“If you wanna go, I don’t want you to feel like you have to stay here just because I’m crashing at your place.”
“No, I know. It’s good having you there.” I think he thinks he means that, but he looks skittish and tired. He officially moved in the day before I got to Melbourne, and I get the feeling he only migrated from his friend’s couch to his own apartment so I would have somewhere to stay.
“What would you do if I did give it up though? I might go.”
Mendes has crashed on couches and floors in more places than I ever kept track of; until a few days ago, he has not had a place of his own since he left Toronto. He is now the legal tenant of an apartment at Toorak and Orrong, and that is freaking him out. He has RESTLESS tattooed across his knuckles. I’m not sure if it’s there to describe his way of life, or to encourage it.
He lies still, but I can tell by his offbeat breathing that he’s awake. Occasionally, he drinks from the bottle of Carlton Draught sitting on the dresser beside his bed. He has learned to do this without sitting up; I keep my arm across his chest and fall asleep again.
There’s a rack of free postcards across from me; I think about writing my mom, my dad, my best friend Steph. A fly is crawling over the one that reads, “Her absence filled the world.” What does that even mean? Maybe I’ll take that one and send it without writing anything on the back except an address. Maybe whoever I send it to will be intrigued by my cryptic anti-message and assume I am too busy doing exciting things to fill a 4 x 6 inch postcard.
What would I tell them? Dear Mom, I’m wasting my afternoon in a coffee shop like I could be doing at home? Dear Dad, I’m thinking of coming home, but I can’t afford the flight and I don’t think being there would make me any more satisfied? Dear Steph, I don’t even know where home is anymore and that used to be what I wanted but now I don’t know what I want and it’s scaring the hell out of me?
I need a drink. I need alcohol, not caffeine. I need to get laid. Mendes and I are just friends.
I thought if I left Cape Tribulation and came to Melbourne, Mendes and I would both find comfort in each other’s confusion.
Instead, neither of us are any closer to figuring anything out. We are 25. By current life expectancy standards, this is neither a quarterlife crisis nor a midlife crisis. It isn’t even really a crisis. This is life.
A series of lines and names and dates climbed the frame, year by year, until my parents divorced and sold the jamb and the house and the record of our growth, measured against ourselves at different times, and measured against each other.
“Eventually it grows completely over the other tree, stealing its water and nutrients and preventing it from growing, until the other tree essentially dies of strangulation.”
“Are you going to Thailand?” I ask.
“I don’t know. It might be good to get away for a bit but I don’t know what I want to do. Patty’s going on tour again though so I can crash there while he’s gone. I think I’d feel more comfortable if I could leave whenever I wanted.”
“Yeah. Well, I need a place, and if you don’t want yours, that would be good for me too. I think I might stay. For awhile, anyways.”
There are no lines on this door frame, nothing so clearly indicative of change. 12 months ago, I was living in Honduras. I don’t know where I’ll be in another 12. Perhaps this is home — this feeling of not knowing whether to stay or go, or where I belong, or if I want to.
Last night Mendes and I slept flat on our backs, close but with our arms to ourselves, in case one of us wanted to move.