When I lie in bed at night, I wonder who reads my stories. Outside my circle of friends, who text and email and call to heap too-generous praise, I wonder who reads until the end. I wonder how the stories make them feel. Maybe hungry, maybe happy, maybe a little bit sad; I hope they feel something. I wonder about my grammar, unchecked by subs, if it is (was?! were?!) correct. I wonder if they’d tell a friend or come back next week to read again.
When I was eight we moved from one side of the city to the other, over the famous bridge, and another less famous one, from the leafy north shore of Sydney to the hot, concreted inner west. Away from my school and my friends and the few suburbs I knew; away from the eat-in Pizza Hut Restaurant and Friday night noodle markets, toward Bar Italia’s gelato and Il Cugino’s anchovy-rife Pizzeria.
I once read that Nick Cave started a Bad Seeds song with the words ‘I thought I’d take a walk today…’ because he was feeling uninspired and decided to let his mind wander. What followed is the rambling, ferocious, hysterically brilliant, ‘Oh My Lord’, including this insanely wonderful verse:
“Now I’m at the hairdressers, people watch me as they move past
A guy wearing plastic antlers presses his bum against the glass
Now I’m down on my hands and knees
And it’s so fucking hot!
Somebody cries, ‘What are you looking for?’
I scream, ‘The plot! The plot!’”
So I thought I’d take a walk today…
My Uncle Art liked a bet on the ponies. He lived in a flat near Randwick Racecourse and I remember thinking he was the coolest because his name was Art, but also being scared of him because he was really old. My Aunt in Canada changed her name from Charity to Cherry. I don’t know why and I’ve never met her to ask, but it strikes me as a curious, delicious, choice. My Uncle John had a fight with my mum a few years ago and now I refuse to talk to him. No one likes to be patronised, John. My Aunty Mavis lived in Sawtell and used to bring out a massive tray of lollies every time Mum took us to visit. I miss Aunty Mavis most.
In the back seat, I lean my head back and lightly close my eyes. ‘Faith’s asleep,’ I hear my brother tell my mum. I pretend that I don’t hear him and continue ‘sleeping’. He tosses out an insult to test me; my eyelids flutter but I keep up the ruse. I like being in the car with my family, listening as they chatter and argue in front of me. My mum squints at and questions the GPS on her dash-mounted smart phone while my brother obstinately tells her to go a different way. For as long as I can remember he has sat in the front passenger seat, to avoid getting car sick, while I sit in the back, in my own quiet world, watching as the streets change and the cars flash by.
I feel loneliest sitting on a plane, waiting for take off. In my small space, with my small pillow, small blanket and small amount of legroom, looking out the small window as the terminal grows small in the distance. Leaving everything behind, crossing the skies and the seas, hoping to make it somewhere. The loneliness between leaving home and getting there yawns.
I wonder who will miss me while I’m away. I wonder where the kind older man sitting next to me is going and why he’s also travelling alone. I wonder if he feels lonely on planes. I’m grateful that he remains within his own small space, makes small movements when stretching and refrains from making small talk. I’m afraid my small voice will shake and crack if he is kind to me. I wonder if he’s leaving or coming home and I wonder who I’ll come home to when all is said and done. Continue reading
Dear I Could Eat Again,
Thank you for pushing me to practice writing and eating, every week, even when I’m tired and uninspired and sometimes not even hungry. Thanks for letting me get things off my chest. Cheers for your steadfastness. Thank you for travelling the world with me and for being my home stenographer. Thanks for encouraging me to be honest. Thank you for making me talk through my issues and for never interrupting or telling me what to do. Thanks for teaching me that my stories are ok if I think they are ok, even when no one reads them. Gracias for the many, many memorable meals we’ve shared. Thanks for letting me put your name on business cards before you were born, I realise that’s a bit embarrassing. Thank you for teaching me discipline. Thank you for being there when I need to cry and when I want to laugh. Thanks for helping me make my mum and dad proud.
Happy 1st birthday my blog, you bring me as much joy and agony as my own flesh and blood. Now, what should we do for lunch?
Love, Faith xo
ps Thank you for letting me take a break this week to write you this letter instead of a story, I know it’s a cop out.
India is everything and nothing you expect. Just as it’s crowded, vast, hot, sultry, stinky, dirty, exhausting, ramshackle, delicious, spicy, frustrating, bright and colourful, it is liberating, magical, moving, and heartbreakingly beautiful. And no matter how prepared you think you are, or how much you’ve sweated at hot yoga, India will always deliver the unexpected.
I didn’t expect to love the place so quickly, to feel comfortable and at ease and be planning my return visit less than half way through my first. Nor did I expect to see a predatory mama monkey jump out of a tree to steal a lady’s ice cream – but I’m so thankful that I did.
And as magnificent a city as it is, I didn’t really expect Asia’s 36th best restaurant to be found in Mumbai, or, if it were there that it would be serving Japanese food. Least of all did I expect to find Vince Vaughn working the room, slinging sashimi platters and pouring sake.
At the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, by the harbour in Mumbai, Wasabi by Morimoto is a culinary anomaly. Sure, many of the world’s best restaurants occupy real estate in hotels, and plenty of luxury joints offer ‘international’ cuisine for travellers looking to find comfort in the familiar. But amongst the street vendors shilling 20-cent variations on spicy fried potato and battered peasant veg (and with over 4,000 miles between Mumbai and Tokyo) specialising in raw fish and fresh wasabi takes pluck.
On our one night staying in the glorious, decadent, old-world Palace wing of the hotel, we extend the indulgence to dinner. Through Mumbai’s first licensed drinking hole, The Harbour Bar, we ride up to Wasabi in the glass lift. The doors open to reveal a modern space, all warm wood and contemporary light fittings, in direct contrast to the marble, crystal chandeliers and silk carpets of our sleeping quarters.
As we take our seats in the almost empty room, Vince Vaughn materialises by our table. Now, there are two things I didn’t know about Vince Vaughn before I visited Mumbai: one) he is Indian, and two) he has a deep appreciation for Japanese food.
I stare madly as he offers to help us order; I wonder where Indian Owen Wilson is hiding as he stops by to deliver our white fish carpaccio with hot oil and yuzu soy sauce (1575 INR). The flounder is sheer, growing slowly opaque as the hot sesame oil cooks through. It is light, soft and creamy, with no signs of freezer burn or jet lag.
I stifle a giggle as Indian Vince Vaughn makes sure we’re enjoying the fish; he smiles his goofy, googly-eyed smile, his curly quiff bouncing as he nods. Our shrimp tempura sushi roll (660 INR) tastes clean and fresh, the meat sweet and fleshy. Indian Vince Vaughn is ‘grateful for the pleasure to serve’ us, and tells us so repeatedly. He’s less ruddy in person, but has the same sweaty-cheese sheen as in the movies. With the arrival of our pork kakuni (1950 INR) I wonder if he served Oprah, or Obama when they visited the palace; maybe they’re old friends from Chicago? The pig shows every hour of the 18 it clocks during cooking – it’s meltingly soft, subtly fatty and served with another yuzu/soy combo sauce and superfine mashed potato. I stare at Indian Vince’s handsome face and note his forehead looks bigger on screen; he again let’s us know what a ‘pleasure it has been to bring us pleasure’. Such a smooth talker, I can see what Jennifer Aniston saw in him.
We settle the bill and Indian Vince Vaughn walks us to the lift, bubbling over with the pleasure he has taken serving us. He’s still talking when the glass doors close on his humbly bowing form, and chattering soundlessly as he disappears from our sight. I never expected to eat excellent Japanese food in Mumbai, or spend $200 on any meal in India, and I certainly never expected that I would pleasure Vince Vaughn. Namaste.
In the earliest hours, the baritone drone of Radio National would lead me to my mum’s dark room, lit only by the neon red display of her clock radio. ‘Mum? Are you awake?’ I’d yell-whisper at her exhausted sleeping form. ‘Mum? I can’t sleep,’ I’d persist. ‘Go back to your bed, lie down and try.’ she’d murmur patiently, digging deeper under the covers. ‘I already did that.’ No reply, no movement. ‘Ok mum,’ in my loudest whisper, ’I’ll try again. Goodnight.’ I’d creep back to my room, hitting every creaking floorboard along the way, lie down and instantly fall fast asleep.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Or the next day. Or any of the days allocated to me until my time is up. But no one does, right? No one can count on love to last, or their ship to come in, or on their next breath. I may never stand in the icy wind staring up at the Moais on Easter Island, or feel the growl of Tom Waits as he paces across a stage like a caged lion. I may never hear my own baby bellow as it’s forced out into the uncertain world.