The next few blogs will be transcripts of the fourth season of Storytime with Paul Dore. This season is based on my latest novel Dreams of Being a Kiwi. Each episode/transcript will contain excerpts from the book, as well as an introduction to some of the characters.
Dreams of Being a Kiwi was the first novel I wrote a long time ago. It’s a story I continually return to and am finally getting it into print and on the podcast. The book is about a young man who suffers from a mental illness and how he navigates his way to find peace.
That day my sister and I walked out of the ocean, we lay down on the beach, let ourselves dry in the sun. We raced along the beach, I watched my sister laugh, laughed with her. We walked out to the Leifhead house, stepped up on the porch, the feeling in the air changed like it re-started itself. There was a for sale sign out front. As soon as I saw it, I asked my sister for a loan but I told her it was only a loan, I would pay her back. We went right to the real estate office, we closed the deal that afternoon. I was given the keys to my new house.
We went around to my apartment, collected my few things, I introduced my sister to Margaret. She invited us in for tea, she couldn’t get enough of my sister. I told Margaret I was moving out but only down the street. We told her to keep the rent that was paid until the end of the year. We entered the hostel, my sister went up to get her luggage, she travelled light just like me. I told Marshall and Helen that I bought the Leifhead house. This made Helen so happy, it was a commitment, it meant I was staying. I told her, of course, I was staying. She had her doubts, but deep down she knew it, she knew I was staying. She sprinted at me, jumped into my arms.
We went over to the house, opened it up with my keys, walked inside. A strange feeling started in my feet. The feeling was a tingling sensation, it travelled up my legs through my insides. It was the feeling of coming home, it was the feeling that after all this time of living in houses, apartments, hospital rooms that were never really mine, I had finally got my own house, a place I could call my home. We ran all around the house looking at everything. The furniture was still here, I expected to see the white light but knew it was not here. The only thing missing was the couch where he shot himself. I told my sister about it, how I found the body, that the head re-formed, spoke to me, prompted me to go back to the hospital.
We marvelled about how clean it was on the inside, but it needed work on the outside. There was a thin layer of dust on everything. The house had been neglected, but it had new owners now that would take good care of it.
That week we worked hard on that house. Cleaned the inside, got rid of unwanted furniture. We worked well together. There were periods of time where we did not talk, lost in our work, our thoughts. We cleared out all the yellow grass. We brought in new soil, planted grass that would grow strong. In the backyard, we took away all the garbage, old useless items. We made a space where we planted seeds. We planted vegetables, fruit, anything we could get our hands on. I wanted to become an expert gardener. Wanted to watch it grow like a father watching his son. Wanted to be proud of what sprouted out of the land knowing that I had a hand in creating it. That my sister and I did it together. Along the garden around the perimeter of the lot, we planted trees. Someday I wanted to look out the window and see only trees. It might take a while, might take years, but I had become a patient person. I would look every day out the window for when the trees come out to say hello. It might be like watching water boil, but I would be here, I would watch them push themselves up towards the sky. We repaired the back porch, the front porch, we sanded the old paint that was peeling away, we put on a new coat of paint than another. One we painted white, it seemed to be a different kind of white, one that sparkled, glowed, that could be seen for miles around.
People came from the town. They brought us food, welcomed us, complimented us on all we had done in only a week. We told them there was nothing the two of us could not do together. My sister had to go, she had business, she would be back sooner than later, this was her home as much as mine. She planned on returning every month, maybe even more. She would keep working but wanted to slowly close out her business, pass it along to others. Her heart was not in it anymore, she had many other things she wanted to do. Helen and Marshall came by the house to say goodbye to my sister. She drove away from me down a different road, in a different way, we all waved to her. I felt her smiling at us. She stuck her arm out the window, waved back at us. I did not feel sad about her leaving because I knew she would be back and I knew she would be back to stay some day.
I continued working on the house myself. Woke up early every morning, went for a run by the beach, for a swim in the ocean, came back home, worked on the house. I finished the paint job, moved to the roof. I took all the old tiles off, replaced any holes that were rotting. I put on an entirely new roof myself. I worked shirtless every day, felt the sun beating down on my back. Every once in a while I stopped, just to look up, to drink the morning in, thank it for being here with me, sharing this moment with me. My body became fit, I took on a bronzy colour as I worked on my own roof, on my own house, building a home so it could be mine.
Every day, after I worked for an hour or two on the house, I went to the flower shop, learned more about flowers. How they grew, what the best environments were, which flowers grew best with each other. We took over the shop next door to expand the store because it got so busy. When the owner retired, we built a small greenhouse, grew our own flowers. People from all over came to buy them. My boss at the flower shop asked if I wanted to buy into the business. We shook hands, I was now involved in the day to day decisions that included more than just the flowers. I found a hidden talent that I was good with numbers, saved us money. Our business prospered.
I started writing small articles for the local newspaper. My work was widely read. I began writing articles for other publications. I liked to write, there was some kind of itch to tell my story. Maybe there was some worth in sharing my story? I jotted down notes when I could, perhaps I would write a book someday?
I finished the roof, changed all the windows. It looked like a new house, but it had still retained the original style. This was important to me, I wanted to keep a memory for Francis, wanted to keep his house recognizable just fixed up. I moved to the inside, redid the floors, painted the walls, knocked a wall down to make one giant room. I lay carpeting, renovated the kitchen.
Every day I visited the hostel on my way to work and brought Helen a single flower. Every night after I finished, I tried to have a different flower for her. My sister came to visit, she helped me finish the house. I let her paint her own room, I wanted her to be comfortable, provide every incentive I could find for her to come and visit.
When we finished, I went over to the hostel. I asked Helen if she wanted to come and live with me. She smiled, we packed up her things that day. She saw my sister, hugged her. Marshall came over, we made a huge dinner, the word spread around the town, everyone stopped by, there was a party happening. The residents brought food and wine, I gave them tours, we stood in the back, I pointed to the different vegetables, to where the trees would be. They admired my roof, told me they were happy I decided to stay.
At one point, I was outside alone, I looked through the windows of my house, looked into my home. I saw friends, saw loved ones, people I wanted to be around every day, who wanted me around, who were here not because they had any other reason except they wanted to. Helen came outside, she put her arms around me, she looked in the windows with me, she knew what I was thinking. I put my arm around her, I said, “Let’s go inside.”
My sister was in an in-depth conversation with a man that lived on the other side of town. His wife recently passed away in an accident, no one had been able to make him smile since then, but he had not stopped laughing since talking with my sister. She charmed him like she charmed everyone. They spoke all night, the next morning she told me she would be coming more often, she liked it here, it was a place she saw herself stay someday.
You could say my life after this was mundane, that it seemed like I did the same thing every day. I ran, swam, grew flowers, grew vegetables, but I did not see it as mundane. I would forever remember the kiwi and every night I went to bed smiling, looking forward to tomorrow, appreciating what I had right now, that I had the opportunity to be in control of tomorrow, but also knowing that something unexpected might happen. I watched my grass grow. We had a feast with the first batch of vegetables from our garden. I was there on the day the trees broke through the earth.
The voice was still there always, but I knew it was my voice only trying to tell me something. Instead of fighting it, I listened to it, empathized with it, tried to understand what it was telling me. I took my medications, went to the doctor regularly but as I got older, it would become rare that I had setbacks, mainly because I had learned how to deal with them. The way I looked at it was I chose the darkness for so long that I had no concept of anything else. What I saw in that white light was something else, a flip side, a different direction, something else to surround myself in. I discovered with the help of a few kiwis to take in every moment, to understand that it was there for you to experience, to do with what you wanted and I had my tomorrows back. I could look forward from this moment right now, I saw tomorrow, and I smiled, I only smiled because whatever the feeling was, I knew that I had taken responsibility for myself. I had those around me that I loved, I saw things for what they were, I had a different understanding of who I was, and I liked this person. I had looked very deep inside, and the result after everything was said and done was that I loved who I was now. This seemed like a simple concept, but I had always had problems with the simple things in life. It was more difficult then I thought, in some ways the hardest thing I had ever done. I was still learning, and what a great position to be in where I fully appreciated every moment while knowing I would learn something new about myself tomorrow. Everyone always talks about living for today, but tomorrow is more important. There were days where I never wanted to see tomorrow, there were days I never thought it would come but I love this simple concept of tomorrow. I even loved saying the word, the way it rolled out of my mind, dropped on to my tongue, pushed through my lips like a breath of fresh air and I said it to myself sometimes, just the word, just quietly to myself.