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.
I walked around my new apartment, looked in every corner. In one corner there was a spider, I said, “HELLO!” to my new roommate. The spider was silent and I was okay with that.
My head filled up with new things: I was here, I made it, now it was time to know what I was doing here – why was I here? I know why, but WHY? All the questions made me pace back and forth. Out the window was a small balcony, metal stairs led to ground level. I made note of this in case I needed to escape. The pacing made me hungry, I went out for a walk around my new home in New Zealand to get my bearings, maybe put things right.
The ocean was all around me, I cut between two small buildings. At the beach, I took my shoes off, my shirt off. The sun was high and along the beach the waves kissed my feet, the beach went on forever. I walked forever. I came to a small mountain, the mountain was covered in trees. I found an entrance to a path, inside everything went quiet. Across the path, tree roots crisscrossed, forcing me to step over them, double dutch style. The air was getting warmer, I wondered where this path led but at the same time I didn’t care. The earth was getting steeper as it turned me towards the sky, the sky shielded by the trees and the leaves, but the sky there nonetheless. I come to the top after what seemed like a long time.
There was a clearing that led to more beach, the largest beach I had ever seen. I ran down the never-ending path. There was a drop from the landscape down to the beach. As I flew through the air, the drop was bigger than it looked. Landing on the sand, my feet disappeared beneath the grains.
There was a large tree beside me, it was old, it died a long time ago. The bark was weather-worn, resembled a dinosaur bone. There was no one here and giant rocks separated this beach from the beach by the town. I padded out to the water, stopped right before where the waves ended and I looked out at the rocks protruding up out of the water like statues, like someone placed them there, like there was an even larger rock, like someone chiseled it down from a design in their mind and they worked for years to shape and cultivate what I saw now. There were rocks everywhere: big ones, small ones. There was something about that rock right there. On to the wet sand, water crawled up my feet, kissed my ankles.
There was no one around.
Splashing through the water, I looked behind as my footprints disappeared with each wave. I looked forward, thought about the voices, about my sickness, about my mind and how it continually slipped through my fingers. How every time I felt I had grasped it, clutched it, finally held it tight, it dissolved, slipped through the cracks, fell through the spaces between my fingers no matter how tightly I held on.
Without realizing it at first, I started to jog. My footprints become smaller as I ran on the balls of my feet. I ran faster, yelled, screamed. No one was here to hear me. I thought about how my mind was slippery, it always seemed to come and go. Closed myself off from people, closed myself off from myself, disconnected from my heart, cut the wires, built up tall walls around me. The walls needed to come down. The walls were coming down.
My feet ran faster.
I was here to bridge the connection from my heart to my mind once again. Feel the currents running between them again. The energy needed to flow from one to the other and they needed to help each other to make one another stronger.
My feet ran faster.
Let go of what had happened before, I couldn’t undo it, I must not undo it, must let go of what was trapped inside that won’t leave. Those things stayed in my body, they had slowly taken over, they needed to go but not by force, not by tightening my grasp, they needed to leave by themselves. See them for what they were – files in a faulty system. In order to fix the system, I must open my hands, open my mind, open my heart and take the walls away, let them go away on their own.
My feet ran faster
My voice screamed louder.
I had been sick for most of my life. A lot of years to reverse and it couldn’t all happen right away on this beach. I knew this, felt this, but I was anxious for it to leave so I could start over. I was sick. I needed to get better. There was a cloud that had been over me for too long. I needed to brush it aside. I would not use force but would yield to the pain, recognize it for what it was worth and see that it was only hurting me. I wanted to remove this, move past this. I had been trapped in my own mind, I had been sick.
My feet ran faster.
My voice screamed louder.
Why was I here? To let go of the pain – never forget the pain but allow it to leave. Here because I wanted to start making choices. A person could change, they could make the choice to get better, not out of force but out of letting go. Here to free myself from me, to fart out all these aspects of my personality and lay them all on the table to see them for what they were. To walk away from what I did not need and keep what I did need. Here to feel the freedom of choice, to pick the pieces of me up and see what it was like to be me, to find out who I actually was, to know that I was a person who was more than his sickness. Here to run along the beach yelling and screaming, not in anger, not in pain, but to release what I did not need. To let go.
I ran as fast as I could and my legs burned and the burning felt good – it was a different kind of pain. I hit the wall, another kind of wall and collapsed on the sand, the water was cold, the water crawled up around my body. The water told me to relax, the water told me, Everything is okay, you are getting better because you choose to get better. The water was soothing my heavy breathing. I breathed in the thick air and felt something different: I felt free.
Yelling and screaming outside of myself came from farther down the beach. I sat up, saw someone running towards me. They yelled and screamed like me. I was not the last person on earth, which made me happy. I lay back down to enjoy the last few moments of being that last person on earth. This other someone got closer. I turned my head towards her, I didn’t care that sand was getting in my hair. There was something about that scream, something about that yell, it was full of something I couldn’t yet describe. Turned my head back to stare straight up in the sky and wondered if she would run right by me. My eyes closed. She stopped right beside me, said nothing. Her breathing was loud and I felt her shadow across my chest. Finally, I opened my eyes, her voice said, “Hello!” Keeping my eyes closed, I said, “Hello.” She said, “It looked like fun!” I said with closed eyes, “I didn’t think anyone was watching.”
This was the wrong thing to say. If it was anyone else they would have frowned, maybe kicked some sand on me and walked away. She said, “I can’t watch anyone having that much fun and not join.” And again I still did not get it, maybe I was in a bad mood, maybe I was still jet-lagged, I said, “It wasn’t fun at all, it was actually quite painful.” Quickly chastised myself for that ridiculous statement as I was actually feeling better than I had in a long time. Who was this person that was talking and why was she still standing here? She said, “You sure know how to have a bad time but look like you’re having the best moment of your life.”
At this moment, my eyes shot open and I was looking at this woman looking at me. She had the goofiest grin going, bookended by dimples you wanted to push your finger into. Her hair matched the colour of the beach, her skin tanned in a natural way – in a way where someone had been outside a lot because they wanted to. Small nose, slightly flat, remnants of freckles on her cheeks. Her eyes – oh her eyes! Those eyes saw it all, knew me from the inside just from looking. The eyes complimented her hair and I immediately thought she was a beach and the ocean if the beach and ocean were to take human form.
“Why were you running and yelling?” She asked me. I honestly didn’t know what to say, every fibre of every molecule in my body wanted to speak to this woman, wanted to know her, wanted to know what it felt like to walk beside her down the street, wanted to figure out what made her smile and what turned that smile into a laugh. An investigation was needed and when I found out what made her laugh, I would do that every day.
“People have been asking me that all my life but I never know what to tell them,” I said. Maybe that was better. I was just trying to get my bearings, remember where I was and what I was doing here. This person appeared on the beach, on my private beach, the very first day I was here – what were the chances of that? I started calculating the chances but gave up.
“Come on,” she said. She started running down the beach, yelling and screaming. I thought she wanted me to follow. Of course she did, she said, Come on! I jumped to my feet, ran faster then I had before and caught up to her, screaming and yelling. We were two wild people running down the beach, yelling and screaming and neither of us cared if someone was watching. Well, I did care if someone was watching, but those usual feelings were getting pushed out of me somehow. Maybe it had to do with the person I was running, screaming and yelling beside on the beach?
She stopped, I stopped. Out of breath, she asked me my name. She did not laugh at the name Paul Dore. She only accepted it for what it was: a name. I asked her for her name and she said, “Helen.”
Later that evening, Helen sat behind the front desk of the hostel and when she saw me, smiled a wide smile, the eyes lit up. This made me smile back at her. She called her brother Marshall, who came out and we were all smiling at each other and just stood there smiling. They invited me to the room behind the desk, there was a small hallway that led to their apartment. They had dinner set up with three places. They were expecting me, they told me this and I was smiling stupidly.
Dinner was almost done cooking. Offered me a glass of water, we cheers, this time I was cheersing for someone else besides me. Helen sat down across from me. I almost didn’t come, I couldn’t believe I almost didn’t come, I would have missed all of this. My cheeks hurt from smiling.
Marshall did all the cooking. He was a good cook. I was happy to have a home-cooked meal after all the airplane food. We talked mostly friendly-getting-to-know-you talk. It was something I was not used to, but was getting easier every minute with these two. Maybe I could do this, maybe I could integrate myself, fit in, disappear? I was comfortable telling them vague details about me, that I was starting over and they respected that. Did not say much about myself, decided I would keep a lid on certain things until the time was right, until I felt I could trust people. Felt I could trust Marshall and Helen, but I still kept the lid on, the lid was unlocked but still closed.
They were orphans, never knew their parents, given up at a young age. They grew up in Christchurch, maybe I walked by that orphanage when I was there? They always stuck together, it was the only way they could make it through. Sometimes it got bad, but they always had each other. It must be nice to always have someone. They moved here and started working at the hostel. An old couple ran the hostel. The old couple wanted to retire. They gave the business to Helen and Marshall. They had owned it for five years, they are happy.
They told me everything was all cleaned up, but the previous night there was a situation with a guest in one of the rooms. He was about my age, checked in, they had seen him every once in a while. They knew he lived on the other side of the town and there were problems that existed inside his house that were evident in his eyes. He stayed at the hostel sometimes. Helen thought there were times when it was too much to stay at his house. They heard the gunshot early in the morning, went upstairs, found the body slumped across the bed. Helen said she could see his tears. His tears were still fresh, moving slowly down his cheek, the cheek that was not blown apart. It was not the first time she had seen a dead body. It was the second time, she did not elaborate about the first time. I was okay with that.
Marshall and Helen wondered out loud why someone would make this decision. This was the point in the night that I was quiet because I knew too many reasons why someone would make that decision. They didn't notice I was quiet. They told me the police came, the room had to be professionally cleaned up. They never saw his father or his mother, people rarely saw them, maybe they went to the hospital.
On the walk home, there was a halo of happiness surrounding my body in a two-meter radius. The halo was yellow, it sparkled at the corner of my eyes, my feet felt like they were not touching the ground. I looked around at my tiny apartment, looked around at my new home. I liked my new home. I opened and closed the fridge. Lay down on the bed. Thought about the boy that shot himself in the head. I did not think about why he shot himself in the head, we all had our reasons.