Monday, April 16, 2007

The World-Weary Shoes

Walking to work today, there were hoards of elementary school kids, lined up in buddy-system rows, waiting to get into the theatre for a play. Some of the girls waved and smiled and said hello to me. I smiled back. I remember being that age. For a moment, I saw myself through their eyes--just a brief glimpse. Through their eyes, I’m an adult. I’ve got insurmountable debt, I’ve got jobs, I have an education and I even have a small amount of furniture.

But I'm not quite there yet.

In a month, I’ll be turning 23. The number feels somehow substantial, weighty. I'm moving back in with my parents in only six days, for one last time.

Will I ever really feel like an adult?

On my last days in Australia, I got off a train in Katoomba on a chilly, grey morning. The wind and rain whipped at my face, and I wandered the streets in search of my hostel. I was tired, alone and had no clue what I was doing there.

After spending nearly three months constantly surrounded by people—sharing the nighttime shelter of a mosquito net, avoiding the sparks and ash that shot off our cooking fires, taking quiet comfort and pleasure in the hot tea from the morning billy before the hot afternoon sun made us crave nothing more than grapefruit and fresh bread, scrubbing cement-covered clothes at sinks plugged with old flyers, standing lengthwise at mirrors wet and wrapped in sarongs, swapping spit and stories all the way up the Australian east coast—I was completely alone. I had come to Katoomba on a whim, with no purpose and no reason.
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