The shape of birthdays in foreign lands

Kids get older. Best friends propose. Families fight. Aunties behave appallingly. Opportunities to unite and grow are quashed by a familiar unwillingness to try. Some things missed in nine months away from home.

It’s my Birthday. Drinks on the beach at sunrise. A colourful, new Birthday outfit. Cocktails, boat-rides, bicycles. First time snorkeling. My own private villa. A bed of flowers. Gili Air. Thank you, my dear.

But nothing prepares me for a sense of distance. I’m not close to home today. Emotionally and geographically. I haven’t spoken to any member of my family for two months. As it stands, I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Being on the other side of the world on a special day, gives rise to an unexpected sensation of disconnection. But the seed of this feeling is sewn, strangely enough, a month earlier. The day before Collette’s Birthday.

I bump into Aussie seekers, Gary and Rose. I’ve never met them before. How do we get talking? It’s probably something to do with the fact that I’m giddy in shops. I’m secretly shopping for Col’s Birthday so she’s not here to reign me in. I pull faces and say hello to everyone. Is it Tourette’s, or what? Pissflaps.

The fourteen year-old security boy is following me. A ‘Code 5’ over the low-fi tannoy. This is definitely covert supermarket spiel for, ‘watch the lanky idiot who’s too happy for home-baking’. I’ve a pair of, ‘I love Bali’ knickers in my hand. Icebreakers.

They’re from Perth. It’s their fourth time in Bali and this time they’re staying for good. They explain that each time they go home, they feel pressure to slip (like the knickers) straight back where they used to fit. But they’re different. Family and friends have expectations of who they should be, how they should behave and where they should fit in. Will this happen to me? What will it feel like going home? There are established social shapes there. I see them from outer space via Whatsapp.

To a certain degree, I’ve always felt somewhat of a bumpy-oblongoid peg in a round, wooden glove. Part of coming away is to try out a few different holes and understand my shapes. Where do I fit?

It’s not clear yet if being away makes me squarer or rounder. For the moment though, that thought can park. We’ve decided to carry on a bit longer.

Thanks for reading


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