There’s this backpacker in Byron Bay where people twirl fire. The bathrooms have multi-coloured beaded chandeliers. And they sell “Thai” red curry with chicken and rice for $6. This is Australia where a bottle of water sometimes costs that much.
I spot a woman sitting on her own at a communal picnic table eating it, and ask how it is before I buy.
“Needs more salt,” she contemplates.
We get to talking. There’s nothing too out of the ordinary about her.
She’s a blonde haired, fair skinned Aussie from Queensland. Loyal and hardworking, if I had to pick two words off the cuff to describe her. Been working as a cleaner at the same school for six years, up at 3:30a.m. most days. There’ve been highs and lows, but she’s stuck it out.
She’s on her way back from camping at a Hot Rod Festival down the coast with some friends. She shows me pictures, beaming in front of the vintage cars. She tells me about a cool car rally they’d held, a trivia treasure hunt of sorts. Her team won… no thanks to her, she’s quick to add with a laugh.
Over mediocre curry she tells me how her husband has just walked out on her.
He’s from Egypt. She’d gone over and spent three weeks there, flew him back to Australia with her, helped him with all the financial aspects of the move… on her cleaner’s salary, mind you… and spent the last five years with him. They’d travelled around to some really beautiful parts of Australia together. The Blue Mountains, Thredbo, Byron Bay too…
They met on Facebook, she mentions later. He’s already with someone else…
From her stories he sounds like a taker. And a gluttonous one at that. Actually, he sounds like a prick. Sure, there are always two sides, but I reckon he’d need a bloody good lawyer to help him argue his.
But the bizarre thing about love, is that knowing someone is a prick, or at best has treated you as though they’re one, does not negate the heartbreak.
We’re the same age: 35.
I tell her about the end of my own marriage. How much it hurt. How frustrating it was to experience so much bitterness.
I tell her about the time my ex ransacked our flat and put a giant dead cockroach carcass in my purse. And took half of the money I’d won for a journalism award, despite promising not to, based on the logic that it was technically considered work earnings under Australian tax law.
It’s strange to tell those stories now, void of all the emotion they once held.
Hers are still raw.
And yet here she is road tripping through Byron Bay. She’s walked up the never ending stairs to the Light House to watch a stunning sunset. She’s meandered all around town and met new and interesting people.
The next time I see her, she'll probably have a hot rod of her own.
She is only at the beginning of her journey… but already she is moving forward. She’s stepping out of her comfort zone and having her own adventures.
To me, that’s what life is all about.
Well that, and sharing stories:)