TRAVELS WITH NINA

is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

Chapter Eleven

Half an hour later I’m in bed, under the covers, crying inconsolably. I’m clutching the Acne jacket to my chest, alternately hugging it and using it as a tissue. My cupboard doors are open wide and every now and then, when a brave moment arises, I peek out from under the covers and stare into the cavernous space inside.

What the eff have I done?

Pretty much every penny I made over the past four years had gone into that wardrobe, so carefully considered and curated and now… Gone.

“Whyyyy?” I moan at the wardrobe, throwing the jacket at it. Stupid frigging wardrobe. If it wasn’t so bloody small maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so packed and then maybe I never would have done this in the first place.

I pick up my phone and dial Peace’s number. She doesn’t answer so I try again. And again. Finally, on the fourth attempt, she answers.

“Aaahhhh,” I moan into the receiver.

“Mags? Mags, what the hell are you doing?” Peace whispers into the phone. “I’m in the middle of a shoot, what’s going on?”

“It’s gone. All goooone!” I say before recommencing my sobbing.

“What’s all gone Mags? C’mon I’ve only got a minute, use your big girl words.”
 
“Marant, Scanlan, Ksubi, Balmain. All of them. Goooone!” More sobs.
 
“Oh shit you’ve been burgled…”

“No P, it’s worse than that. I’ve burgled myseeelf!”

“Ok now you’ve totally lost me Mags. Listen, the photographer’s giving me death stares, we’re already two hours over schedule so let me finish up here and I’ll come straight over, ok? Mags, ok?”

“Ok,” I sniff into the phone. I hang up, crawl back under the covers and cry myself into a deep, dream-filled sleep.

I’m standing by the edge of the ocean on a beach, small waves lapping at my feet. The sky is grey and filled with purple clouds; a storm’s just about to break. I look around and realize the beach is completely empty, then look down to see that I’m naked and covered in goose bumps. Somehow I’ve lost my bag, my towel, everything. Thunder rumbles overhead. All of a sudden comes the deep realization that everything I’ve lost is at the bottom of the sea, just waiting for me. I wade into the water; it feels so warm and welcoming against my bare legs. I keep walking until it covers my tummy, keep walking until it covers my mouth, nose and eyes. I keep walking. I won’t stop until I find my things, my lovely, gorgeous things…

I wake up gasping and it takes me a few seconds to figure out how to breathe again. I open my mouth wide to loosen my jaw – I’ve been grinding my teeth again – and rub my jaw muscles with my index fingers. Ouch.

“So you’re awake, finally.”

“Ahhh!” Who the eff is in my house?!

“It’s just me, loser.” Peace, sitting cross-legged in the tattered peacock chair in the far corner of the bedroom, glass of red in hand. “If you want me to start knocking then you’d better start closing your front door properly.” She cocks her head to one side and furrows her perfectly plucked brow. “You look like shit.”

I don’t even bother sitting up, I just point my finger over at the cupboard and start whimpering again.

“Yeah Mrs. Hubbard, your cupboard’s bare. But can you please tell me why?” She picks a second glass up off the floor, pours it full of pinot and walks it over to the bed. I greedily gulp down a few mouthfuls.

“I… I was trying to cut off my desire.” Another gulp. “So I threw 90 percent of my clothes into the Vinnie’s bin.” Some more gulps. “It felt great… For a few minutes.” One more gulp, the glass almost empty. “But now it’s all gone and I just feel so empty and so, so sad.”

Peace just stares at me for a few seconds then slowly saunters over to the bed, plonks herself down next to me and starts inspecting my head from all angles.

“Umm, P? What’re you doing?” More inspecting. “Peace! Stop it!” I give her a little shove.

“Sorry, sorry,” she says, shaking her afroed head. “I was just trying to see if you’d, oh I don’t know, CRACKED YOUR HEAD OPEN! You’ve lost the plot girlfriend, seriously why on earth would you do something so ridiculously inSANE?!”

“Ok so why don’t you make me feel a million times worse than I already do? Do you think I called you up, bawling my eyes out, because I wanted a lecture on what an idiotic thing I’ve just done? No! I called you because I wanted some support. I called you because I thought, well at least I thought I thought, that you just might be able to help pull me out of this deep, dark hole of regret I’ve suddenly stumbled into.”

“Look I’m sorry Mags. It’s just… Here, have another drink.” She slops more red wine into my glass, I gulp it down greedily then hold my arm out for another.

“That’s my girl,” says Peace as she refills both our glasses.

***

“You szee, the thing isz, none of this reeeeally madders.” I’m sitting inside my empty wardrobe, second bottle of pinot by my side, as I pick up the remaining items of clothing one by one and throw them around the room. “Not this, not this, and certainly not this.” Throw, throw, throw.

Peace is lying across the bed, eyes droopy and teeth stained purple. “And yanowat?” I slur, pointing my index finger at Peace, “now thadive had time to digeszt whatsappened, I really think – no I reeeally do think – that what I’ve doneiz accctually quidamazing. I accctually feel so fresssh, I feel so light – lidazafeather – and mozdovall I feel FREEEE!” I fling my arms open wide and manage to bang one of them on the side of the mahogany wardrobe. “Ouch,” I say, and we both burst into a fit of drunken giggles.

“Waiii, waiiiwaiiiwaiiiwaiiit,” says Peace, scrambling off the bed and swaying over to the iPod dock that’s perched on top of a teetering stack of Aspire magazines along the bedroom wall. “I’ve god the perfect song for this.” She clicks her phone in and presses play. The beat starts pumping and then: Everybody’s freeee, to feel good, aha… booms out. Rozalla, one of our all-time 90s faves.

I clamber out of the wardrobe and we start dancing and laughing around the bedroom like lunatics, slopping wine onto the floorboards then climbing up on to the bed, jumping up and down like kids hopped up on too much sugar and pumping our fists above our heads. “I knooow you’ve been hurting but I’ll, be waiting to be there for yooou!” Peace and I shout-sing to each other as we jump.

Then all of a sudden the music cuts out.

Peace and I look at each other, wine-addled and confused, then simultaneously swivel our heads over to the dock to see Ryan standing beside it. His face and arms are streaked with dirt and a gritty sheen of post-work sweat coats his muscles. He looks good.

“Heeey babe!” I jump off the bed and stumble into his arms. “Mmmm, you smell diiiirty.” I slip my arms around his waist and go to give him a kiss on the mouth.

“I see you’ve had another productive afternoon.” A note of condescension creeps into his voice as he pulls the wine glass out of my hand, sets it down on the top of our dresser and peels my arms off him.

“Hi Peace,” he says absently as he unties the grubby flannelette shirt from around his waist, gets down on his haunches and starts using the shirt to mop the little puddles of wine up from the floor.

“Ahh sorry Rye, we were having sucha good time dancing we diden even realize we’d done that!” says Peace, cracking up. Ryan shoots her an annoyed look.

“Mags are you gonna help me here, or are you too pissed to even see the floor properly?” Ryan shakes his head as he moves over to another spill.

“God, no need to be so rude, ‘specially infronof Peace.”

Ryan’s head snaps up to look at me and I see his eyes flash with anger.

“Rude? You think I’m being rude Mags?” He puts his hands on his thighs as he draws himself back up to full height and walks towards me. I just stand there staring at him – the wine fog’s not letting me think what else to do. “I go off to work all day, to try to make some money for us so that we can move towards setting up the kind of life we’ve always wanted and you just sit around getting off your face every day! Well forgive me if I’m wrong but from my perspective it looks like you’re the one who’s being fucking rude.”

At this point I notice Peace is still standing awkwardly in the corner of the room. Looks like the pinot fog has her in slow motion too. “Umm, I think I might just scadaddle…” she says finally as she totters unsteadily around us both, grabs her bag off the floor and quickly scampers out of the room, avoiding my please-stay-and-save-me look on the way. The front door slamming behind her signals my turn to talk. I have to concentrate hard, very hard, to get it all out straight.

“Ok so first of all, I’m not just sitting around getting off my face, as you so delicately put it. Peace and I were just having a couple of drinks to celebrate a huge breakthrough in my spiritual progress, actually. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this” – I say, motioning to the open, empty wardrobe – “but I had a Buddhist epiphany today and realized that I didn’t need all those material possessions, because they don’t mean anything and they were blocking my path to enlightenment.” I wiggle my head Beyoncé style, raise my eyebrows and pout my lips all at once to tell him that he’s been trumped. It doesn’t work.

“Hang on, let me get this straight,” says Ryan. “You’re telling me you threw out all of your clothes? As in, the clothes you’ve spent practically all of your hard-earned cash – as well as most of mine – on? You just threw them out on some stupid whim because someone at your Buddhist class told you to?” He starts laughing and shaking his head. “You didn’t think for a second that you should’ve sold them on EBay or something? So that at least you weren’t wasting thousands of dollars that we could have used to put a deposit on a house? My God Margaux, sometimes you really make me wonder.”

I was feeling kind of bad up until this point, especially because he used my first name, which he only does when he’s furious with me. But now I’m the one who’s furious. I take a step closer to him and tuck my hair behind my ears, ready for battle. Suddenly, I feel completely sober.

“You just don’t get it, do you. This time in my life right now isn’t about making money or trying to set anything up for the future, ok? It’s about me trying to discover myself and following a path that I really feel is right for me. And I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but you’re actually the only one in this relationship who’s interested in setting up a life for us. That’s your dream, it’s not my dream right now and to be honest, I’m not sure it ever will be.” And with that I storm out of the house, partly in anger, but mostly because I know that this time I’ve gone too far. I walk the seven blocks to Peace’s place to hide out for the night, sobbing the whole way there.