This is a bit of a cheesy story, but I woke up this morning to a fire alarm going off next to my head.
For anyone who knows my past history, you’ll know this is not my ideal way to wake up.
I snapped awake pretty quickly and when I realised there was no smoke, I reached out of my loft bed, naked, and ripped the battery out of the alarm. I lay back into bed and tried to breathe in a deep sigh of relief, but I choked on something. My uvula had swollen up, and the sensation was causing me to gag. Swallowing the first wave of stomach acid, I raced down the ladder and headed straight to the toilet, where I vomited up bile from the sensation of having something stuck in the back of my throat.
It was about that time that the reality of where I was crashed into me, as did the cold.
See I’ve been out and about travelling the warmer climates for the past few weeks. Time is relative, but yesterday morning I woke up in Arugam bay with my international family at Lahiru’s place.
About this time “yesterday”, I was sitting in the heat with my shirt off, trying to keep the sand out of my cut feet so they could heal before I got on a mini bus to take me across the country. The 7 hour trip was spent lying down across the back seat, with my new brother Miles lying across the ones in front.
A farewell later, and I was by myself in line at an airport. An hour past then, and I was trying to sneak kisses with a beautiful girl when her friend wasn’t looking.
Travelling. I fucking love it.
We convinced her friend to change seats with me on the plane, as we wanted to say goodbye to each other, and we left Sri Lanka in each others arms. It was like something out of a cheesy movie. We were disgusted at ourselves, but we couldn’t stop it, kissing and touching and embracing each other. I stayed awake the whole flight, not wanting to miss a moment of being back with her again.
The 3 hour flight was over too quickly, but we had somehow gone from 11 PM to 5:30 AM. In a dazed state, we sat next to each other at the airport for a few hours, avoiding physical contact in front of her friend. He was pissed off, and understandably so, as he had professed his feelings to her the night we hooked up. The old friend zone triangle.
And here I was, for once not the one in the friend zone, but still unable to enjoy the experience fully.
It had started off with a wedding.
I spent a week in Bali with some close friends, before heading on to Sri Lanka. I met Scott at the airport. We had intended to see some sights but kind of just missioned across the country to Arugam bay.
We got there and spent a few days chilling out on the beach. Whilst there, we met 4 Norwegian girls, one in particular catching my attention. She reminded me of my ex when I first met her, almost 10 years ago now. That’s not to say that my ex wasn’t attractive, the first time I met her I couldn’t believe my luck. I think novelty makes me see through rose coloured glasses though, and whilst I was in Arugam bay, I didn’t want to take them off.
I started chatting to this girl and we got on pretty well. She was happy to talk, and she sounded like a chirpy bird with that Nordic accent. Over the course of 4 days, I got to know her and her 3 friends pretty well. I think she might have liked me back, but nothing ever came of it, and whilst I was drunk at one of the numerous parties, I saw her kissing someone.
It was in that moment I realised the folly of chasing someone who reminds you of someone else.
I had a flashback of myself, 7 years earlier, in 2009. It was my birthday. I was on Gilli Trawangan. Things were getting loose.
I don’t know how much I’d drank, nor how much my ex had drank, but she started kissing another guy at the bar. I’d been travelling and sleeping with her for 2 months, not to mention the years of past history we had before that moment, but semantics being what they are, we were technically “single”. The guy had been a friend, but I felt like I’d been punched. I tried to play it cool, and kind of ignored it. Not long after, the 3 of us went to the beach.
We went skinny dipping.
I remember drifting away from them slightly, and hearing her say in a raspy voice “ohh, ohh no you shouldn’t do that”. I’m pretty sure she was getting fingered. I’d slept with her that morning, and this was my birthday present that night; hearing her get fingered by someone else.
I left the beach and went back to our room. She followed not long after, apologising and telling me not to leave the island, to stick around for new years eve. I should have left, and regret it to this day that I didn’t go to the full moon party in Thailand to bring in 2010. Instead I stuck around on Gili T, and was lucky enough to be vomiting up blood on new years eve while she fucked a different guy in my bed.
This memory flashes into my head as I see a different girl kiss some different guy on a different beach in a different country. I seperate the 2 realities and understand that they are not the same moment, but I leave the party shortly afterwards kind of bummed out.
Some nights pass. I stop chasing girls and instead start chasing waves. I become more involved with my adopted family in Sri Lanka, and slotted into the group as either a dirty nephew or a creepy uncle. We would all sit around and eat together like a big family, telling jokes and talking bullshit and waves. One day we decided to go on a mission to a beach an hour south, and some of the guys organised hiring 3 tuk tuk’s for the day. Fucking drama. We had a run in with the “tuk tuk mafia”. There’s some law (it’s a bullshit) about only being able to carry 2 surfboards on a tuk tuk. We had 3 boards up top and all these tuk tuk drivers blocked off the alley and cracked the shits at us. A guy produced some ID and proclaimed himself to be “the president of the tuk tuk drivers association”. We took the 3rd board down and worked out another way to get the extra person & board to the beach.
We had to get them back somehow. Fuck the tuk tuk mafia.
Hanging out with my family I decided to stop trying to learn how to surf, and instead embraced the joys of boogie boarding and throwing shakas around. I’d found my place, and it involved getting up at 5 AM to catch the early surf.
Well I did it once. It was great.
A place like Arugam bay attracts a lot of different people. I had planned on going there, but hadn’t intended to party much. There’s parties 7 nights a week, but out of those only 2 or 3 are probably worth going to. I thought I’d only stay in the bay for maybe a week, but I think it was 22 nights in the end. As you may have guessed, I hit up most of the parties.
I got to know the place pretty well, and even had the Arugam bay hobble going on by the end. The A-bay hobble comes about when you can’t walk properly, usually due to cutting your foot on the reef while surfing, and then having that cut get infected. I managed to kick a rock whilst walking to my cabana, and then proceeded to go out drinking bare foot and it got infected somewhere between beer pong and beach soccer.
It meant I had to spend the next day in bed when my foot swelled up. But by the time that happened, I had someone to share the cobra cabana with.
We have now come full circle in this story.
I met her at a bar called hipsters. I wouldn’t normally drink at a place called hipsters, but I found myself there on my first day and after chatting to the barman, Sura, for a while, I found that I really liked the vibe. I started going there during the days before I got into boogie boarding. I’d relax on one of their benches and read a book. I’d get a beer from Sura and have a chat and a swim.
It was during one of these days that I met Sophia. She had some friends with her, and we all chatted as a group. I thought she was pretty cool, but I was still kind of half interested in this nordic girl who reminded me of my past.
Then there was this big party at Hipsters. It happens every Thursday.
A party is relative, just like time. If you have good crew with you, and the drinks are flowing, then you’re going to have a good time. This night was one of those times. My Lahiru family were all out in force, there was about 10 of us. The Nords were there. There were some Israli guys I’d met, some Germans, some other Aussies. The music was shit, as usual, but we were all drunk enough to dance to nearly anything.
Somewhere between losing my shirt and spilling a full rum and coke, I ran into Sophia. I can’t remember what was said. I don’t remember much at all really. I do remember we went for a walk on the beach and ended up lying down, looking at the stars. She told me the next day I got frustrated that I couldn’t find the saucepan (Orions belt) but that was because I was looking at the water and not the sky.
I lost the skyline.
I lost my phone.
I found Sophia.
And later on, I found my phone in the sand.
We wandered hand in hand to a bar playing the soccer next door, Germany vs France. Germany lost. Sophia’s friend came and sat down with us, holding his head in his hands. He was the picture of disappointment. I decided that right now was the best time to tell him that I really liked Sophia, and that he would have to deal with it.
Sometimes, I can’t believe I don’t get punched more often. That poor bastard was already down, and then I twisted the knife in by saying the girl he loved, had found me.
Things got really awkward so I bailed a short time afterwards to bed, alone, drunk, but comfortable.
I’d planned to spend the next day lying in my single bed with her, hiding from the hangover. That wasn’t to be though, as I had no contact details and she had gone home to Hipsters to try and sort things out with her friend. They were travelling together, and had planned to be in Sri Lanka the same duration as me, before heading on to Thailand for another few weeks together. I think that he had been hoping that during the course of the trip, Sophia would uncover hidden feelings she had for him.
Here’s some advice. If you like someone, but it hasn’t been reciprocated, do not assume that things will change in a new environment. If anything, you are just putting yourself deeper into the friend zone.
I wandered over to Hipsters later that afternoon. It had been my regular habit to go there every day and chill with Sura and chat, read a book, have a swim etc. I got there to find the Norwegians had gone, and I actually didn’t give a shit at all. I’d found someone unexpectedly, and I did not want to lose her and have it chalked up to a night of drunken passion.
Sophia was chilling with her friend, who was lying down and hadn’t seen me. I went to walk over, she saw me and discreetly shook her head. I walked back to the bar, chatted to Sura for a bit, then bailed. She caught up to me as I was leaving, and explained that as I walked over, her friend had literally said “if I see that guy again, I’m going to punch him”. He was a big guy, and whilst he didn’t look like a fighter, I was happy to avoid the whole situation.
Sophia and I walked around for a while and snuck in some kisses on the beach. I felt like I was in high school. What the hell was this? I was 30, on a month long holiday, and here I am sneaking kisses when no one is looking with a beautiful girl in the back alley’s of a beach town.
I loved every moment.
This continued for another day, until her friend finally decided he couldn’t stand to be in the same town as me and left to go north. She said she would meet up with him the next day.
4 days later, she left.
Some random stuff happened during those 4 days even with him gone, maybe because he was gone. It was as if all of the sharks who had been roving around this girl for the past week saw a chance to strike, the worst probably being Sura.
I considered Sura a mate. I still kind of do, even though he went a bit weird and creepy with the girls. I’d been dropping in to Hipsters bar every day for 2 weeks, spending time chatting to him and having a few beers. Sophia was staying there. She had told him she had a boyfriend back home so that he wouldn’t hit on her, so he thought that she only got with me because she was really drunk. His plan? He started feeding her free drinks. It ended pretty well, considering she was messaging me the whole time saying how she was getting delightfully smashed for free, before she wandered over to my place. He would hit on her whenever I wasn’t around, trying to touch her arm or stroke her leg, weird shit like that. I was tempted to say something, to do something, but it was kind of harmless and pathetic. We were lying in bed together one night and he was still messaging her, saying how he could have any of the girls who came into the bar but he wanted her and she didn’t have to be afraid because he wasn’t going to rape her. She eventually moved out, and he got the hint, kind of. He started hitting on her friend instead.
Crazy times. Life’s always an adventure around Sophia, that’s for sure, and I really missed her once she left.
The rest of the trip was spent drinking and dancing with my Lahiru family. Surfing kind of took a back seat because I couldn’t walk properly and there was no swell. It got sadder and sadder as each person left, we had been such a strong group of people from all over the world and with each loss it hurt more.
New people came, but it wasn’t the same. Some of them slotted in, others kind of did their own thing. The vibe we had was dwindling away, so it was with mixed emotions I farewelled Lahiru’s Place and left with Miles to cross the country. Before I knew it, I had my pack on my back and Miles was just another figure walking away from me down the street.
On the plane with Sophia, as we snuggled and chatted for possibly the last time, she suggested I come and visit her in Germany. I said I would in 2018 when I had saved up some cash but she said that was too far away, that I should come to see her soon, before uni went back in September. She said she had a van and was going to drive it around Spain surfing. Did I want to come?
I had planned when I did this trip, to come back with a story written. I thought I was going to go to Sri Lanka, see some ruins, get inspired, find somewhere chill, and write. I’d surf in the morning, write in the arvo, maybe drink a beer or two at night. 3 weeks of that and boom, draft for a story. Either that or bail on the trip all together, save my money after the wedding and try and get a custom built guitar, spending the cold winter months locked in my room learning and playing guitar.
Now I think I’m going to chase her to Germany in a month and see what random adventure awaits me. I think I need to live my own story before I can write one about someone else’s. Plus, life’s more fun when you don’t think too much and just live it. As much as I’ve missed my guitars and working on video/music projects, something just feels right about this. Random, but right.
So when I farewelled her (after walking away from her friend so we could do it in the relative privacy of being in front of 100’s of people at KLIA international airport) it hopefully isn’t a farewell, only a brief reprise. I spent the next 7 hours in a drowsy daze flying back to Australia, thinking about Sophia, thinking about Germany and Spain, thinking about what I wanted to achieve in life and what living life even means.
My housemates picked me up from the airport, and I went to bed early last night. Time being relative, and measuring one day to the next when you go to bed, yesterday I said goodbye to my Lahiru family and then 46 hours later, I woke up to a fire alarm in cold Melbourne.
I told you it was a cheesy story.