Last night my husband and I attended the final night of the Kamloops Film Festival. They were showing the 2010 New Zealand movie “Boy”, which Ben and I had seen when we lived there. Actually, the first time I saw it was when I lived in Mount Maunganui, before I left the resort town to live with Ben in Hamilton. I worked at a café across from the ocean, and had developed a bond with a middle-aged woman who came to sit with a cappuccino almost every day. Karen had bleached blonde hair, wore bright visors and pink lipstick. She loved God and missed her husband who was working in Australia. She called me “girlfriend” and truly believed that good things were coming to me. I had gone to New Zealand because I had a broken heart. I felt so lost, my plans had changed completely that my existence no longer had the same shape. I no longer fit in my own life. I had a close friend in New Zealand who offered a place for me to stay.
Once in New Zealand, I suffered from the ‘wherever you go, there you are’ syndrome, and still had to face the grieving process and spill many salty tears into a far saltier ocean. Sometimes I felt so far away from home that it frightened me. I wondered if I had done the right thing, coming to this country. Once, I was sitting on a bench in the sun by the sea, feeling so god-damned sorry for myself, when I saw Karen out on a stroll. She sat down with me and with her plucky can-do spirit lifted me right out of my sad little pity party. I’d be okay, and she knew it before I did. Whenever I saw my ‘New Zealand mum’, she always asked after the state of my still-healing heart. When I met Ben, I reveled in telling her about this handsome, tall carpenter and the tale of love at first sight. Before I left town two months later to live with him, Karen took me out for the day. We went shopping and then to the cinema to see “Boy”, which was rapidly becoming a huge success. The film was such a gem, it’s funny and endearing and poignant. Karen explains particular Kiwi nuances, and reckons that the movie is very authentic to that way of life. It was a perfectly lovely New Zealand day. She was a fairy godmother, and her kindness and company will be forever connected to this picture.
I saw the film again, this time with Ben. He also felt the movie was an excellent example of what is was like to grow up in this country. Now in Canada almost a year, I noticed the poster recently and clapped my hands in delight when I saw “Boy”. And just how was the film the third time? Let me just say that it is a terribly good thing that Ben is so tall and we always make an effort to sit in the very back of theaters, because right as the credits began to roll, we escaped from the theatre, hands clasped, out into the rain. On the drive home, the only thing interrupting the silence is the slight dragging squeak of the windshield wipers. Ben’s jaw clenched and his eyes shiny in the glow of the street lamps and traffic lights reflecting off the rain slicked streets. He can hardly speak, and when I gently press him, words do not come easily. Not only is the film heart-breaking, it is also rife with gorgeous images of the landscape. And it looks so beautiful that it really hurts. It’s so far away from us that it’s maddening.
When the seizure of home sickness passes slightly, Ben expresses a visceral craving for that ground beneath his feet. I swear if he were to be magically transported there in an instant, he would scoop up a handful of dirt and inhale deeply at the soil in his clenched hand. And I understand, I was not born there, but I feel connected to the land-the ocean especially. There were moments alone on the beach, the crashing waves, and the wet sand underfoot, the wind whipping through me. I was once the only person for miles drenched in a storm, sprinting and cavorting in the rain. I was overcome with such a sensation of joy that I whooped and laughed and wept, sopping wet and sand everywhere. My whole being was being filled with oxygen and purification, God and gratitude. It was like a religious experience feeling so alone yet unafraid. New Zealand brought me back to life, and then it brought me to Ben. And suddenly, here we are, my husband and I, so far from where we came from, feeling homesick over a movie, and grief stricken over the fact that someone will always have to be so far from home. We are still searching for a common ground beneath our feet that looks and feels like home. In the meantime, until we can truly rest our weary bones, we will be where the other lives. And that will be enough. It will have to be enough.