The end of an address/Transformation


I’m sitting in a denuded apartment waiting for the moving truck to move me and my junk to a new habitat. Some thoughts have to be jotted down immediately.

First, as I have mentioned many times, my sense of where I belong is highly unstable at the best of times. This raises the question of whether I will ever feel at home somewhere. I mean, some people never fit anywhere, right? Is that not the meaning of the labels “drifter” and “loner”?

Contrary to the first point, I recently experienced a more developed sense of where I belong. I’m also sceptical of fitting in too well. Is it because you have to conform to sets of rules – which are usually never spelled out – to fit in? Such rules include what and how you should dress, how you should behave towards different people, what you should say and what not, what you should believe, which ideals are acceptable and which not, and what ambitions you should have. But what good does it do to be honest – to not conform to the detriment of who you believe you truly are – if you end up alone? What is the value of remaining true to yourself if that means you always walk alone?

The other related thing I want to mention is that I could consider transforming myself into a creature that fits in more easily. It can’t be that difficult – I do after all have friends! (Family doesn’t really count in this case. They have a moral obligation to accept you in their midst … that is to say if your clothing style, your behaviour, what you say, what you believe, and your goals do not offend your family to such an extent that they reach the point where they feel it would be better for everyone if you don’t insist that they satisfy your need to be part of their intimate circle. Fortunately, my clothing style, my behaviour, and even my ambitions are of such a nature that they don’t offend my parents’ or my two sisters’ dignity too much. It is naturally to my advantage to believe this to be true.)

So, with the moving truck drawing closer, what are the chances that I can transform myself to such an extent that I could more easily make an entry into groups and communities?

* * *

At 14:55 it was all over. I wanted to end the last part with the words, “So, as the villains in their blue truck draw closer …” but I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt. Rogues they were, all right, but friendly enough after they managed to extract twice as much money from me as I had hoped the whole operation would cost me. I wanted to argue, but they gathered together, with one of them lifting his T-shirt up ever so slightly to show his underworld tattoo. At that moment I remembered yet another one of the Important Principles of Survival: Restrain yourself from physical conflict with more than one villain at a time when you’re alone. This principle is of course even more applicable if the villains are of the type who carry sofas and washing machines on their backs up three flights of stairs, and even more so if you are, let’s just say, the scholastic type. (Is it necessary to add that it’s not a good idea to want to pull sheets of papers with notes on them from said sofa while the aforementioned villain is carrying the sofa up a flight of stairs?)

All in all, the process went by without much incident. Right now, I’m sitting outside my favourite coffee shop, quietly sucking on a cup of creamy Viennese coffee while I breathe in the sulphur-polluted air of this part of town.

In the hours that passed between the move and the coffee, I had to teach a class at the school where I’ve been working for almost five years. Here I was in the fortunate position to spot a Taiwanese colleague – who works in the office – out of the corner of my eye. Needless to say, her sensual beauty inspires me to make as many photocopies as possible, and to even enter into conversations with her in my distinctive Chinese dialect.

I heard her mentioning something about being single to one of the students. That forced me once again to contemplate my own reputation as a wandering wolf on the road between my house and … well, the 7-Eleven. A quick mental computation of the reasons for this sorry state of affairs reminded me how I have a problem with my place in the world.

This brings us back to my pre-confrontation with the tattooed movers question: Is it possible that I can transform myself into an individual who will have the ability to fit in more easily?