Posts Tagged ‘Longing’

Nobody

When I was young, my skinny boy-like body felt light and easy, and although it took me a few tries to get onto and balance a bike, once I’d mastered those handlebars and the brakes, I could fly.

In the playground I sat on the thick plank of a swing and spun higher and higher above the tree line stretching out my toes to gather momentum.

At the swimming pool I taught myself to swim and although I could never quite master the technique, in my imagination, I saw myself as one of those Olympians streaking through the water.

It did not last.

By the time I was fourteen, I was more uncomfortable in my body than I had ever been before. Not only did hair appear in secret places and my breasts swelled, the rest of my body began to swell too.

I now sat on the swing and for the first time in my life felt a type of nausea that was to dog me thereafter whenever I tried any of the playground equipment.

One September school holiday, when my sister and I were locked behind our uniforms at boarding school, my oldest brother invited us over to Canberra to visit him, to stay with him in his small house at the foot of Mount Ainslie.

We could stay a week and help by cooking his evening meal and during the day we could do our homework or go for walks.

My brother was in love with a young woman who had so enthralled him at the university that he decided to leave his plans for the life of a priest behind and they were preparing to get married in some months time.

One evening during our stay my brother took us out to dinner. I sat in the back seat alongside my sister while my brother took the wheel beside his wife to be.

We travelled to her mother’s house for a special dinner in honour of my sister and I and our brief stay in Canberra.

It was still cold. The lag of the seasons hid the fact of spring. Rain pattered down onto the roof of the car. The wipers swished and I looked through the beads of water at my window onto the blur of lights and the outside dark of Canberra streets.

A pang of sadness hit me in a way I did not expect. Stuck in the back seat with my sister, behind those two grown ups in love.

It was as if I had swallowed a poison tablet that dissolved into a sense of hopelessness so great I could not imagine that my life was worth anything anymore.

I had no sense of the future, only this sodden sense of emptiness, as if everything of value had been spoiled by the rain.

The tears behind my eyes refused to flow because I could not pinpoint any reason for those tears other than a pervasive sense that I was a failure.

A person who had lost sight of herself.

A person who would turn into more of a nobody than she already felt on this day when others around me seemed filled with the richness of their lives, and the promise of bright futures.

My future looked as empty as the block of land at the corner of the street near my brother’s house where they had long ago pulled down the petrol station and left in its place some  rusting metal poles alongside a deep hole in the ground.

On laundromats, longing and lost opportunities

My fears were unfounded. I knew it the moment we drove into the campsite, which was nothing like the campsite I had imagined.

In my imagination I had seen cars, tents and caravans dotted cheek by jowl within a large hollowed area near a main road somewhere. But the Blanket Bay campsite on the southernmost point of the Great Ocean Road region in Cape Otway is designed to keep people far enough apart with large swathes of eucalypts and cascading casuarinas to give the illusion of being secluded in the bush.

Our particular spot overlooked the sea, which you reached via a series of stone steps carved into the sandy slope. The waves thundered at night, as if we were in a gale and louder than I remember from other trips to the beach.

But the weather held out for us during our two day stay and although it was cold, the sun shone for much of our first full day and made walking along the beach and other walks through the bush almost overheated. Especially with thermals underneath.

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The washing machine hose had snapped from its body the day before we went camping and flooded the laundry. Fortunately my daughter heard the unaccountable rush of water and I got to the taps before it had lapped into the kitchen and onto the parquetry.

As a consequence we’ve been without a washing machine for over a week now and the dirty clothes are piling up.

I’ve spent some time trying to locate a person who can locate the missing hose for a Kleenmaid washing machine, given Kleenmaid have gone out of business, and then fit it. He’s coming early next week, and in the meantime I will make at least one trip to the Laundromat.

I have not set foot inside a Laundromat since I was a young woman in the days when every weekend I took my pile of clothes in a basket or a bag along with my stash of coins and container of soap powder for a weekly wash.

Sometimes it was just a matter of loading up one of the machines with the dirty clothes then taking off to the shops to do whatever task I allocated myself in the thirty minutes or so it took to complete the load.

Other times I sat and waited.

It was on one such visit to the Laundromat on Kooyong Road in Caulfield near where I shared an upstairs apartment with my younger sister, during what I think of these days as my promiscuous year, where I encountered some of my deepest longings.

The Laundromat was, as you can imagine, a row of machines on one side, fitted into the wall front loaders and on the other wall even larger driers.

On this day a young man came in to do his washing. He sat with a book in his hands  and as he shuffled the pages I wondered whether he might be the one.

But we did not lock eyes when he caught me looking in his direction and I soon abandoned all hope of connecting with him.

There was someone out there I knew who would be a kindred spirit.  Someone who would think like me. Someone right for me. If only we could connect.

It was an odd thought and yet it formed the basis of my optimistic stance on most things these days. Whenever things feel bad I tell myself something good will happen.

I tell myself things will not always be this bad, but the series of events in recent weeks including the dishwasher and another failed opportunity to get my manuscript into publication  leaves me longing all over again.

Better to long for things I say, than to sulk.

The impulse to sulk is to slip into a state of mind that says I’ll never get this book into print.

And I found the man whom I eventually married all those years ago and although the fantasy of stars in my eyes and a sensation of love at first sight never happened, enough good rolled in thereafter to qualify as a good enough life.

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At the end of our camping trip as we pulled out onto the main road I turned back to watch the retreating trees under which we had sheltered for two nights and thought to myself I can do this again and next time I will not be so fearful.