Heard this and thought of you.

Your baby boy eyes in a grown man’s face, an open face, as wide as a plate. You’d be bald now if you were still alive.

Gordon Lightfoot on the radio, ‘If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts could tell’. You introduced me to the singer and his lyrics spoke to me.

‘We could go down the coast for the weekend,’ you said, just like that and my stomach somersaulted with joy.

I took a train down the tracks to Edithvale and your parents’ house where you were ready and waiting with a small holdall.

‘Travel light,’ you had said. ‘We don’t want too many extras,’

So I brought a carry bag, bigger than yours, enough to tote spare jeans, a jumper against the cold, underwear and toiletries.

We walked back towards the station but once we reached the highway you changed your mind.

‘Let’s hitch hike’ you said. ‘It’ll be faster.’

My brothers hitched rides when they travelled interstate or to the country but girls only hitchhiked in the movies where there was often a sense of impending danger.

With you it was different. With you I was safe.

You took the lead, your thumb out at an angle tilted towards the road.

I tried to imagine how the people in the cars might see us. A young man and his girl friend; in jeans and t-shirts, the man clean-shaven, and the woman with all the innocence of her long fair hair.

Nothing threatening here.

Then my thoughts shifted to our potential driver. Would we be safe with him?

A man who might pull up because he saw an opportunity, not only to rob us but also to have his way with me.

My mind ran wild but not long enough before a yellow Toyota stopped and we ran after it.

A couple in the front seat, man and woman, elderly, and I was awash with relief. Older people were safe.

‘We’re you headed?’ the man asked.

‘We’re wanting to go as far down the coast road as possible.’

‘We can take you to Mount Martha,’ the driver said and there the conversation ended.

The wind erupted during the course of our drive and the sunny day we had hoped for had turned to grey. Undeterred, we booked into in a boarding house over the road from the beach. From our upstairs room we could see out to the ocean through a thick line of tea tree. The sea was choppy.

No matter, we could spend an afternoon in bed, an afternoon between the sheets.

‘If you could read my mind…’

Not that you tried. You were always so sure of yourself, so confident of your direction and I followed along, my own agenda, hidden.

My own agenda, one of wanting only to fit in with you and be loved by you, no matter the cost.

I leaned back against the pillows and thrust out my chest hoping to entice you with the slope of my breasts, covered under their thick jumper, but you were reading the form guide and had started to fiddle with the dial on the radio beside our bed.

I tried to look as though I was not fussed about your lack of attention to my body.

I could wait.

‘If you could read my mind, what a story my thoughts could tell…’

I had eyes only for you.

But you weren’t interested in the contents of my mind. You wanted only to check whether your horse – the one you’d bet on at the TAB that morning – would earn you a fortune by winning.

When the race caller croaked out the words, ‘Dark Sorrow by half a head,’ I knew we were safe at last, bills could be paid and no more races until, the following week.

I knew you’d be ready then to open yourself to me, at least to open your body, for your mind stayed closed.


4 thoughts on “Heard this and thought of you.”

  1. I’ve never hitched. And only twice have I picked up a hitchhiker. Both times the reason was the same, curiosity. The first was coming back from England on the coast road. I’d been making deliveries in the Newcastle area and this was me headed home. I don’t remember much about the guy other than he was in his early twenties and headed to Edinburgh which was lucky because that’s where I was going. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist which annoyed me because to my mind that was how he was going to pay me for my kindness and another thing, at one point he pulled out a sandwich and ate it without offering me any. That seemed so rude.

    The second time was on the other side of the country. Again I was headed home and saw two girls thumbing a life. Had it been one I’m sure I’d’ve left her but two seemed safe. Both sat in the back which I suppose I understood but, again, it seemed rude; it made me feel like a taxi driver. They were interested in Robert Burns which I thought was an odd thing but then I grew up in Burns country and had had my fill of him by the time I was ten. But I showed them the Burns Museum in Irvine and then went out of my way to drive them to Ayr where they were staying.

    Apart from the odd raffle at work I’ve never gambled. And to be totally honest I never thought of that as gambling, more a way to be sociable, not to be seen as a stick-in-the-mud. As a kid the family would sometimes take a car trip to Largs where there was the only big penny arcade I ever knew existed for years. We used to get a few coins to waste on the one arm bandits or the coin pusher. Again, I never thought of that as gambling. We were paying for a few minutes entertainment. I’ve never been in a casino in my life. Just the thought of them makes me nervous. I feel the same about drink and pills. I suppose I recognise a potential weakness in me, an addictive personality that needs to be kept in check.

    1. You make it sound as though you err on the side of caution often, Jim, though perhaps not in your writing. I suppose that’s where you can enter into that curiosity you mention here as the reason for accepting hitchhikers in your car. What a pity they were so disappointing. As for gambling, it’s all about trying to get something for nothing, hence the likelihood of not succeeding. Essentially ‘nothing comes from nothing…nothing ever could’, in words from the movie, The Sound of Music. Thanks, Jim.

  2. Yes, I hitchhiked with girlfriends and lived to talk about it. Only had one slightly scary event but it taught us something.
    I have only just become aware of a dear friend’s gambling addiction and the pickle they are now in. It’s confusing, having known them for years and years and yet not knowing them.
    I have also realised it’s not just money they have gambled with, but their health, their home, and their love life. Is it a personality glitch, do you think Lis?
    I don’t judge, I just feel sad, because now it is impacting our relationship.
    I’ve dealt with addiction before so I kinda know what’s ahead. If they’re not ready, you can’t make them.
    Obviously, your friend also gambled with his love-life, otherwise there would be a different ending. Lucky Bill, betting on a ‘sure thing’.

    1. I’m glad your one hitch hike ‘pickle’ helped you to learn from the mistake rather than ending in disaster, Karen. Though your friend’s gambling addiction sounds far worse. The trouble with addictions, they’re hard to learn from while you’re addicted. It’s in the nature of addiction to keep you trapped into certain pleasure seeking behaviours and it’s only once you’re out of the thrall that you can learn from your mistakes. I hope things get better here. Thanks, Karen.

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