Walls protect and walls limit, either way I had decided to tear mine down.
The bumblebee hum of the clock radio reminded me that I had managed a deceptive one hour of sleep. I kicked the body that lay abandoned over my left arm. It shifted enough to allow me an escape route.
‘You’re late for work’
He put clothes on his body, threw me a kiss and left. The kiss hung in the doorway looking slightly dazed and sheepish. It no longer belonged here. One wall down.
After finding my knickers in a shoe I went to wake the others.
I stepped over Nathan in the doorway as he perfumed the air with his particular style of expletives. I purveyed the aftermath of last night. Yes, everything was where it should be. Bottles filled with backwash and cigarette stubs were settled in every corner, table space and sofa nook, various coloured carpet stains of abstract art lead out from the kitchen, and it appeared that someone had used a strip of wallpaper as a swinging rope. The stale beer-laced air was tinged with just a hint of vomit fumes. I guessed it was located on the balcony. If consuming four cases of semi-cold beer (the electricity had been cut of that morning), a few bottles of bourbon, some of the best purple heads this side of Sydney, and countless foodstuffs between eleven of us, was packing, then we could ‘pack’ anyone under the table.
‘We’re late’ someone chimed.
‘What’s knew!?’ was the choir’s response. Apparently we were all awake.
In about 45 minutes we were cleaned, sort of, dressed, sort of, and finished packing, sort of. We left everything as it was. Not having to clean up vomit and piss from the carpet seemed a reasonable exchange for the paltry $200 bond.
I had bought a small trailer out of the papers, just a few days ago. It was now an ostentatious Christmas package. There’s such a liberating feeling when you can see all your possessions fill only a small trailer that you are disappointed that it’s overflowing. A part of me wanted to rip everything out, and yet, hocking the stuff would supply ready cash. In the chaos of rushed, somnolent and hung-over packing there are two inevitable outcomes. One is that not everything will fit and the other is that you will forget something. What didn’t fit we left behind; what we forgot, we never remembered so never needed.
We said our good-byes as if we were off to the beach for the day and would be back tonight for a few beers and a kebab.
We left. Another wall.
I drove with an elbow out the window, working on that partial driver’s tan. The sun was fierce and the wind was at rest. The gush from my open window was sweet. It danced around my head and tangoed out again. I could hear its absorbed remnants of the cars ahead; the virginal laughter of kids, the scream of angry minds, and even the silence between feuding lovers. Those behind me, if they listened, would be hearing my own music just soon enough.
‘Man I need a piss’, Tania’s mumbles from the back finally crawled their way forward.
‘And I’m starving!’, added Veronica.
Don’t get me wrong, I heard their pleas, but what finally made me pull over into the next stop was the unmistakable fact that, for the last few minutes, I had been driving with my eyes shut. The engine and I switched off in unison.
I woke-up what seemed only minutes later to the black fumes of a truck settling into its parking space. Nothing like carbon monoxide to get your hunger going. The three of us shovelled the food down our throats so as not to have to face actually tasting it. Hunger is a malicious and undiscerning thing.
Back in the car the girls sang the time away. Shit they stank, but it kept me awake. So I nodded in appreciation every few minutes, which seemed the respectable time span.
Day moulded into dusk and dusk leapt into night. The girls were asleep and that was ok. It was an A to Z thing for them; it was everything in between for me.
As we left the towns behind, darkness dominated and the landscape became surreal. The car did a precarious balancing act on the tightrope that had been the road. The ground, an unknown distance below. In another instance I perceived no motion, I was on a stage waiting for the lights and the performance to begin. Only the pulse in my ears assured me that time hadn’t stopped. I wound down the window before I panicked. Mother wind caressed my frightened forehead. How could I be sure it wasn’t just a studio fan?
Just before my imagination had us all killed, I saw the first change in the road; lights in the far distance. The white at the end of the tunnel?
I wondered who I was going to be in the afterlife that I was hurtling into.