On the Friday, they drove together to the city, deliberately avoiding the carpool so they could talk alone, drive-thru for coffee, play Everlong, head bang like Wayne’s World. And in the process, in the briefest of moments, she leant forward in the passenger seat and swished her hair like a mare and made sure it hit his lap … not much, but just enough, enough that he would know. And he did know. He knew before the hair like a mare, if truth be told.
That night they watched the football with the others, but not really with the others at all. They watched the football pressed closely together, not because of anything bad or untoward, but because that’s what you do at the footy. Especially the Eagles and the Bombers. Everybody presses everybody. It’s just what you do. So why did the boss watch them, as if it wasn’t what people do?
That night they shared a bed. Not for anything bad or untoward, but because it’s what you do when you’re adult, when you’re free, when you want companionship and warmth and nothing bad or untoward at all. And that’s when it happened, the first time.
On the Saturday they drove away from the city together, deliberately avoiding the carpool so they could sit in silence alone, drive past the coffee, play nothing, keep their heads still, no flicking of the hair, no hitting his lap. Just remorse. Sadness. The smell of something off.
On the Sunday they said to hell with it, and they moved into a caravan, where they played Everlong as loud as they wanted, banged like Wayne’s World, heard all the stories, told all the lies, found all the right places and pressed all the right buttons.
On the Monday they said to hell with it some more, and they drove away from the city again, but further this time, to the glorious north and the sun and the sand and the ocean. Idyllic, they called it, perfect, a place to start again. And as the darkness bathed the town like a wave, they listened and they laughed as their neighbours made love, noisily, with moans and tears and high-pitched declarations of love.
‘Do you love me?’ she said, after the neighbours had finished.
But he didn’t know. So he said, ‘Yes.’
And then they moaned and they cried and made high-pitched noises that exceeded everything they’d heard from next door.
On Tuesday they got on a plane and flew interstate, where they pretended like nothing was bad or untoward but everyone knew anyway, and treated them like fools because that’s what they were, assuming everyone was blind or stupid or both. And when the business was over and everyone flew home, they stayed a while, and watched a funeral for a princess on television, and wept together, mournfully, as if their tears really mattered, as if the funeral was theirs. And afterwards they moaned and cried some more and made high-pitched noises as they explored one another with the carefree curiosity of people who have just watched the funeral of a princess.
‘I have a disease,’ she said then, because that’s another thing you do when you’ve watched a princess be buried. You admit things.
‘What sort of disease?’
‘It comes and goes.’
‘No. Not like measles. Something else. Down there.’
And in the post-princess-funeral glow, he didn’t care about diseases, down there or anywhere. He was too carefree for that, too curious, too mournful, like he really mattered.
On Wednesday, his wife gave birth. To a child.
Afterwards, he stood outside, in the dark and in the cold and in the rain, deciding whether to go this way or that. Or some other way that no one had told him about. It was impossible to know. At least by himself. He needed help. Advice. A friendly voice. Someone objective. He knew who to call.
‘Hello,’ she said.
‘Hello. I need a friendly voice. Some objective advice.’
‘My mother said if it’s a boy I won’t ever see you again,’ she said.
‘That doesn’t sound very objective.’
‘Well, it’s what she said.’
‘Okay then. Well, it’s not a boy.’
‘So it’s a girl?’
‘It’s a girl.’
On Thursday, he moved into a flat. Then he moved out again.
‘Why are you going?’ said the landlord.
‘Because from the centre of the room I could touch the kitchen bench, the bed, the toilet and the desk.’
‘You get what you pay for,’ said the landlord.
On Friday, he drove to the city alone, got drive-thru coffee, played Everlong, and almost did a head bang. Then he watched his grandmother die, watched as her soul floated up from her body. Afterwards, racked by sorrow, about his grandmother and many other things, he made a phone call to someone friendly and objective.
‘I’ll be home soon,’ he said.
‘Because you love me?’
He would have answered, except he had to hang up. Quickly. Without thinking.
On Saturday, he was reading a really good book when he realised something. And that’s when everything changed. He realised that when the woman ate food, it made him annoyed. And he realised that when she talked, it made him grimace. And he realised that when she asked if he loved her, it made him mad.
On Sunday, he made a phone call. To his wife.
‘I’m coming home,’ he said.
‘There’s no longer any such thing,’ she answered.
‘I’m coming anyway,’ he said. ‘We’ll build another one.’
Then he made his final phone call. To someone who once was friendly and objective.
‘I don’t love you,’ he said. ‘You were available. That’s all. Convenient.’
‘But when will I see you?’ she said.
‘Never,’ he responded.
‘Never?’ she said. ‘But you had a girl.’
‘You really need to take that up with your mother,’ he said.
And he never did see her again, just like he said.