It’s 8:45am. Friday morning. I feel lost in a flurry of boots, hats, and backpacks. As the girls walk out the front door I realize I forgot to brush Briar’s hair, and Xanthe hasn’t had her face washed. Too late.
The baby is strapped in his capsule, firmly covered in a white, fluffy blanket, his hat in his eyes. He is heavy, getting heavier by the day, and I struggle to get him safely out of the house without smashing his car seat into the walls and door frames. I feel flustered. Getting out of the house with three small children always makes me flustered.
The girls are at the gate now, Maurice and I still at the door. I fumble with my keys, lock the door, and we swish down the wooden steps, across the path, through the gate, and down the concrete steps; my full-length skirt restricts my steps, adding to my frustration.
We make it to the van. Not our van, but ours for now. I put the baby down on the grass, and am relieved when he doesn’t start crying. He really hates the car seat. I turn the key in the lock, and pull open the heavy sliding door. As I stand aside, the girls clamber into the back, remove their bags, and pile themselves into their seats. Today there is no defiance from Xanthe, and I am thankful. I haven’t had breakfast yet, I’m not strong enough for a battle.
Children buckled in safely, the baby’s capsule clicked into place, I slam the door shut and head around to the driver’s seat. The van is so different from a car. I have to pull myself up and in, and the steering wheel is right there waiting for me, sitting at such an angle that I can prop one elbow on it and rest my chin on my hand as I’m driving. In one fluid movement I pull the door closed behind me, insert the key into the ignition and turn it. The van roars to life. I squeeze the button on the automatic gear stick, and slide it into reverse, and I feel the van jump beneath me, as though it has been eagerly anticipating this moment. I let my foot off the brake, and as we glide down the driveway I remember…
We’re waiting for the car to get its wheels aligned. It’s been lowered so significantly that the tyres keep wearing thin on the insides, and we can’t afford to keep replacing them. Neither of us have any money. Money runs through our fingers like water through a sieve. Fast food, cigarettes, pot, pokies, we throw our money away as soon as it touches our hands.
There’s a van parked up next to us, the same maroon colour as our car, my car, and I wish it was ours. We can’t sleep in the Honda properly. It’s too cramped and too public. If we just had a van we could stretch ourselves out, put up curtains for privacy; our lives would be so much better.
“Go ask that guy if he wants to swap his van for the car.” The words are out of my mouth before I’ve even realized what I’m saying. That’s how I live now. Spontaneously. Impulsively. Dangerously.
The guy with the van is keen. Of course he’s keen. The van is run down and worth next to nothing. The Honda is well-presented and appeals to young guys who like to drive fast.
“Yes,” he says. “Yes, you’ve got a deal.”
We drive away that afternoon in someone else’s van. Except it’s not someone else’s. It’s ours. Mine. I have no regrets. In this moment, I have exactly what I wanted.
The "we" I speak of is an ex-boyfriend and I. Eight or nine years have passed since that day.