I’m trying to hurry the girls into bed. Xanthe is halfway up the ladder to the top bunk, and Briar is skipping around in circles at my feet. I don’t know what they’re so excited about, but I just want them to stop what they’re doing and get into their beds. I just want them to do as they’re told. I just want them to go to sleep already.
I reach out for Xanthe, ready to pull her down from the ladder, ready to place her on the bottom bunk where she belongs, when I realise there is no rush. There is no hurry. An extra one or two or three minutes to get them into bed isn’t a problem. It won’t hurt me and it definitely won’t hurt the girls. I hook my hands underneath Xanthe’s armpits, and instead of grabbing and pulling, I’m holding and tickling.
“What are you doing way up there?” I say, my voice happy, friendly, playful. Xanthe giggles, I smile, Briar skips. There is no reason to hurry this.
The girls climb into their beds and I give them their kisses and their cuddles. I allow them one more drink of water. I tell them that I love them. Oh, how I love them. I turn to their butterfly shelf, its coat hooks heavy with hats and coats and school bags, and I reach for their special clock. Their Momo. Their monkey alarm that closes its eyes tight until morning, as long as I remember to set it. I set the clock, the girls say goodnight, and as they snuggle down under their blankets I remember…
I’m trying to fall asleep. It’s so hot in here, so cramped. I’m uncomfortable in every sense of the word. I move around, trying to find a good position, trying to relax, and I hear Karl sigh. He’s in the seat next to me and he can’t sleep either. It’s just because it’s so hot.
“I don’t think this is working,” says Karl. “Maybe we should just forget about it.”
I sit up and I look at him and I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe what he’s saying. This whole thing was his idea. The whole fucking busking tour was his thing, and now suddenly he wants out? Now he’s just going to tell me to go home, back to my parents? How could he do this to me?
I don’t care that it’s hot and I don’t care that it’s uncomfortable and I don’t care that I’m living in a two-door car. I don’t give a fuck about anything. I couldn’t care less. Karl is the one who was so into it all. Karl is the one who got all worried that I wouldn’t come back on the road after going home for Christmas. Karl can not fucking tell me that we’re not going to do this anymore, he just can’t.
I’m angry, upset, I want to cry. I open the car door and I step out into the night. Karl gets out too, he wants to cool down and he wants to talk to me, but I’m too angry. Too close to tears. I can’t stand it, can’t stand him. I stare at him, try to express myself through my eyes, and when that doesn’t work I run. I turn around and I run. I run away into the night.
I run down the road until I see a paddock. I run onto the grass, run blindly through the field. I don’t know where I am. Don’t know where I’m going. Don’t know what I’m doing. I keep running.
I hear water, a river maybe, and I run towards it and I see a bridge. A big bridge. A big concrete bridge, with big concrete pillars, and I can’t run anymore so I walk towards it. I walk underneath the bridge. I squat down in the dirt, my heart beating hard, my throat swollen tight, and I don’t know what to do so I wait. Under a bridge, in the dirt, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. I wait.
Time for Bed
Karl drove back and forth over that bridge, calling my name out the car window, searching for me. I remember that made me feel good. It made me feel like somebody cared about me.