Today is the day the cleaner comes.
Ordinarily we have Gymbaroo to take us in; a second home to shelter and nurture us. But it’s end of semester break. The Gymbaroo doors are boarded up, tumbleweeds curse its corridors. No $2.50 ham and cheese toasties grace its Breville machines. Outside a menacing, beady eyed Magpie prowls the carpark; or perhaps it is a Currawong, the two are difficult to discern from a distance. Regardless, we must leave. And, we have nowhere to go.
Milo and I hastily gather our things, taking only what we can carry on our backs and in our pockets, ransacking the fridge for anything lightweight and durable; yesterday’s sweet potato and green beans all we could muster. We try to take mental snap shots of this place. Like fuzzy polaroids moving from white to colour all too slowly, cerebrally shaking these rectangular cardboard memories with all our might as our precious seconds eek away. In our moments of sharp honesty we quietly concede we do not know when we will return. Neither of us articulate our fears, but perhaps we will never again stand within these four walls, never again will we be home. We open the front door, the frosty Sydney winter breeze cuts through us as we step out, into exile.
We wander aimlessly through the suburbs, faces shielded from the chill and from the eyes of passers-by who peer at us, pity on their faces. We keep to back streets, for safety and to secure whatever protection we can from the biting wind. It is 21 degrees celsius, but with the wind chill it feels 19. At one point we think we hear on the breeze the snarl of a pack of wolves, but then we realise there are no wolves in Australia and the sound is the postie on his 105cc Honda CT110. He waves cheerfully at us, I hide Milo’s face from the glare of his high visibility vest.
We trudge on, street after street, nowhere to go, nowhere to be, until after almost 100 minutes of physical and emotional torment with only a sausage sandwich with onions, tomato sauce and mustard from Bunnings to sustain us, we see on the horizon, a green swirly shimmer. I discount it as a trick of the mind; a mirage at best, a hallucination at worst. But as we walk it becomes more, not less, apparent and finally, yes I am convinced, we are saved. Campos Coffee.
We hobble in through the sliding doors; my chin, an hour more stubbly than when we set out on this journey. Milo, with no toys packed for him in the rush, sucking desperately on a teaspoon and the spare shoelace from my leather work shoes. We are served by a pleasant Irish lady who sees immediately our pitiful plight. She hastens our order, and although they don’t have precisely the menu to sustain men who have suffered as much as we have, she is able to pull together a pumpkin, feta, kale and rice salad, and a pork and leek sausage roll. And a strong latte.
We eat with gusto, Milo wisely tossing his green beans and sweet potato on the floor in favour of the ‘croissant crouton’ garnish on my salad. Finally we look up and realise two other travellers have joined our table, Gwendolyn and Gwendolyn’s mother. They share our fate; today they are getting their carpets cleaned.
We chat a while with Team Gwendolyn, and when we are strong enough to re-join the world we load up our meager possessions and begin the march home. What joy to be home. We dance with the cats and sing Michael Buble to each other before eating second lunch. We then flit about on the balcony (Milo eats third lunch – finely pulverised sugar cane mulch) before falling into our respective beds for a nap.
Soon after Kuepps is on her way home so we load up and meet her at the train station, and what a reunion. Milo is overjoyed to see his mum after such an ordeal. We try to explain it to her and she listens with great empathy, but in truth what we experienced can never fully be conveyed. Instead Milo nestles in the ergo on Kuepps’ chest, we hold hands and walk peacefully up the street to buy Pastizzis.
Milo with his pitiful spoon toy
- Total kilometers walked – 0.8
- Suburbs trudged through – 2
- Blisters – 0
- Fiendish Currawongs spotted and avoided – 4