DOWN SOUTH


THE hut we had rented for the weekend was made of wood, and the sign nailed up next to the door declared the hut 'NORMAN.'

Inside the floor was cool underfoot. If you wanted a cup of tea you had to boil water on a gas stove until the kettle screamed at you. Everything was cool and calm, like the delicate inside of an eggshell. It was primitive and perfect. There was no toilet in the hut. If you wanted a shower, or a wee, you had to pack up a torch and put on your boots and stagger into the night with a full bladder and anxious heart. The first toilet stop of the night I had seen a wombat, rooting its nose about in the grass. The sight of it both frightened and thrilled me. 

In the blue grey light of the morning the fullness in my bladder wrenched me from the arms of my partner and the warmth of the blankets. I have been dying my hair blonde and it has - almost overnight - turned to straw, so I tuck it beneath a woollen beanie and shrug on a jacket. Into the cold of the morning I stride, full of purpose and urine. My face is bare.  I walk out into the morning with minimal barriers between me and the waking world. I adjusted my glasses so I could better see the morning.


I walked into the bathroom and was confronted with the sight of a girl I had once known standing before me. A girl who I had cut off contact from several years ago, after I deemed her too trivial; too vapid and detached from reality for my liking. Now here she was before me, using the same bathroom on the same promontory in this small, quiet corner of the vast, ever-turning world. 


Three years since I had last said goodbye to her on the steaming terrace of a rooftop bar in Melbourne. We had gone for dumplings and cheap drinks and I had had a terrible time. Or was it four years?  

 Out of habit, I had smiled briefly at her, before quickly tucking my head down towards my chin. Then I ducked into the toilet stall and closed the door behind me. The seat was cold against my thighs.

She had not recognised me. I let my brain tick over, like a cold car engine. I wondered if she had simply chosen to ignore me. Or perhaps it wasn’t even her. From around the corner I heard her voice, the same tentative, uncertain warble that she’d always had. She was talking to someone about her hair. How it was important - according to her hairdresser - that a certain kind of conditioner is used on hair like hers. And I instantly knew it was her. And I knew I had done thing right thing by letting go of her all those years ago. If the girl in the bathroom hadn't changed; if she hadn't changed the topic of her conversation in the past three years, had not expanded the threshold of what worried her and caused her concern, then had I really changed as much as I had thought I had? Perhaps all the leaps and bounds I thought I had made as a person and a writer were just a fallacy. And that's what scared me the most. I quickly pulled up my jeans and exited the bathroom. 


I walked back to the hut from my interaction in the bathroom and I told my partner about it. I said that I noticed the girl at the sink and I recognised her instantly. I made the point of telling him that the encounter hadn't bothered me, in a way that made me think that perhaps I was lying. I feigned indifference but quickly felt the mania building in me like a wave about to break against the quay. I felt myself darting about and spewing forth words in that way I do when I am preoccupied with anxiety. 


Outside the wooden embrace of our small, simple hut, a ripple of mountains hemmed us in. Native birds danced in the trees. Earlier in the day a bold Rosella had landed on my head, before stealing away the biscuit I held in my hands. The world outside heaved with Animalia and vivid greens and I lay on a mattress on the floor, thinking about the silvery tin whistle laying abandoned on the bookshelf at home, and the failed manuscript sitting idle on my computer. I'm forced to compare the person I once was to the person I am now. Trinkets of my failed ambitions.  When I walked into the bathroom in this obscure corner of the world, I thought that I was spending an isolated weekend alone. Then my old life suddenly slammed into my present one. And all my reptilian fears of being found out a fraud crawled up from my spine and stared me in the face.  


Sitting at our rudimentary kitchen, our home away from home, my boyfriend slid a warm bacon and egg roll in front of me. He fries bacon really well. It's always so crispy. When I pressed down on the roll, the yolk of the egg broke and oozed out of the bread; an eggy Jackson Pollock. He sits down across the table from me, and his dark eyes shine bright in the morning. Outside, bird chatter in the trees and the mountain stares down at me from its vantage point in the sky. 

I tuck into the bread roll, and taste it's white doughy goodness. I realise that I am happy.