To the woman I once knew,
It’s that empty time of night again, 9pm, not tired, but wired.
I can’t sleep, even though I have a new bed, the most expensive I have ever owned, because neither of us wanted the old one that we shared for 12 years.
So, I walk into the night as I have so often done this year. To fill the time. To slow my racing mind, to stop the pain that pulses in my heart. But this time I end up at ‘her’ place. Your cars are parked so close to each other it is like they are kissing.
There are lights on inside, no curtains. Then I see her, in front of her bathroom mirror wearing a skimpy black and white horizontal striped loose singlet. She is patting at her face like long-time straight women do, probably applying her night ‘mask’. I imagine you are already in her bed, or looking into the light of your laptop screen with so much intensity, as you often did when I ‘knew’ you. I do not know you now.
I could have stayed longer in the dark, outside this bitumen-entombed cottage, and I could have seen much more, but I decide I am not strong enough. I ask myself, ‘Why am I here, after all these months? Because I am stupid? I hate you? I love you? Because you are better at this than I am?’ You can simply ignore me and move on, while I struggle to live day to day, struggle to even want to live.
The counsellor says I attach deeply. I thought you did, too, that we would fight harder for each other. Did we? But once you knew of my attraction to our friend, you threw me out, with an angrily penned note on a scrap of paper on the kitchen bench: Be out of this house by midday. I didn’t realise it would be my last day in our house. I had hoped that we could work through this mess of emotions, but I could not abide by your ultimatum to never see her again. Only months later did you admit to similar feelings for her.
I walk away into the dark. I am at the highway intersection, and as I reach the middle island, two white cars collide in front of me. There is a moment of silence after the dull thud and the 180-degree swing of one car that now faces the way it came.
It happens so quickly, and I have no idea where they both came from. In my mind I tell myself, ‘Louise, this is an accident – act!’. I run to check the single occupant of the closest car – a young woman. She is okay. Then I run to the other car, but the passenger door doesn’t open. I run around to the driver’s side, she is looking straight ahead, hands still on the steering wheel. I touch her shoulder and ask if she is okay. She is in shock, but she nods. I think that she is probably returning home from a night out with a friend. I am not sure if the smell of alcohol comes from her or from me. She is wearing a coloured top and a red necklace. A woman in her mid-60s. Her short, blonde streaked hair is well-styled. She says, ‘I turned in front of her, didn’t I?’
I can’t answer her. I have no idea, I was lost in my own world when it happened. I tell the young woman to call the police on her mobile, and I help her with street names. I know I need to get out of here. How the hell would I explain being in that part of town at 10pm?
A skinny man staggers to the scene, carrying a plastic shopping bag and a bottle in his other hand. He mumbles and just hangs around, telling me what I should do. I tell him that the situation is under control and that he should leave, but he lingers. It’s probably the most excitement he’s had all day. A car pulls up, and a clean-cut male walks over and says he is a former nurse. Instantly I am calm. I am no longer responsible for this mess. Once the nurse is in action, I turn to the skinny man and say, ‘You are a dickhead’ (my only satisfaction of the night), and leave. I hope no one sees me.
I walk quickly into the night and back to the safe shell of my ‘home’ – that is not really a home. The rented cottage on the opposite side of town to you gives me some stability after six months of couch-surfing, house sitting and paying for places to stay. The car is now empty of the six black plastic garbage bags of clothes that it had carried. Most items end up at the op shop, no longer fitting the body that had somehow stripped 20 kilograms from its tall frame.
Once home, I think about the symbolism of the car crash and the wreck of our relationship.
Only one ended quickly with no one hurt.