Rock Valley. Thursday, 7.15am
You never know what life has in store for you.
This is a truth, but you live as if it weren’t. You trundle on, like a Subaru through an early morning fog, assuming the road ahead is clear. Roads should be. But try telling a wallaby that.
You assume that you will drive to work, labour dutifully, drive home, cook a meal of spinach and pumpkin (which you buy from the supermarket near work), watch a movie with your girl, sleep, and then drive to work again tomorrow.
This is life. You act like you know what will happen.
Sometimes, things just happen from out of the blue and knock you for six. There you go: two cliches that I have mixed – just because I can. I don’t normally do that, because I’m careful about the way my sentences hang. A well-hung sentence is a joy to me (like baked pumpkin topped with organic brie and the lot draped in steamed spinach). But I don’t care now.
Living 35 kilometres out of Lismore through rolling waves of ridges and valleys, I drive carefully when the curtains of mist are pulled. Like a sensible driver, I reduce my speed and turn my fog lights on. So, I guess the wallaby saw me coming.
Fat use that is. Now, if the wallaby had fog lights, that would be helpful…
I wonder if the wallaby knows that the widening gap between those two lights – behind which is a man who assumes he will reach Lismore, do his work, buy his dinner ingredients, return home, cook, eat alone, watch a movie (tonight, The Matrix), barely sleep, and then drive to work the next day – heralds danger, and signals the simple truth: you never know what life has in store for you.
The wallaby materialises from the fog, a startled apparition on my windscreen.
I slam on the brakes. The wallaby tenses to jump. But which way?
As the Subaru slides, barely controlled, waiting for a direction from the wallaby, life asserts its unpredictability. I don’t yahoo and shout, ‘Now, this is living!’ But it is. My life is turned on its head. (Yes, I know, another cliche. Good.) Stuff happens. Life’s certainties have exploded in my face like an American cluster bomb in a Syrian village.
Everything slows down. I am like Neo; not with bullets coming towards me in slow motion, but a frightened wallaby, prepped to jump.
In that microsecond – or eternity – there is no space for illusion. I properly realise that things I thought I knew, I don’t; things I trusted, I shouldn’t have. In the huge emptiness created by no time at all, I realise with absolute certainty, finally, that you never know what life has in store for you.
The wallaby, as they do, feints right, jumps left. Still in cinematic slo-mo, I yank the steering wheel the other way, thinking:
The job, the supermarket, movie with the girl – all are desperate attempts at an impossible security, an unfeasible foreseeability. They are possibilities; probabilities at best. In the here and now there is only the wallaby and me, the emptiness, a changed life. I have to acknowledge that. Otherwise I will just nurse the wounds (if I survive), blame somebody (as usual), and return to acting like I know what life has in store (as I have always done).
The Subaru door pats the wallaby’s flank as it dives into the grassy verge, and the car spins to a stop.
I sit. Breathe out the fear. You never know what life has in store for you.
Regular time kicks in. I’m late. I start the Subie and trundle off to work. But everything is changed.