Rock Valley. Sunday, 7.15am
There is a time of year which, when combined (shaken not stirred) with a certain section of road at a certain early morning hour, creates a mist as thick as an Irish White Russian. (One part vodka, one part Kahlua and four parts full-cream milk – shaken with ice.)
That time of year and that early hour is now. Sweeping through a righthander, I am confronted by the mist. It looks not so much like a racially confused cocktail, but more like a wall of concrete that some over-medicated council worker has built right across Rock Valley Road.
It’s so dense it bends light and my trusty old van, Morrison, is sucked towards it.
I brace myself for impact. My rationality hasn’t completely left me – I realise that this is mist, not concrete, so I don’t shut my eyes. My elbows, though, are more instinctive than intellectual, and lock up as I smash into the wall of grey.
I tumble into a dark gloom like a drunk into a smoky club (before smokers had to go outside to die). But there is no dimly lit stage with a pianoman hunched over the keys, or long bar with people stranded on stools, desperate to share their loneliness. There’s only an unfathomable grey formlessness – a world where the three dimensions don’t exist.
The sun, which only a second ago was poking a playful finger through Morrison’s window, has blinked out.
We are blind, Morrison and I. We have the vision of a prime ministerial candidate.
I sense impending disaster. I can’t see my way.
What if a wallaby jumps out? (Morrison has only three millimetres of rust separating outside from in.)
What if a mist-grey Rav4 with no lights comes the other way and veers onto my side of the road?
I feel death breathing on my neck…
What if Fukushima really is out of control?
What if Labor or the coalition gets elected?
What if there’s a corner and blind Morrison fails to take it and smashes through a barbed-wire fence, narrowly misses a hoop pine and plunges into Leycester Creek?
I have driven this road for decades and I have no idea where the next corner is.
That is so like me. I careen through life with barely a passing glance at other careeners or the place we’re careening through. Now, with the death lurking, I regret I didn’t careen a little slower and stop to smell the roses. Or sniff the cocaine. Or punch the priest. Or man the barricades. Or hear my girl’s voice one more time…
There is only grey silence. I can’t even hear Morrison’s old engine chugging towards half a million kilometres. Only silence, the song of angels.
The grey mist fills Morrison.
Ahead, a light grows closer. Oh great. God.
Shapes form. A tree, a smudge of blue sky, a ribbon of road. As quickly as I entered the fog of fear, I burst free. I still can’t hear but I can see. (It may have been the eardrum-bursting guitar of Kevin Borich at the anti-CSG gig last night in Bangers that has made me deaf, not death angels silently singing.)
Relief washes over me. Sunlight splashes onto the road. It highlights a pothole large enough to qualify for compulsory pool fencing. It’s colourfully painted and has a long tail. It looks like a psychedelic sperm.
We smash into it, causing a bit of Morrison to fall off.
We limp towards Lismore. There, we will find a wheel alignment and roses to smell. (And a pub.)
Though life’s road is peppered with potholes, it’s good to be alive. This did the grey mist teach me.