Like a lot of parents of young adults, I’ve asked my kids to come home. Not because I don’t think they’re capable of looking after themselves, but because I’m kind of unsure about what is ahead. My older daughter came home, but my other two daughters have been adamant they’re fine and have chosen to stay in the city. Not the happiest news for an anxious mother who was having this unrealistic fantasy that they’d all come home and we’d play Scrabble and watch movies and bunker down together. I think the thought of that was why they decided [itaI]not[/itaI] to come home.
My son wasn’t sure. He’s very good at Scrabble, so the prospect of triple word scores and lording his literacy skills over me was somewhat appealing. His flights home from Melbourne kept cancelling, and the other day when he told me he’d rebooked another flight I said, ‘Don’t come’. With eight baggage handlers in Adelaide testing positive to the Big C, it just seemed silly to risk bringing a big dose into our home, and thus our region. ‘The airport isn’t really the best place to be right now, if you can help it.’ He texted back ‘But I want to come home.’ So I said ‘I’ll drive there and pick you up’, like I was driving into Byron to get him from a party. Or popping down to the shops.
I’ve never driven to Melbourne – I do long drives, but that would be the longest drive I’ve done. I’m also not a great driver. I don’t crash, but I do back into stuff. I’m erratic, a bit unfocused, the kids call me Mrs Swervy, and they all reckon my tendency to accelerate and break continuously has given them lifelong motion sickness. I am however, gun, when it comes to performing an illegal U-turn.
I come from Queensland – home of the U turn. I can turn that baby around in an instant. So I became Thelma sans Louise. Mother-on-a-Mission. I felt like Liam Neeson, except the only thing that’s been abducted is hope. It was good to leave the house. Drive away from my fricking computer before I blew Zoom up. If I had to look at one more positive post on Facebook about how creative people were I was going to puke.
I hate this. I hate not seeing people. Not being able to sit in a cafe and talk to my friends. Not feel my sweaty shoulder against someone’s back at Bluesfest. Not take a bite from my friend’s delicious pie, just to taste it. Not pick up a stranger hitching home from town. Not hug people I love who don’t live under my roof. I miss not working. I miss not having anything to look forward to.
I hate this world behind doors, behind a screen. This strange diluted reality where our only freedom is walking a dog. My dog is exhausted. My dog is missing his alone time. I’m fucking tired of mine. My dog keeps looking at me with that ‘Why are you still here? Aren’t you going out?’ expression.
I did have some trepidation that my 2009 Honda with 333 000km on the cIock may not be ideal for an almost 1700km trip. When I told my husband I was going he looked at me a bit like the dog, ‘You’re doing what?’ But he’s smart enough to know there’s no point trying to stop me. So I took off, relieved to be out of the house, and on the open road. Driving has this sedative effect for me – if I’m feeling pissed off or frustrated or sad, driving through the landscape has a literal way of cutting through. AIthough, technically I was still behind a screen. A windscreen.
There was no traffic. The lock down, the signs about ‘no non-essential travel’ seemed to have done their job. I arrived in Sydney in record time, and made it from Hornsby to just across from the city – at peak hour – in 30 minutes. No traffic jams. Just empty roads. It was like being the last people on earth. I never thought I’d miss bumper-to-bumper gridlock, the sign of a city pumping with people going places. There’s no one on the road when there’s nowhere to go, and nothing to do. I hit Melbourne in a daze, the radio teIIing me that lockdown rules wouId be in pIace until 30 June. I hugged my daughter, I collected my son, and made a U turn, embarking on the long journey home. AII the whiIe wondering when we got cast in this dark dystopian reality show, and when couId we go back to our happy-go-lucky sit-com. The car made it. My son is home. And he’s just nailed another triple word score by adding to my pathetic three letter ‘arm’; with ‘Armageddon’. ‘Arm a getting out of here’ I laugh. There’s an awkward silence. It’s just not funny anymore. No one’s getting out of anywhere for a while. We are all Assange.