(Reworked text, originally written Feb 2021. Original text published in Things I Know To Be True Issue 01, May 2021)
Driving home from Bendigo
Driving home from Bendigo, or possibly it was Ballarat. Someone sitting in the passengers seat. One hand on the steering wheel, the other on knees since burned into my memory, pretending to know what I was doing with such company by my side – company I was wholly, secretly, enamoured with. When I think back to the view through the windscreen, tall green hedges line the right side of the road. Stumpy cattle slump together underneath tall trees that bunch up against a long, wiry fence lining the left. Lyrics flood my mind when I recall this scene. They are from a song that started playing shortly before the green hedge wall turned away from the road, toward the horizon at a perfect 90 degrees.
All along 'em I can hear you
I can hear, I can hear
I can hear, I can hear crying (I can hear)
I can hear cry (crying)
I can hear, I can hear (crying)
I can hear, I can hear crying
(I can hear, I can hear)
In the time between the start of the song and this chorus I had received a text saying that my uncle had died. It glowed on the screen of my iPhone, nestled between my legs. Admittedly I am, was, not close with him. Regardless, what I could see in my mind, all I could see, was my father crying. Painting a mental picture, drawing upon the few times I had seen it firsthand – at the funerals of both his parents, and once badly rolling his ankle at the skatepark. The rarity of this sight seemingly multiplied the gravity of these thoughts as I realised that I had not so much lost an uncle as my father had lost a brother. This distinction hit my gut heavily, and also my chest.
The lines, repeating again for the second chorus of the song, swelled inside me further. I don’t recall speaking a word of it to the person by my side, of which I regret greatly. I also don’t recall what song came on next or how the road looked after those hedges vanished. Preoccupied with wearing a faux-charisma on my sleeve, I kept the grief to myself. There was an odd, gruelling conflict that sat inside these moments – I still struggle to pin-point the parts that constitute it. Part I think is due to, whilst still learning how to be with someone, wanting desperately to fully and urgently live into an unfamiliar togetherness, but only feeling capable of sharing with them only fragments of a moment – likely due to either fear, insecurity, many things. Another part, feels due to the surreal experience of being able to so vividly foresee a pain in someone, and knowing that this hypothesis of pain, even though imagined, is undeniably accurate and real, and happening elsewhere in real time.
Months later, I think of this drive still. I remember how it hurt, much differently to anything else. Different to any other ache that had been catalysed by loss, or pain, or grief. When I think about this drive, I think about time, and timing. How it gives things life, but kills them too.
My relationship with the person in the passenger seat ended the day my grandmother had a heart-attack.