He sits in the front seat of the car the engine silent a hoodie pulled to his eyebrows, his breath leaving fog on the window. I glance back at him from the riverbed, grass tickling my shins, my arms around my knees, my toes in the mud, the sky lilacs and lavenders and pinks. A cow bellows in the distance, a water bird perches on a nearby rock, mullet dance in the air.
I had walked barefoot along the bitumen, little black stones stabbing my feet, the bust bitumen road with potholes and cow grids. It was more sneaking out than storming off, I never stormed out as much as I snuck off, I often dreamed about it too, leaving in the middle of the night with a suitcase full like a black and bruised woman.
The terracotta lay scattered in a thousand tiny pieces on the driveway. The basil lay on its side stunned, its roots clinging to the soil. I had snuck out the back door when I’d heard the smash, climbed a barbwire fence and gone through a paddock before I got to the road. He always had a scowl on his face, always tired, always mad about something.
He finds me like he usually did. I’d forgotten about our argument by this point, forgiven him for the basil. There is something about watching the sky changing colour, about experiencing that last hour as the day winds down and I mean really experiencing it, not with a cocktail in hand, not from a fancy bar with a view but being completely immersed in it, in nature, in the natural way of things. Not a sound other than the animals, the trees whispering, your feet dirty from the soil, the change in temperature corrugating your skin.
“Come home Chloe.”
“Not yet,” I say. “Sit with me.”
“It’s too cold,” he says, not moving from inside the car.
I liked his reliability; that was his charm. I knew I could count on him, I knew he would always be there when he said he would. It was a good quality, a marriable quality; it was a quality of a marriable man. I am a sucker for a good quality.
The fog on the window distorts his face; he looks like an old man through it. I turn back to the riverbed, mud oozing between my toes. I watch yabbies salsa in the murky shallows. I can feel his school teacher- eyes supervise me; the heat of them on the back of my neck, they are waiting for me to be done with my hippie shit, be a good wife who doesn’t dye her hair weird and cooks and cleans and never runs away.
It was then if I had to pick a time. I couldn’t have stayed with him if I had known it right then, if my head could acknowledge what my heart knew, I couldn’t have diligently played the part; I couldn’t have lay beside him each night. I couldn’t have smelled his smell without being revolted by it. But maybe you don’t get revolted by those you have truly gotten to know and love. Perhaps your love just seeps away through the cracks that have formed. It’s a slow process and maybe what is left is just not love. Not revolt, not disgust just not love.
The breeding stars and Southern Cross could’ve been shaped like a cock over us and that riverbed that day and I don’t think he would have noticed.