Exactly what you think.
Until I was 18, the bush fringed every home I lived in, working its way into so much of my life. When I lived in the Blue Mountains it meant gullies of opportunity for me. It also meant failure, a reminder that I squandered what at the time I believed was my life’s enterprise: to build a gum tree cubby.
When I was a little older and living in Canberra, the bush became my hideaway, my imperfect paradise, my gym, my pal. Home life wasn’t great, but I liked that within a few seconds I could be out the gate and into the bush without anyone behind me.
Most of the time I begrudged having a family that didn’t share my outdoor interests, but in these moments I felt tailor-made to this environment. In 2009 I wrote:
Crunching dry dirt
I’d sooner be barefoot
But I’ve seen a spider bite
Couldn’t tell the difference between red earth and the blood
Eucalyptus arms reach out and up
Mirrored in my mind
With aching branches my thoughts intertwine
Sent up to tangerine skies
Make for the blue hills
Iodine waves lapping
Towards a silver moon
Grazing ‘roos the only hurdles on my path
Ask me why I’m back so late
Just enjoying a red October
Headphones happily forgotten
Learned the cantata de cicada
Nowadays, I live half a kilometre from the bush. Tough life. It’s the furthest one of my houses has been from it, but this has created new opportunity, you see.
Some evenings after work, I loiter in the bush. I think I freak people out, but they’re just the night joggers and they only see me for a moment. Really they ought to focus on keeping pace and making their Fitbit orgasm. I think.
Long after the sun dips behind the Brindies, I loop through suburban streets, homebound. I watch everybody in their houses, they’re usually alone too. The way people’s routines intersect and diverge is oddly magnetic to me.
I see late dinners, backs to the window, TVs flickering on bodies shuddering over ironing boards. Makes it sound kinky, right? It rarely is. At times I wish I glimpsed somebody nude in their house. Not nude as in sexy nude, just in a lazy vanilla way.
Figures ghost past me, across the road and beneath the trees. The few others who, like me, have more business out here than in there, feeding and de-wrinkling. When they pass I don’t see their faces. Sometimes it gives me goosebumps. It’s the invisibility right in front of me that gets me.
My arms continue to prickle at every passing car. (Might I like to get that checked out by a professional of the medica persuasion?) Their headlights meaning they see me, I can’t see them. The notion that it could be just about anybody fills me with life. Do kids still log onto Chatroulette? Hope not. Nightwalks are where it’s at.
As I walk it’s almost silent. Canberra is a small place! When I do hear something it’s a cheeky kangaroo steaming it from dry bush towards curated ‘burb turf. Please don’t get hit by a car again. I’m serious.
Where I live there are no streetlights. It’s a pretty rash oversight of the council if you ask me. Or an oversight by the game designer, if I’m right – and I am – about living in a simulated reality. This dimness has meant I’ve tripped over two dogs in the past year. If you’ve ever wronged a dog before, you’d know it is considered the highest sin.
When I’m done perving on the living, swanning about in cicada-soaked air, I take inventory of the shit strewn out front the houses. Council clean-up offerings. In my town you get two a year. I don’t use up my two because I don’t buy shit. Simple!
I listen to Big Mama Thornton songs… I go a little mad. I imagine cavorting about my house, fussing over six defunct washing machines, a basketball arcade set-up and just the ass part of a swivel chair. Street-strewn items I’ve treated myself to. “You won’t tell me where you been / Whiskey running all down your chin.”
I arrive at my doorstep sans the trinkets, thank Zorp. My house is dark, empty and cozy. I’m grateful for no flickering screens.