Part II of Price Check, two more instalments to go. The radiant heat from the traffic and the concrete throbs with intensity. It’s 10am and already 30 degrees +. If she closes her eyes slightly, she pretends that the roaring noise is the ocean, not the traffic. The Northern suburbs of Melbourne are heavy and tired from the incessant heat.
It took her till now, till she had the baby, to understand the seasons and to understand how the sun travelled across the sky in Australia.
Arriving from the UK 10 years before, understanding those things hadn’t mattered, that was a time in her life when she hardly understood herself, never mind her surroundings.
When she was pregnant though, someone had said Oh how lovely you are having a spring baby. It clicked then that spring was late in the year, that the heat came at Christmas time, that an English summer was an Australian winter. She had not understood it till she had birthed, nor had she ever looked or cared about the direction the sun travelled during the day.
The position of the pram could be changed to suit the direction of the sun. The sun rose in the east, traveled over the North and set in the West. The pram faced west as she walked down to the supermarket, the hot sun was behind her. It mattered somehow that she knew this, that she knew where the sun would be, so that she could change the direction that the pram was facing, as she walked around the streets.
Milk, nappies, coffee, something for dinner, the list was created to put purpose into her day. A trip to the supermarket felt like an achievement, it was something started and completed in one day. Unlike the rest of it: the blur of feeding, the saté poohy nappies, the thin streams of vomit always across her back, the all pervading smell of wipes and milk and the long, slow stretch of the days.
She knew no one in the suburb where she lived. Most days she spoke only to the check out chicks at the supermarket. Often she would stare at passers by, wishing that they would be her friends.
She passes the post boxes, walks the long road to the supermarket, trying to find beauty as she goes: a flower, a tree in bloom, a cat sitting in a window, a gum tree. Nothing assailed her quite like the silvery green of a gum tree, the endless varieties, the red explosion of colour on some of them, their gracefulness, their starkness, it always makes her stop and reminds her, I am here now, I am in Australia and I am completely alone.
Excuse me there are gums in my comedy.
The baby slept through the walk down to the supermarket. She usually had an hour or so before her breasts sprung a leak, before she had to un harness her self, find somewhere to sit and feed the infant. Releasing the engorged heaviness into the infants wide hungry mouth.
There was always the large black and brown Alsatian dog, barking at number 365, a renovation that seemed to be taking for ever at 451, a strange garden made up of a manicured lawn and topiaried bushes clipped into the shape of strange animals. The tree animals had plastic black and white stuck on eyes, the kind you would usually find on a hand made teddy bear. It would have taken hours to keep the strange beasts in shape, but she had never seen anyone tend the garden, she imagined that they did the topiary work under the cover of darkness, a torch guiding the hedge trimmer, the light strange and the shadows short and thew teddy bear stuck on eyes never moving staring blankly out to passer byes. Number 598 was a dilapidated run down house, with a letter box stuffed with unopened mail and yellowing newspapers.
She crosses the road to the supermarket at 624, a smart brick house with white blinds and a concrete driveway.As she reaches the supermarket carpark, the heat seems to intensify around all of the parked cars. The cool air is a blast across her face and body as she enters the supermarket.