Coming Home Late

It’s late-ish. A candle burns and I’m flaked on the lounge. Simon and Garfunkel sing, ‘wishing to be homeward bound’. Fortunately, I am at home and my love isn’t waiting silently, she’s singing along. I wonder what it would be like to be at home but not really: like an intruder? I know that one; been caught out there. Like that time when I visited my old boyhood home, but it visited back at me. The place had been sold years before.

It’s a hot day. Driving along hard red gravel, through dense scrub, I come to the big purple ridge. Going straight past the house, I camp around the back of the dam: something I’ve never done in my life. It feels wrong.

Lost in thought, I walk along the shore and then head towards the dam wall—a long hill of white crushed rock—in the direction of the old homestead. On the way up, my legs are heavy and that wall of white seems like plasticine or quicksand or something. A wave actually, a big slow wave coming for me. Menacing. Like I’m not supposed to be here; stumbling in where I don’t belong—a poacher—coming in through the back door when I ought to have at least had the courtesy to knock on the front door.

Yes, I’ve transgressed, but it’s too late now. The hill of white keeps rolling: liquid memories engulfing me. I’m stabbed with longing, with happiness—and a deep sobbing: trespassing on the sacred ground of a boy who’s just been for a swim, caught some yabbies and is about to go up to the house. But the boy doesn’t want to go over that hill of white to the house. That’s not his home, this is his home—here at the dam with the water, the birds, the blue sky and the yabbies: forever and ever.

It’s coming clearer. There is no homestead any more. I know that! It was burnt to the ground years ago, man. Yes, but there’s still a home here: a home that’s just slapped me and wanted to know where I’ve been all this time!