Written 29 May, 2020
It takes all day to leave. The tide’s low in the morning, so we can’t leave. It’s begun to go down again by the time we at last get in the boat, turning and waving to our neighbours on their deck and Dy standing at his brazier with clippers in his hand, all of us swooping our arms side to side like windscreen wipers trying to wipe away the rain.It’s hard to remember, later when someone in the city asks, why leaving took so long. We needed many cups of tea to leave. And K takes scores of supplements, few prescription ones, which all seem a bulwark for her health, everyone of them, and I’m afraid to take her off them, so that’s a lot of pill packing. GG helps me extend the possum and wallaby wire around my garden into Ad’s land (he’s given me permission) to accommodate the veggies moved from the pontoon, and I sadly redner into wisps the cursed veggie-garden gardenia once again so that water from the sprinkler can pass through it to the new plants. i clean the fridge of all our food stains, down to the withered leaves that lie on their backs like carefree sun bakers under the crisper, and I free the stove from all our struggles, and the pot belly stove of all our warmth. I check the compost bins that everything is turning into rich soil and the worms are doing their jobs, and the grey water tank that must keep feeding the sprinkler till our return.
Suddenly our new and famous neighbour T is loping up the steps, lean, tall and athletic, a beanie pulled over his ears, and behind him the water tank man, large, red-faced and laughing, and a glamorous blonde woman behind him, both from nearby bays. We’d forgotten that at the farewell party, I’d mentioned to T that we always worried about water. The water tank man (both i and GG afterwards can’t remember his name so that name will have to do) looks our system over and declares we’ve got enough tanks, they just have to communicate better.
They just need to talk.
My mind races- a communing of tanks, individualism in tanks versus the recognition of a social contract between tanks, the isolation of individualism, therapy for miscommunication water tanks…
He’ll design a way they can, and meanwhile he’ll sell us a new, quiet generator for only $1300. Portable too- 21 kg. I sigh. Heavier than the big gas bottle to lug up the stairs, but at least, only once. And only a water tank man would speak of a communing of water tanks.
They leave, the water tank man and the woman, taying they’re off to lunch-
Where? I ask, rudely, enviously, remembering long lunches back in the old days. I’m told the marina, once bustling with constant coach-loads of diners, is now deserted –
And T, off to canoe to a friend on Dangar.
I feel as if he and I are in a conspiracy together. At the farewell party, while the others, all men, were knowledgeably talking buffers for generators and wattage for solar panels, our eyes turned to each other’s, slightly rounded with horror, taking it all in with respect.
i’m only a tap dancer, he’d whispered.
i’m only a novelist.
People who come here to live should be given a license, proving they knew stuff. Anyone without a licence should be barred, I add.
He nodded with me, ruefully.
Now, watching him go, I’m already homesick.
We’ll be back from the city in nanoseconds, I tell his back.
I hope so, he says, not turning because he’s concentrating on our non-code steps. I’ve grown quite fond of you.
A slow trip on a heavily-laden boat, but DB, always kind and generous, helps us load down, load up, K fussing because he’s carried her heavy bags.
What if he has the virus?
But you can’t carry them!
I ask him if any local has the virus.
We’re free of it so far, touch wood.
He doesn’t touch anything, only our bags.
A two hour’s trip to the city. On the way, my phone dings. My chapter is not good enough, and needs re-writes by Monday. We stop for food supplies so we don’t arrive empty-handed, and in the city cafes are crowded, and few masks worn on the street.
It’s as if nothing’s happened, says K.
She reminds us that Norman Swan has warned of a second wave. We talk over what he says so much, we all call him “Norman”. Norman says the virus lasts 4 hours on plastic, five hours on cardboard. Norman says a 60 day incubation period is possible but unlikely. I’m worried that Marg might’ve forgotten we’re coming- but, when Sahsa gives his full-throated bark- he’s got a body larger than mine- she interrupts a phone call with a cranky son, one of 4 plus my friend R,, the only girl, welcomes us warmly and gives us tea and bread and butter- nothing like bread and butter with a cuppa when you’re hungry. My friend R, Marg’s. arrives with chicken breast to slice and cook quickly with rosemary, and gluten-free bread and pasta. The house is cold, and Marg and I kneel together on the lounge-room floor into front of the old gas heater for an hour or more and, giggling and cursing, but it won’t light. At last we all fall into bed, optimistic about this new life.