9.15am Valentine’s Day Eve. Jetstar.
“Lovely flowers,” she says.
Yes, it’s my husband’s and my wedding anniversary, I lie. She doesn’t need to know it was only our first date. An anniversary is an anniversary.
“How long have you been married?” She’s almost interested.
Twenty three years.
The plane takes off urgently.
I think I can, I think I can. I must! I must! I must!
The engines whine until suddenly we are up, over the industrial sheds, over the yellow trucks, over the emergency fire station, looking very ‘Tonka-ed’ and neat. In an emergency, neatness counts.
Over the bay, the salty land reclamation, the muddied Moreton Bay waters.
It stops raining.
“Have a good weekend with your mum,” she smiles.
Our hands reach out, but don’t touch.
It’s the thought that binds.
Thanks darl, it’ll be great, I chat back, grinning.
From nowhere, tears.
Shocked, thinking, trying to justify.
I am better loved, in Rockhampton.
It’s silly being with my 89yo mother instead of hubby for our anniversary and Valentine’s Day. But I am better loved.
I check the pockets in front of me as we taxi to the stop. I know there’s nothing to find, but I check it anyway – it’s what you do at my age. I pat them down.
The plane stops at the runway’s end. Takes a deep breath.
Jiggling, we run and run until our skirts are lifted, the wheels kookaburra, laughing their way to safety, retreated. Within.
This morning at home, a crow laughed the sun up.
Ha. Haa. HA. HAR. HARR.
I can see the Fitzroy River, running to the sea, to the ocean and clean waves, to wash the silt and very brown ordinariness of itself. To refresh.
It winds its way, this way and that, undecided, loose and free. Where it flows past the city of Rockhampton, it is a straight-up, well behaved river…by the time it gets to Lakes Creek, past the meatworks and fatalistic cows, it’s gone mad.
Like a cut snake.
Like a river gone mad.
Affected by the town. The town’s people. Tired of behaving, the river kicks and bucks giddingly to the sea. A wild child.
It almost sings in its freedom. Free at last!
Free at last!
It regurgitates it’s contents to the ocean. The waves roll it back, unwanted. The river flows on.
There is no sound.
Puffing fat-bellied across the sky. Chuff! Chuff! Chuff! They gather in groups to gossip on what they have seen from their viewpoint. Gently they bump, and part, old friends and newly acquainted.
Longer clouds wait like dropped stitches, ready to sew the sky together with weather.
Below, the paddocks and grass and land and solid earth preens itself in glorious colour.
Deep emeralds, brilliant greens and jewelled sapphire blue of mountains and shade. The clouds remain white. Silvered. Silenced.
We make a deliberate slow return to earth. A slow motion controlled nose dive. A rehearsed and much practised crash. It’s a beautiful day in Brisbane. I can see the bay below, way below, with its whales and sand dunes and dugongs feeding on grass under the water. The houses are arranged in demographics. The fighters. The single mothers. The dead. The married. With kids.
In between, lumps of green gasp, choked among the housing.
Magician’s clouds roll past - “and now ladeez and gentlemens!” - and are gone in a puff of smoke. Or cloud.
If I stare long enough I can recognise suburbs and districts. Below me my husband answers his telephone with a crisp and workman-like “Chris”.
Plump mangroves sit idly in the river, waiting for a tide.
There are six ships offshore. I count them twice, in case one moved. I would hate to miscount.
It is what it is.
The flat greenness of the airport yawns towards me; soon we will land, but not before we tickle the city with our fitted wings and annoy the neighbours. Letters to politicians might be written.
Then we will land, engines screaming, passengers silent. The odd white knuckle like a honeymooned bride; a quivering virgin tourist/traveller.
The wind makes skid marks on Moreton Bay seas. It won’t last. The wind will swing to the west bringing heat and mosquitos tonight.
The plane thunders across the tarmac. We roar! ROAR! I am mankind; see me defy the gods, the angels.
I too, can fly.
Chick Chick Clunk. We unbuckle our belts.
I can see the Qantas plane land in a puff of self-importance. This area is a masterpiece of science and technology. The engines whine shut like a dying animal – a low growl and the whiff of kero greets us.
I am home.