We leave this place soon. I’m ready to say goodbye but I still find it hard to acknowledge I’m leaving. It’s not the house, it’s the hopes and dreams that pull at me.
I remember the day we arrived and I lay in our new bedroom on a bare mattress, staring at the blank walls with a bursting heart. We were all exhausted and sick but this was it. All those months in Perth falling deeply in love and longing for this. A home to call ours. The furniture we curated so carefully, the smell of home, the baths we shared, the memories buried in the walls of every room, our forest.
We made so many plans in the beginning. Sitting around the bonfire talking about chickens and sprawling gardens and weekly games nights with our friends. What if I’d known that in one year the boy sitting beside me would be returning to Perth and I’d be staying back. I’d never have believed it. Things were too wonderful. Our beautiful house and our hopes, all our hopes.
But as I stare at the walls now, bare once more; it’s okay. I understand it. This insect I caught in my glass jar was never mine to keep. No one is really ours to keep. I listened to a podcast about the way we project things onto those we love to make them perfect for us. We paint people with our own desires and hopes. But the paint has been peeling off for a while now and although beneath Bee is just as wonderful as I ever knew he was, he isn’t perfect. Because the truth is there is no such thing.
Sometimes this house feels like a graveyard of dreams that I can’t wait to escape. At other times whatever comes next feels so frightening that I want to pause time and sink into safety.
Alba is my constant. She is so magnificently gorgeous to me that sometimes I ask her to stay still just so I can take in her face. Her little freckles, her almond shaped bright blue eyes, the crescent dimples when she smiles. She is so tiny and delicate, like a fairy. She knows every single button to push to drive me crazy but my god she is made of honey. “Did you know,” she’ll say often, “That you are the best mama in the whole world?”
She is my only little one and I feel so protective of her. So swayed by her emotions. But I know I can’t give her everything. She tells me I’m mean sometimes and I tell her I’m her mama. Growing up all of the boundaries were blurred so I stand by mine like an empathetic warrior.
I’m packing when I find an old suitcase filled with baby things. Teeny tiny booties and onesies and slings and wooden toys. Tucked away safe for my next child. Such a distant concept now. I donate most of them, more out of my desire to not own too many things. But I do wonder if I will ever have another.
I take Alba to the school disco. The music is so loud, I feel old. Kids are walking around drinking cans of soft drink and when Alba notices she pulls me down and whispers to me in horror, “Why are those kids drinking that?” I explain that all parents have different rules for their children. Later she tells me she thought it was beer and I burst out laughing.
I feel pretty uncomfortable here. I don’t have many friends at school yet and with Bee leaving soon I feel like I’ve failed somehow. I’m already one of the youngest parents at school and now the boy who was always with me will be gone and I will be fulfilling some terrible stereotype. Maybe no one cares but I don’t know. I walk around a bit aimlessly then I think, fuck it.
I take Alba’s hand and ask her to dance. We hit the dance floor and dance like we’re at home. I’m in my orange velvet flares and she’s in a white lace dress and we’re both grinning. More parents come dancing too and I feel like maybe everything is okay. I just need to get out of my head more.
A cyclone sweeps through and we lose power and reception for four days. After the first day of disconnection I feel the wind hit my skin as I stand outside. Like I’m feeling it for the first time in months. “I feel like I’m living in the world again,” I tell Bee. “This is why I hike,” He says.
Trees lay across the road like sleeping giants and the lake laps at our street. We bathe in the sea, light tea candles around the house, read books on the balcony and watch birds in our garden. The power comes back on and I find it hard to use social media again. My phone lays mostly untouched.
Alba falls sick and she’s a little baby again in my arms. It lasts one night but hits Bee much worse. For 4 days I take care of him in-between packing up our house. His skin burns and I hold cold cloths to his forehead. I run him baths and make him icy lemonade and keep him distracted. “What are you going to do when I’m not around?”
Under the teasing I kind of mean it. I know he doesn’t need me, but I wonder how it’s going to be for him to leave. To go from our loving little family to being alone.
We leave the house for the last time and road trip to Byron Bay, the three of us sleeping in one bed at my friend’s beach house. We watch Twin Peaks obsessively, venturing out in search of treats and swinging Alba between us as we walk. Everything is almost cruelly normal. Like we’re living in some happy family montage right before it all breaks apart.
On our last full night together every ounce of love comes to the surface. We talk through our relationship from the very first moments to the last. Speaking in between kisses that feel like beginning kisses, where every nerve is awake and my body is a live wire. All our wild adventures from beginning to end.
When it’s all laid out like a story before us we don’t feel sad or nostalgic, we feel immense gratitude. Gratitude so big it’s everything. We thank each other for all of it. For changing each others lives forever.
We love and love until 4am and then we’re tangled up in bed. Bee is already asleep when I feel the anxiety come on, hard and fast and ugly. When the fears show up I imagine I am throwing a blanket over them, putting them out like fires. But they come back bigger and scarier until I’m powerless against them. My body is tense and my mind is a war zone. I feel Bee’s chest rise and fall against my chest and I desperately want to wake him but I know I have to fight these battles by myself now. The sun is shining by the time my mind finally lets me sleep.
The next night we fall asleep beside each other for the last time. At 3am Bee nudges me awake to say goodbye. I don’t want to cry. I want it to be like nothing. But it isn’t, it is a storm of “I love you’s” and tight hugs and heart-wrenching tears. I don’t go back to sleep. I cry for hours and even though Alba is fast asleep beside me I feel so alone in the world.
I fall asleep in the middle of the next day. I dream I am in a garden, our garden. Before me is a tall tree heavy with orange leaves and flowers. The world is bathed in a soft warm haze, like a dream sequence in an old film. It’s so beautiful I have to show Bee. But Bee is nowhere and suddenly I’m not in a garden, I’m in a bed. I can’t open my eyes and I can’t speak. I call for Bee frantically in my mind, urging my mouth to open and finally I whisper his name.
“It’s okay,” he soothes, sliding beside me so I can feel his warm body against mine. “I’m here.” For a moment I am safe and everything is okay. Then something is taking him away and I still can’t see or speak. I feel it happening beside me, the struggle and my rising fear as I fail to move. I know somehow that he is gone and he isn’t coming back. It wakes me and I’m crying.
But he isn’t gone forever. I call him and he is right there on the other side. He can’t hold me but he tells me loves me and he misses me and he’s still here.
I’ve wished sometimes for a normal break up, for the anger and the arguments and our ties cut clean. But I’d lose all of this love. I’d lose a friend who knows what I mean by the tone of my voice, who knows the right things to say when I’m overcome with parent guilt. I’d lose one of my best friends.