I lead two lives. Some days I am Nirrimi and some days I am mama. It is the beginning of February and I am mama now.
I let life stand still when I am with Alba. I float through the days with her little hand in mine. Mostly the floating is nice, sometimes I want to fall to the earth and run and run and run as fast as I can towards all there is out there.
We stay near the sea at my friend Faith’s house, another single creative mama. We feel safe here. We walk to the beach every day. The sun shines on my skin and I feel Alba’s little face nestled between my wingbones as she rides in the carrier. We eat so well. Everything feels good. In a life of constant change, our little routines ground us. I get lost in the rhythm and it keeps life from getting dark.
Late nights find me cosy in bed, my soft-skinned daughter dreaming with her head against my breast, sleep pulling at me, so warm and delicious. And I sigh because I know to work on my dreams means to claim this rare quiet time when the whole world is still. It means kissing my daughter’s head and getting up into the cold dark to sit before a bright screen and write, work, edit until the sky begins to lighten and my heart begins to sink because very soon a little face will be saying “it’s time to wake up mama!”
In the middle of each day we nap. Sometimes our faces are pressed together as we sleep. I feel her tiny breath against my cheek and it is the most gentle feeling there is. I wake up before her and I study her face and my heart breaks because I love her so fucking much. I love her in ways words fail to encompass. It’s not a dreamy, fairytale kind of love; it’s so raw and undiluted it’s painful. It’s a love that has me crying as I write this.
Laura has put me on a boy ban this month because she says romance consumes me and I need a break. I laugh about it but it’s true that I’m a hopeless romantic. I try not to think about him but then I pick up my guitar and begin to sing and it’s all him. When everything is quiet I wonder where in the world he is. I wonder if he thinks about me too.
I keep craving a story, something more than this everyday rhythm. This is what being a storyteller does to me. This is what films, books and songs do to many of us. But what I forget to remember is that I am already in the middle of a story. One day when my hair is grey and my skin is worn I will think back to these everyday moments. Walking the streets of Sydney with Alba on my back, singing out loud with arms full of groceries. Watching Alba draw on napkins at cafes with my friends. Eating oats together under the sun. Getting caught in the rain at the beach. They will all feel like scenes from my favourite film.
My best friend in the world comes to stay. The three of us share a bed and late at night when Kelsey & I are still up whispering Alba tells us, “shhh, it’s time to sleep,” and we cover our mouths so we don’t giggle. With Kelsey around I’m always smiling. She stops me in the middle of sentences just to give me compliments I’ve never heard before. Deep down she’s a genius but you’d never know. She started a fashion label from her own earnings at thirteen and left school to go to university and study fashion design at sixteen. She has a studio in New Zealand where she spends a little time every year designing her next collection and the rest of the time she travels.
I never really know when or where our paths will next cross and so I cherish every day with her. One day we walk for over an hour to one of my favourite beaches. A big surf competition is on across the shore and we take turns carrying Alba. We stop at a cafe overlooking the sea, drink coconuts and life feels perfect (but if I’m truly honest, not quite because I think of him and how I’d love him here and oh, I wish I didn’t still think of him every day, I wish I could just forget him).
I am going on another photography tour next month and it is overwhelming to organise. While Alba is sleeping or playing imaginary with Kelsey I am organising like mad and it takes up all of my free time. I can already feel next month’s stories, like they’re waiting impatiently to unfold.
Alba spends time with her papa. I take a day trip to the mountains with friends. We strip off to our underwear and stand beneath a waterfall at the edge of the world. Kelsey & I dance barefoot in the tide while Vance Joy sings ‘Riptide’ on the beach. The air is warm and salty and full of sound. We drink red wine at a bar across the street.
As midnight arrives I realise it’s Valentine’s Day. My phone lights up with a text, a photo of a hand holding a flower. It’s been weeks since I’ve heard from him. It’s nothing but it feels like everything. All the sanity I’ve regained these past weeks is gone. Love is madness. I spend Valentine’s with Kelsey & Alba and tell them they are my soul mates. I know they are good for me. Him, I’m not so sure.
We take the train to the Blue Mountains to housesit. I ask Ella (Lorde) if I can make a little video with one of her songs and she says she would love that and so I decide I’ll make one here. I make no plans, I just run around by our house with Nicole from the early morning fog until the streets are lit by streetlamps. We’re both buzzing off the feeling of creating. Even after I’m finished filming I am still [shooting]. I can hear Alba, Claire and Kelsey inside the house playing. I’m grinning.
We cook dinner together and dance while we do. I love being surrounded by my friends. I’m growing fond of being single. I like doing everything I want to, I like not relying on anyone else and I like realising how capable I am. Being a single parent brings many challenges and I conquer them all alone. I feel like a force to be reckoned with.
Alba’s papa joins us. It is strange to walk through the foggy town with him again, I think of all the times we walked these same paths while I was pregnant. I wonder if life will ever be that simple and pure again, then I wonder if they truly were that pure. Perhaps time has smoothed over all the cracks. As we reminiensce Alba holds both of our hands. I want things to always be as good between us as they are now. For our love for Alba to always be bigger and greater than us.
It’s time to leave for my tour and I refuse to think about it. I kiss Alba goodbye and as always she is smiling big, telling me she loves me and to have fun while I’m away working. I’m not thinking about it. Not thinking about how whole I feel when I am with her or the way she sleeps against me or the sound of her laugh filling my days. Then I am. I wait until I’m out of sight before I cry.
I’m on the deck of the ferry and the sky is as black as ink. Countless seagulls fly beside the boat, dipping into the water to return with silver fish thrashing in their beaks. We pass the Opera House like some giant shell, we pass a small island burning with lights. I am full of emotions, good and bad. It’s just me now. Tomorrow the chaos begins.