I woke up on Sunday morning to the brush of the Possum's silky head against my cheek. The musty unwell smell of him as he curled in against the curve of my neck, his knees tucked up against my belly. I rubbed my cheek against his head involuntarily and listened to him mumble in his sleep while I cried. Silent sobs that matted his already damp hair.
I think I thought then, that I would not be able to forgive myself for later that day getting on a plane. And certainly, while I stood in line at the gate and the tears messily rolled off my chin and onto my new hand luggage I did not feel optimistic. All of my perspective and determination deserted me, left me desolate as I walked across the tarmac, wind whipping my hair into my eyes.
It was a short flight, bumpy, turbulent as my neighbour sculled Bundy and Coke while I stared out the window, watching the flat blue sea blend into the winter blue sky. The tears dried up somewhere near the Proserpine coast as my ears popped painfully for descent. I looked out at the water morosely, not wanting to find anything to appreciate. Enjoying my special brand of misery, branding myself with it to alleviate the guilt. The guilt of being a mother who abandons her children for 3 months. Even if she had no choice. Or no real choice at all, when the choice is unemployment and poverty and throwing away all the years of training.
My forehead rattled against the cold window as the mountains came into view. Beautiful mountains that reflected in the still water. In spite of myself, my tears dried as I watched the clouds graze across the fields, fluffy herds in the sky as we dove between them towards the tarmac. I felt the tiniest prickle along my spine as the possibility for adventure filled my mind for the first time. 3 months to head off to the beach after work to watch the last light on the water if that's what I wanted to do.
But as I walked off the plane, and into the cramped, tattooed and sunburned departure lounge I was grateful for familiar faces as we pulled my luggage off the carousel and headed to the hospital to pick up the keys to what was to be home for the next few months. The tears nearly started again when I saw the ugly apartment with the dirty floors and the stained carpet. The bed with the polyester blend green and yellow garish sheets and plastic pillows. The broken toilet and the dead phone line, and worst of all, no internet. If it had been just me I would have wallowed, then. Curled up in a ball on the thankfully clean couch and sobbed until it too was manky to match the rest of the house.
But my beautiful guardians took me to the shops where I bought new linen and groceries and a plant, so that I would have at least one living thing with me in my little house of mismatched ugly furniture and cheap fittings. And once they left, and the house echoed with all the sounds of silence, I didn't fall into a heap. Instead I moved the furniture around, trying not to notice the inch of dirt under each piece, as I made it less cramped, and more welcoming. Banishing the ugliest things to the room I don't need. Made my bed with the lovely light natural fibred linen and fluffed up the pillows. And I stocked my shelves with fresh food and fruits and curled up on the couch to watch some TV before crawling into bed and wondering at the vast emptiness, while I curled up on my side.
The next day was Monday, and my first day of work. I looked nice. I looked respectable and I was on my best behaviour. I smiled as I met new people, eager to make a good impression as a hard worker, a team player. And I smiled tightly every time someone reminded me I was staying for 6 months and tried hard to look enthusiastic at the thought. Knowing my eyes told the truth but not wanting to offend. Until someone asked me if I had any family, noticing my wedding rings and asking in that polite breezy way. Asking if I had children, and how many? And I thought of my sick little possum, who I had sung to sleep only 24 hours before as he rocked feverishly in my lap and I burst into inconsolable tears. Ruining my first day make up. And as much as I tried they would not stop. I did not care that my director was in front of me. Or some man that I do not know. Or that I never cry at work. Because I needed to cry and it's natural to cry and to be sad and to miss my babies. No matter how many people tell me that it will be fine.
But I got through the day somehow. Relieved when I could just work. Relieved that it was stuff that I knew how to do and that I could just get in and do it. Surprised when the end of the day came, and everything was ok and there was no fear in coming back. And I caught a taxi home in the afternoon light, put on my running clothes and went for a wander along the river. The beautiful river turning gold as the breeze teased ripples along the surface. The trees whispering quietly to me, to not be afraid while the birds chirped merrily. The heavy fog of murraya and honey blossom, warmed by the winter sun perfuming the air. And it finally felt ok. Felt worthwhile me being here. And I knew it would be ok.