On the road, re-routed

We walk out of the publishers’ office to the carpark.

“I had a plan. I knew where we were going. I don’t know how I swung off course.”

“Will, you had no control over that. You know that.”

“I know, but it’s so bloody frustrating. I feel like I’m on this relentless, winding garden path again, and the walls keep turning and turning. I have been working on this for so long-”

He jumps up into the beaten up Jeep, I don’t know why he still holds onto it. He is dishevelled, aggravated and- tired. I buckle the old belt, reminded of how I always thought that this open roofed, box of a car was symbolic of some sort of hold he tried to keep on his teen grunge image. Driving out his frustration with his right foot on and off the accelerator, I feel him trying to take control of the road. This was not a new move.

“Did you hear what she said? The book’s going to be on hold for another year. Maybe even pulled off the list entirely.”

“I heard every word.”

“Every bloody word on that page, on hold…”

He speeds, winding around another corner.

“Babe slow down!”

“And again, my plans get delayed.”

I grip onto the handrail with my left hand, hold the edge of my seat with my right. “We’ll work it out. We’ll be okay. We’ve coped with change so many times. And I’d really like you to slow down.”

We pull up at lights.

“But come on.” He says, “We need the money. It’s terribly emasculating for me, don’t you know- riding off your lecturing pay.”

“And I really don’t care. It’s our money.”

“Yes, but it’s emblematic of what a terrible job I seem to be having of achieving any sort of success for us. I mean. I work freakin’ hard over what I do.”

“I know,” I sigh. It didn’t care so much about the pay, but I got it. I understood the frustration.

“And with the book off the table, everything is black, blank. A bloody blank page. I really should have stuck with that engineering degree. Else, become a banker. I thought I was smart. I was smart. But I wasn’t smart. I didn’t do the whole make-money-young-thing. I thought I could speak some truth into the world. I don’t know why I always held this prideful notion of holding the truth. I’m so arrogant for believing it.”

I breathe out. I know we’re moving into those dialogues again. Those pseudo-monologue dialogues. He holds the wheel and usually the bullhorn at the same time. And I’ve never quite been able to take either off him consecutively. Driving out of the city roads, he flies higher into the suburbs. The speed, consistent, but the corners are fewer. I begin to ease into the pace.

“Look babe, it’s just I’ve had these plans. One thing after the next to fall into place. And you know how awesome it seemed with the book deal.”

It was true. Only weeks into moving into the new city, where we’d originally moved for my work, he was getting interest from publishers everywhere. We thought maybe this was the reason for us moving to the city. Back home, we thought maybe the Canadian publishers just didn’t like Wil’s style. Lucky for me, teaching and lecturing is easier. And having finished my research, I could slow down for a time.

He had gotten into a routine in the new place. Waking up early at 5.30, going to the beach to watch the sunrise, then writing til eleven to finish with a swim. He was gorgeous, and growing more rugged and ruddy and his sea-swept skin and swimming arms. It had all really become quite ideal. I didn’t mind the long drive into the city. It gave me time to collect my thoughts as I passed the coastlines, listening the the national broadcaster.

He’d become this home man. Half writer, half wanderer and adventurer in the natural, savage land by our house. It was nice to see him enjoying this rugged part of himself, even getting a tan in the sun. The landscape was changing his work too, I could see it colouring in his ideas.

The plan was that this book would help pay off a mortgage. Maybe we could even start thinking about kids.

He continues along the suburban roads, and we emerge by the coastline for the final drive home. He switched the gear stick around with vigour, enjoying the difference of these roads. He had come to know this route very well.

“Babe it’s just that it’s all fog now”, he continues. “You know, I just have no idea where I’m going. My plans just keep getting re-routed. It was like what you said, remember when you were at the university. Before you left for your research remember?”

“What are you referring to?”

“I’m referring to those hallways, remember. You felt like you were always travelling them, winding up and down. And you were on this trajectory, remember? I remember you telling me. I remember you telling me how you were so confused because you felt like you walking down this hallway that was leading to a door, and the doors to get through to that door were opening.

Doors after doors after doors, were opening. And then, you reached the stairs, going straight, but you reached the stairs. And the stairs began to move! Like on Harry Potter! Ha! Remember? You said you were being taken to another place, another building, on another pathway on these Harry Potter stairs.”

“My path was re-routed. I went through different doors. It wasn’t my plan, but it worked out.”

I remember the time. The destination for my research had to be changed. The university in France had stopped including exchange students. That’s why we went to Sweden for the studies, it did work out in the end.

“Yes, and remember how you were so confused, because everything else for that trip had lined up. Every little thing. The insurance. You knew people who were going. You knew the city. You had planned your case study.”

“And then Sweden was great because it was a new city, and we didn’t know anyone and we had each other.”

“But still I’m frustrated because that was you taking those steps, and I love you, and I do support you, I do. But I just want the chance to take the lead for once. I want to get the mortgage, the bills, and the place. I want my efforts to pay off.”

The truth with Will was that he worked very hard. He was the most thoughtful and creative person I knew. His emotional sensitivity was remarkable. He worked incredibly hard, his mind, overtime. Still, the truth was that my work paid the bills. I watched him over time become increasingly frustrated by this. I would pay the bills online as they came in so that he wouldn’t see them, and feel the need to apologize for not being able to pay. And he was more than enough a man for me, I never considered it an issue.

I guess I could understand him thought.

“I am absolutely walking in darkness. I have no idea what is ahead of me and have no idea what I am doing.”

Wil liked speaking in superlatives.

The road grew narrower, and the asphalt became rock. We’d wound over coastlines, as the sun set over the mountains in the west. It grew darker.

“I just wish I knew in advanced. I don’t think I’d have been so disappointed if I could have had an inkling to prepare me.”

We moved slower over the rubble. I always felt the bumps more acutely in this case.

“It’s like every single door opened to lead to that book being published. And I could how the book itself could open all these other doors after that. So I’m halfway through these doors in the hallway, the magic staircase comes and puts me on another track and I have no idea what to do.”

“Except take a step?” I offer, always finding it difficult to be empathetic, but not patronising and at the same time not indulging him. I do love hearing his tangents,

“Except take a step in complete darkness. The blind leading the- I don’t know, you some to have some more gravity on this one Azelea…”

We pull turn into our driveway, heave over the rocky path, and pull up to the, sigh, beautiful garden.

“Babe, let’s just put the kettle on, and let it cool over.”

We walk into the house, Will stomps heavily onto the floorboards, the echo of his boots resounds in the house. I wander to the kitchen and put on the kettle. I stand in the sunlight as I wait for it to whistle. At this time of the afternoon, this corner of the kitchen is the warmest room in the house. He’ll come over to finish the conversation in a minute. I pull my lips together and breathe air over my black tea to try and cool it in the meantime.


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