Not wanting to break the silence I asked a question.

‘What team do you go for?’

‘Collingwood.’ Marlee answers back quickly.

‘Collingwood!? I live in Collingwood!’

She doesn’t acknowledge it. I quiz myself, maybe she doesn’t know that Collingwood is an actual place? Why would she? It’s a team she goes for. This place is probably all she knows. She’s 2,296km away from Collingwood according to Google Maps.

‘I live right next to their original home ground.’ I pitch as a test to see.

No response.

Marlee waved us down standing next to her white Commodore as we were leaving the National Park. It was pitch black out and I pulled over after watching the Pajero and Lancer ahead of us whiz past them.

I wind down the window ‘Need a hand?’

‘Outta fuel.’

‘Need a lift back?’

‘Got no fuel?’

‘Nah… sorry.’

Marlee looks back at her car and 3 colleagues. ‘Can ya take us back to town?’

‘Yeh easy. Get in.’

I could tell Jay was a little pensive about the whole situation I just created for us.

‘Text me.’ Jay says as I walk back to the car.

‘It’ll be fine. Relax, I’m just taking them back.’

‘You sure you don’t want me to come? You’re my brother I worry about you.’

‘It’s fine. I’ll be right back.’

Marlee jumps in the front and the two teenagers and older woman pile into the backseat. We jet off into the darkness back into the National Park. We talk a bit trying to find something to talk about. I don’t know. How can you find anything to talk about with someone who’s life you’ll never be able to relate too?

I embarrassingly pull up Frank Yamma on Spotify, the only aboriginal artist I know.

‘Yamma! Turn it up!’ Marlee shouts.


Marlee starts singing along.

‘Frank played here last month.’ Marlee says.

‘What’s he singing about?’ I ask.

‘Family. Being with family ya know?’

‘You got a hose?’ Marlee asks as she jumps out.

‘Shit! I don’t.’

Marlee walks back and the teenagers find a 1L Coke bottle in the back of their car to fashion into a funnel. I text Jay to tell him I’ve dropped them off and they’re just filling up the car. I see a fierce lightning storm on the horizon.  It flashes brilliantly and even though it was probably hundreds of kilometers away, its violent beauty was easy to make out.

Marlee starts up the car, waves and drives off. I set off behind.

My eyes remain transfixed on the storm. 

The phone dings with a new message.

Marlee is out of sight and I pull over.

Shutting off the engine and turning off the lights I pull myself up to sit on the window sill looking at the storm in the horizon.

It is so quiet. A quiet unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I can’t hear the thunder from this persistent violence I’m staring at. It’s hypnotic.

As I approach the exit, I see the White Commodore up ahead. I slow down and Marlee’s voice ‘What happened?’

‘I just stopped for a second.’

‘Ah, we were worried you broke down.’ She laughs as I pull away further after assuring her.

She follows back to town, and flashes and honks as I pull back into the hotel.

Walking back to the room I read Jay’s text. 

A thumbs up emoji.

Mooloolaba Surf Club

‘I am… I find thi… THIS IS WEIRD!’ He exerts slamming his palms on the table.

She laughs. The kind of muffled but loud enough laugh for people around to notice.

‘No, seriously. This is like an Australian culture that’s familiar but so unfamiliar to me.’ He looks around the restaurant and bar. This might be the first surf club he’s ever been too. From the Keno to the Surf memorabilia littered on the wall to the weird meat Auction that keeps being pitched over the loud speaker, he knew this place, but didn’t know it at the same time. ‘It’s like everything I knew in the 90’s kept going and made this.’

She laughs again. This one was less muffled.

As he approaches the bar he knew instantly that they’d be able to tell he’s not a local. ‘Can I get a pint of Fat Yak?’ He asks the bartender. She quickly glances him over, grabs a glass and levers the tap to start pouring. 

Wait a second, he thought. That’s the biggest fucking pint I’ve ever seen.

He brings it back to the table and stares at at.

‘What’s wrong?’ She asks.

‘Look… at the size of this pint. This isn’t a pint. It’s a fucking bucket!’

He wasn’t wrong. Pints in Melbourne were about half the size.

Mooloolaba Surf Club. What a weird place for a guy from the suburbs of Melbourne. Beach life hadn’t always been his interest. His grandparents had a beach house in Dromana but he hated going as a kid. He hated getting sand in his shoes, or the taste of salt water, or how your towel always gets blown by the wind and sand creeps onto it throughout the day. Only in the last 5 years had he begun thinking how life giving the ocean was and how appealing being close to it was.

The rain stopped them from sitting outside, but he could steal hear the waves crashing up against the beach. An endless cycle of sound, never to end.

‘Let’s go.’ She says. They walk outside, light a joint, talk some more shit and drive back to the apartment.

National Gallery of Victoria

‘Please do not touch the Art works.’ a small cardboard plaque reads. Placed next to masterpieces that wouldn’t be out of place at the Hermitage it’s a little cute, he thinks to himself. Here’s this little placard telling everyone that it’s not okay to touch something that’s over 300 years old and priceless. It just seems kind of pointless but he guesses people do need to be told what to do from time to time.

‘Do you think anyone ever touches the art?’ He says to her. A cheeky grin creeps across her face as she lifts her arm. ‘Don’t.’ he mouthes silently. She smiles properly now, turns her head and slinks off.

The two walk a few metres apart throughout the gallery, sometimes stopping, darting into different directions at others, never so far apart that they’d get lost from each other. He catches sights of her as she walks past a gap in the wall, he wonders if she does the same.

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