Updated: May 21, 2020
The other day, I got ready to go out for my morning iso-walk, which doubles as my writing-thinking-time.
It was a pink-smeared morning full of birdsong. The coffee had been good, the kids had been sweetly excited about returning to ‘school’ and seeing friends on the screen, we’d discovered our first ever passionfruit flower on the vine (passionfruit vines are extraordinary, they seem to grow at least 5cm a day), and the cherry tomatoes were ripe. I resolutely notice all of these Small But Good Things, which normally would be enough to bounce me happily into the day.
The thing is, I'm not feeling it this morning. The day before had been an odd one. I’d gone for a nana nap at 3.30pm, which I somehow needed in spite of a 9.30pm bedtime the night before, and hadn’t got up again until dinner - after which I promptly returned to bed. Not sick, nothing physically wrong at all - it was just like my battery had gone flat.
So, yeah, one of THOSE days. I'm sure I'm not the only one having those days in these times, but they're a pain when they happen.
I tell myself, sternly, that today is going to be better. I even put on lipstick before heading out for my walk. This feels like a BIG step, having spent the day before in tracky bums and no bra. (Okay, who am I kidding - that’s every day at the moment).
So I shut the door behind me and trudge to the gate. With a faint jolt of surprise, I see Steve, standing on the pavement and staring anxiously at our grevillea busily flowering through the fence. Steve is a Brunswick local. He’s of indeterminate age, I’d guess anywhere between 45 and 65. He has white hair and a proudly jutting Buddha tummy, with one eye that refuses to look in the same direction as the other. Everyone seems to know Steve and to greet him by name.
I raise a hand. “Hey, Steve. We met before, at -"
“I remember you.” Steve’s voice reminds me those big soft bubbles you get in rising bread dough. He nods, gravely. “I know you.”
Steve spends a lot of time in the local library, when it’s open, and we once shared a desk there when I needed a change of scene to do some writing (back before my outside studio was finished). I'd done no writing at all, as Steve does like to chat, but I did go home with a painstakingly cut out picture of an old racing car. Steve had decided my son Gabriel should put this on a T-shirt as a transfer. He had a friend who did these things, and I was to call him. I was touched that he remembered, actually, as it had been ages before.
We start walking together, at a careful distance. I hope he doesn’t ask me about the T-shirt transfer, as Gabriel had shown zero interest in having such a thing. Steve is looking at me searchingly. “Yeah, I know you.”
Oh no. What am I going to say? I don’t want to hurt his feelings.
He goes on. “We made the, that cake. Yeah.”
Oh. Well, that’s a relief, though I’m not sure how to respond. It doesn’t matter, as Steve has placed me to his own satisfaction. He peers ahead. “Where you going now?’
“Just for a walk.” I gesture vaguely.
“Me too. We can walk there together.”
We amble down the street. “How’re you going at the moment, Steve?”
He looks at me accusingly. “Good. You know that. I met your brother.”
“Um - my brother-in-law?” I guess, which is unlikely, as he lives 3,500 km away, but at least more possible than a brother.
Steve stares pityinglyat me, as if I’d told him the sky was green. “Nah, your brother. I told ya! And you know what else?”
I shake my head. Steve clearly despairs at my lack of acuity, but I really don’t have a clue. He leans forward confidingly. “I’m yer brother, too.” He steps back and beams at this great reveal. “Like all of them!” He brandishes the plastic bag he’s carrying at the city around us. “We’re all yer brother.”
For some reason, this makes my eyes prick hot behind my sunglasses. I blink. “Um. Well, I -“
He cuts me off. “Gotta go and get a feed now. See ya round.” He nods gruffly and turns to stomp away. My time is up.
It was the briefest, smallest encounter and yet - the world tilted and I saw it anew. For just a moment, Steve had been an oracle and a throwaway riddle had hit home with all the weight of wisdom. They’re all my brother, and sister. Suddenly I was back, right in the middle of the day again. Just like that, a circuit had been rewired - connection restored.
And that, my friends, is Steve. He was where I needed him that day.
And I can’t wait until I figure it out about the cake.
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