Thursday, August 11, 2005

Adventures in Moving On


Step #5: Chuck some stuff in your car. Get in. Drive. Drive through the night. Wake up in a new town. Start again.


If you've heard anything about kangaroos on the roads of outback Australia, I'm here to tell you that it's true. All, all horribly true ... thousands of them ... hopping across the road ... flying over the windscreen ...

So I'm driving at 80km/hr in the dark ... it's getting later and later and those damn green signs are taunting me, sliding past and letting me know that I still have hundreds of kilometres left to drive ... at the speeds I'm managing, my ETA (the frequent recalculation of which is a source of mental stimulation for me) gets later and later and later. Huge trucks come at me. They all seem decide to drive at night. Maybe they're all the Undead. I dip my lights for them and suddenly find myself driving even more slowly, because my radius of kangroo-detection is suddenly and significantly decreased. When I see dead kangaroos littering the road, I figure it's the massive trucks that killed them. I wouldn't be scared of kangaroos, either, if I was that size. I keep thinking they trucks will hit the kangaroos and send them hurtling into my windshield, and I'll be covered in shattered kangaroo and glass, and the wind will be rushing into the car and smothering my screaming.

My heart beats faster when the trucks pass, and I try to ignore my imagination.

I look at my phone: still no reception. No way to let anyone know that I'm okay, even though it's several hours past the time I'd said I'd be safely in bed. I pull over into a rest stop and curl up in the backseat.

The stars are brilliant.

I'd usually make some vain attempt to match the poetry of the universe with some kind of linguistic equivalent (an impossibility!), but I'm mentally strained enough, so I lie down and rest. Would sleep there all night, but I know my family will be stressing, and I can't call them from here, so I set a target of time and, when it hits, I'm on the road again.

Every time I think it's safe to speed up, another kangaroo decides the grass is greener on the other side. I start to wonder why all those jokes are about chickens.

The green signs finally show double instead of triple figures. I push up to 100km/hr. Current time, 10:12. Current speed, 100km/hr. Distance remaining, 80km. Eighty is 4/5 of a hundred. ETA, 11pm.

Sleep vaguely approached my eyelids, hoping to settle in for the night, but then took one look around, shrugged, sighed, and slouched off to wait in the the part of my brain where all the deeply suppressed things go.

I was getting a cramp in my hands from gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

I had enough adrenalin coursing through me to power the vehicle.

But I did arrive in Coober Peedy, and I slept on a metal bed in an otherwise-empty backpackers. I would've slept on anything, at that stage.

At the end of the night, I found myself thinking of that one, poor kangaroo who was reeling and stunned by the collision with my car. I hoped nothing was broken. I hoped it wasn't bleeding internally. I hoped it would heal quickly or pass away peacefully in the night.

But, as badly as I felt about that kangaroo, I was still glad it wasn't me ...

It's a long, long way to Alice.

Get there before dusk.