Fiction by Holly Ringland
Runaway Bay, Australia 1994; Surfers Paradise, Australia 1999; Vancouver Island 2003; Central Desert of Australia 2007
1994. Summer. I’m fourteen. I hear In Your Eyes for the first time. My mum works long hours in two jobs and I spend a lot of time at the Runaway Bay video store with my seven-year-old brother during school holidays. We pick enough films to babysit us both. I never return my rented copy of Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. I watch it until the VHS tape begins to fray at the edges from erratic rewinding and fast-forwarding at 01:06:23. The boom box scene has an indelible effect on me.
When I want to run away,
I drive off in my car,
But whichever way I go,
I come back to the place you are.
This is how feelings sound. I am Diane Court, and Lloyd Dobler is my destiny.
1999. I’m the full time receptionist for a Surfers Paradise law firm. I’m nineteen years old, and an insomniac. My witching hour comes on a Tuesday night at 11pm. I keep the TV volume low so I don’t wake Mum and my younger brother. Tonight the pilot episode of a new show is airing. Felicity is about a girl shucking what’s expected of her to follow her gut instead. Near to the end of the episode I am on tenterhooks. Felicity is my age, walking down the street in New York, her spine straight with self-determination. When the familiar drumbeats start, my heart races. Something long forgotten surfaces within me. The synthesizers soar, followed by Gabriel’s coarse, beautiful plea: Love, I get so lost, sometimes.
2003. I’m twenty-two, broke, and living in a hostel on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I’m here because of a boy I met in Seattle. The hostel gives me a bed and one meal a day in exchange for cleaning work. A Spanish girl left her Discman behind, with Secret World Live in it, which I listen to while I clean. The extended remix of In Your Eyes reminds me of somewhere dusty and warm as I scrub cold shower floors with bleach. After work I walk the coastline. I tuck the Discman into my pocket and play track 15 on repeat. Ferries crisscross the silver sea all day long, leaving a lace of white waves in their wake. I listen to the Discman while I try to sleep. And the grand façade, so soon will burn. I’m listening to it when, after another day of watching the ferry arrivals without seeing him disembark, I walk into the local STA branch and use the last credit on my card to book my flight home to Brisbane.
2007. The CD stays on repeat in my car. I suspect it’s actually melted in the stereo from the outback sun. I’m twenty-seven, working in the remote Central Desert of Australia. Life here is a mirage in a landscape of mythical and staggering beauty. My world is made of red dirt, blue sky, and the light in between. This is a place where songs grow from the earth and map the paths you take across the land. The sky is orange on the afternoon I walk out of work to my car and see the small rectangle of canvas left under the wipers, which don’t have much use out here for anything other than this, keeping hold of secrets. I lay the canvas across my palm and touch one of the red spirals. The paint is still wet. The sun is setting as I head home.
There’s a story I’ve heard out here about this time of day, when the sun woman descends into the underworld to be with her lover among the dead, resurfacing at sunrise dressed in his gift of a red kangaroo skin. I drive with Peter Gabriel streaming from my open windows loud enough that I can’t hear myself singing at the breaking point of my vocal cords. I slow down where the road dips behind the sand dune covered in honey grevillea. I tap the volume button but it’s already at MAX. Whatever comes and goes I will hear your silent call. As soon as I get home I go to the back door and wait. A charm of finches calls as they dive between early stars. I wait. I always think I’m imagining it, but the beam of his torch is steady and true as it bounces over the shrubs, making phosphorescence of the spinifex. I want to touch the light, the heat, I see in your eyes. I leave the door ajar and walk into the bathroom to turn the shower on. My fingertips are still red.
© Holly Ringland 2013. Holly is an Australian writer- researcher, living in the UK, advocating stories for change.