'Everything is fucked' he says when he wakes up, putting on my fluffy bathrobe and making me a morning coffee, because I have a hangover and need caffeine. Cue soundtrack for the day as the brooding skies hint at the storm that's a-coming from the west. The sky is sweeping bruises.
He's been working for two days on his landrover in fairly good spirits until he hits a hurdle. He's putting a four cylinder engine on a six cylinder engine chassis. The online diagrams have spurious measurements we can't trust. Everything seems off. But the engine block is in, the gearbox is in, and the bulkhead is in - everything seems okay, until we try to fit the panel that goes over the gearbox. It basically rubs up against it - that's no good at all. He needs two centimetres from somewhere. It's hard not to lose your marbles doing Landrover mechanics. No one on the forums seems to be able to help. Eventually he comes in side, cracks open a bottle of red wine, and writes a list of options.
- move gearbox cross member
- leave gearbox where it is
- adapt cross member
- blow up garage.
My husband is moderately depressed. Last night he told me he can't feel joy the way I do. I tell him I've worked hard for my joy, that it will come back. The conversation becomes dark and brooding and we drink more wine and tell each other we love each other. In the morning, he checks the wood situation. We're nearly out.
'It's like groundhog day' he says, as he tries to start the ute. By ute, I mean the little paddock bomb Suzuki carry we were given once that's full of huntsman spiders. He's been trying to start that days too, but thinks it's running on one cylinder and it's more than he can cope with. 'Every day there's a list of jobs as long as my arm'. It feels like groundhog day to me too - every day, there's the litany of complaints. He's feeling the weight of the world, my love. Whilst I see the sunshine flooding through and lighting our house with gold, he's looking at the plaster on the ceiling and seeing the cracks and thinking the house is going to fall down. That's both a metaphor and a reality. I worry about him, but I make a joke about it, something about zombies and how if we were in an apocalypse we'd be grateful for these groundhog days.
'We'll use the wheelbarrows!' I say enthusiastically. He looks at me and knows I'm serious. We're going wooding - a made up verb for collecting firewood - about half a kilometre away along the reserve that leads into town. There's a heap of fallen black wattle and a huge log of sugar gum we've had our eye on for about a year. Without a ute, we'll have to take the wheelbarrows, one so rusty I think it's going to fall apart. I don't care. I just wanna burn off this hangover, a kind of penance for being stupid enough to drink all that wine after a week of being healthy and yogic. My head is thumping but I think I can fake it until I make it.
'You're bonkers, you know that?' he says. But he grabs the chainsaw, and we head off. It's not long before Ray, the guy that owns acres down the track, comes trudging over in his high vis fleece with his lurcher Nederick and jack russell whose name I forget. We haven't seen him for a year. Ray is 65 and the last time we saw him he'd had a heart attack, and was in recovery. His wife was trying to stop him climbing a ladder to chainsaw down a branch hanging over his fence. He's come over to see who's nicking the sugar gum, that he had his eye on.
'Ah, it's youse!' he says. 'How are ya, haven't see ya in ages!'. We stop to chat, punctuated by shouts to Ned to 'come 'ere, ya bugger' as he takes off over the trainlines after rabbits. We ask him how he is. 'Ah, everything is fucked!' he says. 'I got prostrate cancer then I got bowel cancer and they ripped it all out and I've full of stitches and can't do fucken anything,' he says. Ray is full of stories. Today it's about how they took away his army pension and how he got money back out of them. 'I go to see the psych,' he says 'you wouldn't believe the bastard, he's telling me I need to get dry, and he can get me dry if he puts me in a nursing home for a coupla months. Ya gotta be fucken kidding me, I'll fucken cark it if they put me in that place' he laughs. Shouts at the dog again, pulls the barbed wire fence up for him to scooch under. 'So I look out his window and he asks me what I'm looking at, as if I'm gonna jump or something. But I know how to play him. I see three cars - once's a black BMW, there's a fucken french car or something, and another little gay girl's car, a Nissan Leaf I think. So I tell him I reckon the black beemer is his car. And the guy looks at me and says nah, mine's the electric car at the end. So I tell him' - shouts to Ned - 'I knew you were a fucken faggot. And he told me I was incurable and they gave me my compo. He was prick. Told me just because I'd seen dead bodies didn't make me eligible for compo.'
And Ray has - ex-SES, he's pulled some twenty five bodies out of car wrecks, including kids. Ex-army, he's seen soldiers die. Ray is not homophobic, in the way old men like to joke about 'faggots' but really don't care what people do, because they've seen enough to know 'each to his own'. In fact he emphatically tells us so, perhaps seeing me squirm uncomfortably. But he knows how to play the system. He got what he wanted. Now he just wants to see his wife right. His wife says maybe he should get dry. But he thinks if he stops drinking, it'll kill him. 'Everything's fucked' he grins. 'But help yourself to that wattle, 'eh, it's good burning wood, and someone may as well take it. Have a good one, take care of yourself'. I yell out that if needs anything chainsawing, he knows where we live. He waves, says he'll be right. Every time I see Ray I think it's the last time.
We move ten wheelbarrows of wood back to the shed. Each time I walk up the path I feel like I'm going to die. My back hurts, my legs hurt, and my head hurts. In the end I'm laying on the wet grass with my legs in the air doing viparita karani. 'What the hella ya doing, monkey boobs?' Jamie says. He's cheering up. A day of good, hard, honest wooding will do that to you. We've filled the shed with a good few weeks wood.
Later, we sit in the bath with epsom salts and rosemary twigs and a cup of tea. My headache has gone. Our legs entwine in the warm water and he rubs my knees tenderly.
'Wasn't a bad day, in the end,' he says. I flick water at him and smile, tell him everything's going to be okay. 'Yeah, I know' he says. 'I know.'