Beyond City Lights
A full moon shimmered across blue-grey paddocks. Evening colors muted daytime dry hues. A few grey sheep nod their way over pastures, sleep walking away from highway edges. Only their movement makes them visible amid like tints.
Standing sentinel are reminders from a population of eucalypts. What did settlers do to this land? Clearing, mining, die-back and now drought. Stands of these few trees are grey upon grey, like a black and white television with contrasts turned down. Such colorlessness contrasts with earlier light of sunset fires. Sun’s exit oversaw our departure from Perth, Western Australia’s outer suburbs. Changes from sunset to night appeared, on this night, to happen in stages. Color controls slide to one stage, resting, and then moved again. Now views are ash after a burning. Earlier scarlet displays, which looked like sea bed undulations are reduced to memories. Red sky at night - shepherd’s delight, we watched awed, as a herald of our journey. Now Apollo’s golden had exited to Hades taking away any color. Our headlights now replace Apollo’s orb, but devoid of warmth.
No other cars, no visible human activity, assists a sensation we were totally alone. Surrounded by Hecate’s moon in shadows we could lurk. No longer fearful of discovery. Night hides crime; moonlight ices over sin, daylight’s, and city’s prying fingers are long gone.
Our journey continues. Hours seem to slip by with miles. My hand rests on his thigh.
410 km to Albany; a sanctuary of anonymity to us lovers. Some might suggest a ludicrous distance for few days of intimate bliss. Four hours driving to reach West Australia’s oldest town, a tourist location called the Rainbow Coast, one-time vicinity of a huge whaling industry. Jumping off point harbor for troops sent to trenches of World War 1.
Not so long ago, Perry visited from Sacramento, and while we sat on milk crates, drinking beer around a wood fired barbeque, where lamb chops roasted, he remarked, ‘you wouldn’t drive all day to get to a place and do this?’
‘Yes,’ we conceded. Supported by the fact a neighbor, Colin, was freshly returned from a ‘Hard Knob’s Tour’ to Birdsville Races.
On this pilgrimage to Albany white line dashes mark out our progress, as if some ratchet on a giant cogged wheel. We wrapped ourselves in blankets of comfort, sharing distances easily. Talk is of art galleries, films, countryside, memories of my childhood trips into this region; platonic small-talk. Contrasting with similar nightmare laced journeys with my ex-husband. When I became hypnotized by the passing white lines and his concentrated silence. If I began to doze he criticized my lack of effort in combating sleepy eyes. The more my attention was expected the less I could control my eyelids. Now on this highway, my travelling companion constantly suggested a sleep but not one single nerve end required rest.
Eventually twinkling lights of Albany beckon through velvety darkness. A small town cupped between two hills granted mountain titles as a legacy of long-established flat land mentality. Melville and Clarence, no doubt named after Europeans. Albany Township blinks alongside edges of oceanic blackness, another old country reference, King George Sound. Our headlights previously cutting a solo tunnel through night are now answered by others. Once in town proper, street lamps shower illumination, to form broad patches across a brown-grey road.
With a new day an empty beach, Frenchman’s Bay greets us. Birds twitter in South West Peppermint trees, but remain invisible. Air is full with gentle lemon fragrance contrasting with ocean salt. Sand squeaks underfoot, tiny bead pushing against tiny chaste white bead. A line marks juxtaposition between water and sand; liquid transparent then deepening to bright aqua. Reefs, underwater rocks and weed banks create contrasts of ebony blue. Speckled grey brown granite, which once crawled toward trickling tiny waves, as lava flow lies frozen exposed on hillsides like bones of a giant earth beast. Formations in town are called, Albany garden gnomes.
Shriveled, sun dried sea weed kicked aside by our feet; we are trespassers here.
‘Ever thought what it would be like being solo foot prints in beach sand, for all time? Like that old movie, after a nuclear holocaust, with Cary Grant…On the Beach.’
He contemplates my verbal dribble, then answers, quietly. ‘Yes, I have.’
An inner voice screams, let it be with me.
We spread out across a rock altar, sharing sacrificial wine, chicken flesh eaten with fingers adding sense of an ancient or futuristic ritual. On a bright morning, by his side, being a rock-bohemian was easy.
Eating finished these Mer-creatures share delights, jumping into icy Southern Ocean. Jostled by untidy, windswept, surf we splash, playing water games of the enamored.
‘At least I left my underwear on.’
‘I have to go back to work this afternoon.’ His frown returns. ‘I would not be able to sit still if sand itches in my pants.’ Most truthful thing he’s said.
Walking retraced steps along the beach he finds a piece of driftwood. Dolphin shaped, an eye hole where once a rope might loop, ocean waves worn smooth and shape altered. This is presented as a memento of our time together.
As we depart brightness again begins to pale. Like favorite jeans sky look washed and rewashed; sunset drains blueness away. A golden hue, strongest toward west is like gold rims on pale, translucent china. By the time a ‘hole punched in sky’ moon rises we speed many miles towards urban claws of Perth.
He stops the car at an elevated place, paying moon homage. With faces pointed skywards we worship to all Luna’s phases, implications and connotations. Out here, on an empty highway, she possesses a silvery halo. White light overwhelms night’s sky.
I find myself wishing this time never ends. But moon Goddess, Selene cannot be stopped from pushing her silver steeds and light chariots across night skies. Dragging with her, rising waters, lover’s eyes and wishes for time to stand still.
But I am only the lover of a married man, I have no rights, desires or control in this relationship.